New Orleans guard Chris Paul is having no trouble scoring this month.
Paul will look to build off one of the biggest offensive nights of his career on Friday when the Hornets visit the Charlotte Bobcats.
The point guard scored 40 points in Wednesday’s 116-98 win in Memphis for the second-highest scoring game of his career. He was just three points shy of the career-best he posted on Dec. 7, also against the Grizzlies.
Paul is averaging 25.7 points in December, his most in any month in his career. He has posted three of the five highest point totals of his career and five of his six best of the season this month.
“Right from the get-go, I try to notice how the defense is going to defend me,” Paul said Wednesday. “Early, I heard (Memphis coach Marc Iavaroni) yell ‘Get under,’ to the guards. It sort of clicked with me that they were going to let me shoot. Then I made my first couple of shots, and I got going.”
Paul shot 17-of-25 from the field, including 5-of-8 from 3-point range, as the Hornets (18-10) won their third straight. Paul, in his third NBA season, is averaging 21.7 points this season, over four points per game more than the career high he set in 2006-07.
“You know, he makes the game easy,” coach Byron Scott said.
The Hornets shot 55.8 percent, their second-best shooting night of the season. Peja Stojakovic finished with 21 points and David West added 20 for New Orleans, which has averaged 111.0 points during its winning streak.
The Hornets improved to 14-3 against teams under .500. They are 4-2 all-time against the Bobcats (10-16), but the two defeats have both come in Charlotte— the city they originally called home.
New Orleans lost 104-100 on Feb. 20 in the last meeting between the teams. Paul, who was born in Winston-Salem, N.C., had 20 points in that game and has scored at least 20 in three of his four games against the Bobcats.
However, he managed only two in a 94-85 home loss against them on Nov. 14 last season.
The Bobcats are coming off Wednesday’s 108-104 loss to Washington. Gerald Wallace scored 32 points and Jason Richardson added 27 for Charlotte, which has dropped two in a row after winning consecutive games for just the third time this season.
It was a frustrating night for Raymond Felton, a rival of Paul’s in college when Felton played for North Carolina and Paul was at Wake Forest. Felton made 3-of-12 shots and had only two free throws, a fact that resulted in coach Sam Vincent screaming at the officials while being restrained after the game.
“I was upset,” Vincent said. “I thought Raymond was driving to the basket all night and getting hit and not getting calls.”
The Bobcats also didn’t get much help on the inside. Emeka Okafor didn’t grab his first rebound until late in the first half and finished with 12 points and seven rebounds.
“We have to make each other better, which means execution,” guard Derek Anderson told the Bobcats’ official team Web site. “It means sharing the ball, hitting the open guys and making sure you make basketball plays. Not athletic plays, just basketball plays. That’s what we have to do more of.”