The Hornets face the challenge of snapping their longest losing streak of the season Wednesday without their star point guard when they host the Chicago Bulls.
With the Hornets (28-17) leading Portland 72-55 late in the third quarter Monday against Portland, Paul fell to the floor clutching his right leg. After the All-Star guard limped off the floor, New Orleans couldn’t hold on to the lead and lost 97-89 - its third straight defeat.
“The responsibility of playing the game after Chris Paul got hurt really affected all of us,” Hornets coach Byron Scott said. “I think we forgot that we had a game to play. … (Portland) started to smell blood and got really aggressive.”
The NBA’s assists leader with 10.9 per game, Paul said he felt well enough to return as soon as Wednesday’s game, but Scott could keep him out for the next week as a precaution.
“Everybody knows the type of heart he has and how much he wants to play, but I don’t think it’s possible (for Paul) to play Wednesday,” Scott said. “If anything, (if) he plays tomorrow, he does more damage to it. So we want to take a couple of days and see if he’s a fast healer. Until that thing is pretty much cleared up, we’re going to wait.”
The Hornets have already overcome various injuries, as starters David West, Peja Stojakovic and Tyson Chandler have all missed time this season. While West and Stojakovic have returned, Chandler remains out with a sprained left ankle that has sidelined him for seven games. The former Bulls center is expected out for up to an additional week.
Antonio Daniels will start in Paul’s place and seek to pick up some of Paul’s team-leading 21.5 points per game.
“He’s an All-Star caliber player, an MVP caliber player, and you can’t really replace something like that and I can’t try to be Chris Paul,” said Daniels, who has averaged 4.2 points and 2.3 assists this season. “I just have to be aggressive and try and make the guys around me better.”
Daniels will try to help the Hornets avoid their first four-game losing streak since they dropped six in a row from March 2-13, 2007.
The Bulls, meanwhile, fell short in their attempt to win four in a row for the first time in nearly two years with Tuesday’s 107-100 loss at Houston.
Chicago (21-28) missed its first 10 shots and finished the night at 42.4 percent (39-for-92) from the field - its worst shooting performance in nearly a month.
Despite the defeat, Chicago has an opportunity to clinch a winning record on its seven-game road trip with a win Wednesday.
The Bulls, who were 5-17 away from home before winning three straight on their current trip, could be again without their leading rebounder. Drew Gooden, averaging 8.6 boards, sat out his sixth straight game due to a strained groin.
“He’s still got some soreness there,” coach Vinny Del Negro said. “We’ll just deal with it as a day-to-day thing.”
The Hornets have won the last two meetings with the Bulls and four of six matchups in New Orleans since their franchise relocated from Charlotte in 2002-03.