MEMPHIS, Tenn. (AP)—New Orleans forward David West was pleased with his career-high 40 points, but prouder that the Hornets fought through overtime to record the best start in franchise history.
“I am more happy with the fact that we were able to gut this one out,” West said after his 15-footer with 8.3 seconds left in the extra period gave the Hornets a 120-118 victory over the Memphis Grizzlies on Friday night.
“They closed in on us down the stretch hitting some big 3s, and we were able to muster a good five minutes to close them out.”
Chris Paul added 28 points and 13 assists in the victory, which ran the Hornets’ record to 8-2. New Orleans’ best previous starts were 7-3 twice.
The win wasn’t assured until Memphis forward Rudy Gay missed an 11-footer with about 2 seconds left in overtime. Gay already had sent the game into overtime with a pair of 3-pointers in the final 8 seconds of regulation, including the tying basket with 1.1 seconds left.
“I think that shows great promise for this team,” Paul said of holding off the Grizzlies. “I think last year we might have lost this game.”
“I just wanted to be aggressive from the beginning,” West said. “Start to try to get into a good rhythm. (Paul) was finding me early, and in the second quarter, I was able to find my stroke.”
West scored all of New Orleans’ six points in overtime. Memphis had taken a 118-116 lead with 3:29 left when Pau Gasol scored inside. West tied it with a hook shot in the lane 21 seconds later, and with Memphis not scoring the rest of the way, it set the stage for West’s game-winner as the shot clock ran down.
Juan Carlos Navarro, the 6-foot-3 guard from Spain, led the Grizzlies with a career-high 28 points, going 8-of-9 from 3-point range, part of Memphis’ 15-of-24 shooting outside the arc. Navarro tied the rookie record for 3s set by Jason Kidd in 1995 and Chris Duhon in 2005.
Gay and Gasol finished with 20 points apiece, while Mike Miller had 13 points and nine rebounds.
“I’m happy for my game, for my feeling, but if we lose, it doesn’t matter,” Navarro said. “The rim was very big for me. Some days it’s very big; some days it’s small.”
Navarro had helped the Grizzlies rally from an early 15-point deficit with his 3-point shooting display after entering the game in the first half. Memphis even led entering the fourth, but the Grizzlies began to misfire midway through the period, and the Hornets went on a 12-4 run to erase a five-point deficit, its largest of the night.
The Hornets still maintained a 110-105 lead with 19 seconds left in regulation, and New Orleans hit all six of their free throws down the stretch. But Navarro hit a 3-pointer, and Gay converted his two long-range jumpers for Memphis to pull even.
“They were just making shots,” West said. “We were making free throws on our end as they were fouling us, but we were getting two and they were getting three. We would get two, and they would get three. The numbers say they are going to catch us, and they did.”
The Hornets held a 62-58 lead at the half as Paul’s 16-foot runner fell at the horn.
West had 21 points for New Orleans before the break, missing only three of his 13 shots, while Paul scored 13 points and already had nine assists.
But Navarro connected on his first seven shots from the field, the first five from 3-point range to kick-start the Memphis offense and erase the Hornets’ early 15-point lead.
Neither team led by more than five after halftime, and there were 12 ties and 10 lead changes in the final two periods and overtime.
“I was proud of our guys who battled and fought tooth and nail with a pretty good team,” Memphis coach Marc Iavaroni said. “We are learning what it takes to become a good basketball team. Unfortunately, we are facing some losses. Some tough losses.”
Paul was limping late in the third period after twisting his right ankle when he rolled it after stepping on Gasol’s foot. He went to the locker room between the third and the fourth quarters to have it retaped before returning with 7:43 left in regulation. He was limping noticeably in the locker room after the game. … Memphis C Darko Milicic left the game early in the second half after injuring his left thumb. Preliminary X-rays were negative, but he did not return. … Paul hit all seven of his free throws, giving him 23 straight. … The Hornets entered the game as the league’s second-best scoring defense at 88.3. The 118 points were an opponent’s high for the season, and New Orleans had only surrendered 100 points one other time, against the Lakers on Nov. 6.