PORTLAND, Ore. (AP)—New Orleans coach Byron Scott told his team at the half that they would need to get serious to beat the Portland Trail Blazers.
David West got the message, scoring 12 of his 22 points in the fourth quarter, and the Hornets beat the Portland Trail Blazers 88-75 on Sunday night.
The Hornets used a 12-4 run in the fourth quarter to extend a one-point lead to 75-66 with 5:59 left. West’s dunk with 2 minutes left made it 83-71.
“I didn’t think in the first half we were here,” Scott said. “We were just kind of out there going through the motions and at half time I wasn’t very happy.
“Much better effort in the second half and we got the win.”
Chris Paul had 19 points and eight assists to help the Hornets win for the seventh time in nine games.
“Our intensity picked up in the second half,” Paul said. “At halftime coach told us that being in the position that we’re in, we have to take this game seriously.
“I thought we buckled down defensively in the second half. We talked more. We got deflections.”
Zach Randolph had 23 points and eight rebounds for the Blazers, who have lost five straight and nine of their last 10.
Besides being short-handed, the Blazers were also hampered by poor free throw shooting. They made just 10 of 24 shots from the line.
“We make 10 of those misses, and we’re in the game,” rookie Martell Webster said.
Coach Nate McMillan kept the locker room closed for some 20 minutes after the game. His disappointment in the 18-36 team was reflected in his expression.
“We can’t accept the `OK, we gave the effort.”’ McMillan said. “I know we’re short-handed. But you can’t ever give in. You can’t ever give up.”
The Blazers were without guard Sebastian Telfair, sitting out the second game of a two-game league suspension for carrying a loaded gun found on a team plane in Boston.
Portland continued to hurt at center, with both Joel Przybilla and Theo Ratliff out because of injury. Przybilla has right knee tendinitis and Ratliff has a sprained left ankle, and there was no timetable for their return.
Forward Brian Skinner, acquired from Sacramento at Thursday’s trade deadline, stepped in and performed admirably, finishing with nine points and eight rebounds.
“I was just trying to figure out what the heck I was doing,” he said. “I wanted to get in there and run and obviously play some defense.”
Guard Voshon Lenard was also acquired by Portland in the four-team, nine-player swap with Sacramento, Seattle and Denver. Lenard came in the game with just under four minutes.
Portland led by as many as eight points in the first half, but were hampered by poor free throw shooting and the Hornets caught up to tie it at 43 at the half.
Paul and West each hit consecutive jumpers to put the Hornets up 56-51.
The Blazers closed the third quarter on a 10-5 run to tie the game at 61 heading into the final period.
Guard Speedy Claxton missed his third game for the Hornets with a sprained left ankle. … Desmond Mason returned to Hornets’ lineup after missing the Utah game because of a bruised tailbone. … The loss ended a rough week for Portland, in which owner Paul Allen came forward to say the Blazers were bleeding money—suggesting that he could have to sell or move the team.