Hornets 84, Timberwolves 80

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OKLAHOMA CITY (AP)—With Chris Paul pushing the tempo, the New Orleans Hornets punished the Minnesota Timberwolves and their zone defense.

Attacking the basket, Paul scored 19 of his 21 points in the second half to rally the Hornets from a 12-point halftime deficit for an 84-80 victory over the Minnesota Timberwolves on Wednesday night.

Paul pushed the tempo against Minnesota’s zone after halftime and found scoring opportunities for himself and for David West, who had 12 points in the second half. West finished with 22 points and 13 rebounds.

“He makes plays,” West said of Paul. “He makes plays with his feet. He makes plays with the basketball in his hands, out of his hands. We feed off of his energy. The energy that he brings really gets us going.”

After the Hornets trailed by as many as 18 points in the first half, Paul hit a 3-pointer from the left wing with 2:09 left to give the Hornets a 77-74 lead. Anthony Carter missed a 3-pointer for Minnesota, and Paul found P.J. Brown for an open jumper at the other end.

Eddie Griffin scored off an offensive rebound to pull Minnesota within 79-76, but the Timberwolves were unable to capitalize on an opportunity to tie after Paul missed a rushed 3-pointer as the shot clock expired.

Kevin Garnett missed a 3-pointer from the top of the key, and the 6-foot Paul grabbed the rebound and hit one of his two free throws with 22 seconds left.

Garnett hit both of his free throws after being fouled under the basket with 19 seconds left, but J.R. Smith answered with two of his own for New Orleans.

Garnett followed Wally Szczerbiak’s miss to get Minnesota within 82-80 and he had one final chance to tie the game after stealing West’s inbounds pass, but he couldn’t score from right under the basket.

“I saw Speedy (Claxton) for a split-second and when I was going to pull it back, the ball was already gone,” West said. “Luckily, he didn’t get a dunk. There were guys under there who made him make a tough shot.”

West got the rebound and sealed the game with two free throws with 3.2 seconds left.

Brown scored 13 and Smith added 12 points for the Hornets, who beat Minnesota for the first time in eight tries. Their last win over the Timberwolves was on Feb. 25, 2002, when the team was still based in Charlotte.

Garnett finished with 24 points and 11 rebounds for his third consecutive double-double and his sixth of the season. Troy Hudson added four 3-pointers and 17 points, and Michael Olowokandi scored 11 for Minnesota, which fell to 0-4 on the road.

After allowing Minnesota to shoot 47 percent in the first half, the Hornets held the Timberwolves to 32 percent from the field in the second half.

“We just felt like we had a lot more that we could show,” Paul said. “We were just letting KG and guys do whatever they wanted to in the first half, and we just locked up in second half.”

Paul, who entered the game leading all NBA rookies in points, assists and steals, scored 11 points during a 17-4 run to lead New Orleans back from a 12-point halftime deficit. Minnesota didn’t score for nearly 6 minutes to start the second half.

“It started defensively because we were getting stops, and that allowed us to get out and run and push the ball up the court,” Paul said.

Paul’s driving layup put the Hornets ahead 53-52.

The teams then traded leads several times, leading up to a confrontation between Desmond Mason and Garnett after Garnett fouled Mason on a right-handed dunk try.

Mason and Garnett stared at each other for a moment, and Garnett appeared motivated afterward. He hit back-to back baskets to give Minnesota a 74-70 lead, but the Hornets weren’t done.

Paul made a driving layup at the other end, and his miss set up a putback dunk by West that brought the sellout crowd to its feet.

With the crowd still roaring, Garnett traveled on Minnesota’s next possession, and Paul’s ensuing 3-pointer put the Hornets up for good.

Garnett said he was impressed by Paul and called him a “gorilla,” because “he has that team right now on his back.”

“He has a lot of natural ability,” Garnett said. “He knows how to get to the rack. He seems to have a lot of confidence in himself. I like that. I like the fact that he plays with that emotion.”


The crowd of 19,163 was the Hornets’ third sellout in six games at Oklahoma City’s Ford Center. … New Orleans forward Chris Andersen sat out with a bruised back and bruised right knee. He had been one of only five players to appear in each of the Hornets’ first 10 games. … The Timberwolves had allowed 100 points or more in their first three road games, all losses.

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Top Performers

 Top Performers
K. Garnett K. Garnett
8-19,  24 Pts
11 Rebs, 5 Assists
 New Orl/OKC
C. Paul C. Paul
7-19,  21 Pts
9 Rebs, 8 Assists

Team Stat Leaders