for this game

Hornets can't miss in third, roll to crucial victory

Mar 6, 2009 - 5:50 AM NEW ORLEANS (Ticker) -- When the Dallas Mavericks came back from the locker rooms presumably carrying some momentum into the second half, they had no clue what they were in for.

They found out quick, as the New Orleans Hornets exploded in the third quarter to run away with a 104-88 victory in a pivotal Western Conference matchup Thursday night. The Hornets have won six in a row.

"We're playing really well right now," Hornets point guard Chris Paul said. "This game was better than the other ones. The others one were really close. But we're doing whatever it takes to win."

The Mavs had erased a five-point deficit in the second quarter to go into the break dead even with the Hornets and came out hot in the opening moments of the third, opening up a five-point lead on Dirk Nowitzki's 3-pointer. But that was the high-water mark of the night for Dallas.

From then on, it was all Hornets. They rattled off a 27-10 run, connecting on 12 consecutive field goals over a seven-minute span to take full control. After an up-and-down first half, Paul made mincemeat of Jason Kidd and the rest of the Mavericks' offense.

"The second half, I made it a point to come out and be a lot more aggressive," Paul said. "And when we run and push the tempo like that it makes it tough for the defense. And we were getting stops and did a good job of just playing team defense."

He finished the night with 27 points and 15 assists, with 12 and seven coming in the third quarter alone. With Dallas holding a 51-46 edge, Paul found Tyson Chandler and Julian Wright underneath for a pair of easy bucket to cut the deficit to one. Wright followed with a short jumper and Chandler - once again, taking a feed from Paul - added another bucket.

"We had to look to attack them," Hornets head coach Byron Scott said. "CP did a great job of really forcing the issue and guys really started to fill the lanes for us and we got some easy buckets."

Paul put the Hornets on top for good at the 5:28 mark, scoring on a layup and following with a pair of jumpers. Later in the period, Rasual Butler buried a 3-pointer and Paul added a 15-footer to extend the lead to 73-61.

"We felt like we were playing a little bit too slow in the first half," New Orleans forward David West said. "We just played at their pace. We were able to pick up the pace and the tempo, and it worked in our favor."

When James Posey finally missed from the arc with 1:15 left in the quarter, the sense of near-amazement was palpable. By that point, however, the Mavericks were just about done.

They managed to pull to as close as eight early in the fourth quarter, but New Orleans answered with an 8-0 spurt to quell any thoughts of a comeback.

"We did four or five different things coverage-wise in the second half against them, against (Paul) - zone, switching, two or three different pick-and-roll coverages - and he had an answer for everything," Dallas coach Rick Carlisle said. "He was great in the second half."

The game was a crucial one for the Western Conference playoff picture for both the Hornets and Mavericks, as they came into the night occupying the sixth and eight spots in the standings, respectively. With the win, New Orleans (38-22) pulled even with Houston (39-23) and Portland (39-23) for fifth place.

West collected 19 points and 11 boards for the Hornets and Chandler added 10 and 11. Nowitzki led the Mavericks with 27 points on 9-of-18 shooting.