for this game

Paul, Posey help Hornets upend Cavaliers

Nov 2, 2008 - 3:40 AM NEW ORLEANS (Ticker) -- Chris Paul showed off his Olympic basketball gold medal before the New Orleans Hornets' home opener Saturday night.

Then, the superstar point guard delivered another gold-medal performance in a 104-92 victory over his Team USA teammate LeBron James and the Cleveland Cavaliers.

The marquee matchup pitted two of the league's biggest stars against one another, and Paul got the upper hand thanks to a huge fourth-quarter push.

Cleveland fell just short against a major contender for the second time in three games. Meanwhile, the Hornets, who fell to the San Antonio Spurs in seven games in last year's conference semifinals, have now won three in a row to start the season - all against winning teams from last season.

"I think we expect to win now," Paul said. "We're showing a lot of confidence on defense. We've been there before and, just like anything else, if you go down a street and you see a roadblock, you go a different route."

The Cavaliers dropped their season opener to the reigning champion Boston Celtics. They looked well on their way to their second win in a row, but the Hornets staged a 19-4 run to take a double-digit lead.

Paul collected eight points and three assists in the surge, capping it with 2:26 on the clock when he maneuvered away from a double-team and found James Posey in the corner for a 3-pointer to make it 96-85.

David West led the Hornets with 25 points and Paul added 24 and 15 assists. Posey, whom the Hornets landed in the free agent market this year, had a game-high four steals, including a strip of James in the open court that led to a breakaway layup and an 88-83 lead for New Orleans with 5:05 left.

"That was a great defensive play by a great defensive player," Scott said . "It turned into a layup, and that was a big stop for us."

The Hornets acquired Posey, who has championship rings from his tenure with the Miami Heat and the Boston Celtics, to give them the defensive toughness and long-range shooting they were sorely lacking. By having Posey come off the bench, Scott has a much more potent second team and less of a drop-off when Paul and fellow All-Star West have to rest.

"I play defense - that's all it was," said Posey, who also baited James into a traveling call during the fourth-quarter run. "I just play hard. It's all about winning at the end of the day."

James, who finished with 15 points on 6-of-14 shooting, was frustrated for most of the night by New Orleans' defense. The Hornets' collapsing defense kept James out of the paint in the first half and forced him wide, holding him to just six points. But when James drew a double-team, he managed to kick the ball out to his teammates for wide-open looks on the perimeter.

"I told (our defense) we had to keep our focus and keep him out of the paint," Scott said. "He's such a willing passer, and we wanted to make sure he kept passing. We wanted to make him more of a one-dimensional jump shooter."

"It was tough," James said. "My jumper was off. It was little bit crazy. We've got to stop those turnovers."

The Cavs made 7-of-12 from long range - including 3-of-3 by guard Delonte West - and trailed just 49-48 at halftime.

Cleveland was led by center Zydrunas Ilgauskas - who scored 18 points - but it wasn't enough to withstand the late charge by New Orleans.

Before the game, Hornets owner George Shinn called Paul out to center court, where he held his Olympic gold medal aloft for the capacity crowd of 18,150. Shinn said he was expecting even bigger things for the Hornets than their Southwest Division title and 56 victories last season.

"We're going to win the championship this year and this man (Paul) will be the MVP," the owner said.

The Hornets won despite ankle injuries that sidelined starting guard Peja Stojakovic and center Tyson Chandler. They forced the Cavs into 18 turnovers.

"Our team defense was outstanding tonight," Paul said. "You can't defend LeBron with one person."