NEW ORLEANS (AP)—Chris Paul sensed he had an easy layup as he began a drive to the hoop, but couldn’t resist the urge to pass when he saw Peja Stojakovic setting up for an open 3-pointer in the corner.
Stojakovic’s shot rolled around the hoop and fell in for his sixth 3-pointer of the game, capping an 11-0 run that broke open a close game and lifted the New Orleans Hornets to a 112-99 victory over the Memphis Grizzlies on Saturday night.
“It’s so much fun to see those guys hit 3s and the way the crowd erupts,” said Paul, who had only two points but still ran the offense effectively with 16 assists. “They go nuts when Peja hits 3s. I just like to see it, too. He can shoot, man.”
Although Memphis has lost six straight and eight in a row on the road, this was an impressive victory for the Hornets, who not only got little scoring from Paul but also played without starting center Tyson Chandler (flu) and starting shooting guard Morris Peterson (back).
David West, who’ll join Paul when they make their first All-Star appearances in a week, picked up the slack with 33 points and 10 rebounds. Stojakovic finished with 26 points.
West and Stojakovic were quick to praise Paul, who scored 42 points in a double-overtime victory at Phoenix on Wednesday, but shot only 1-of-10 against Memphis while facing constant traps and double-teams.
“We’ve got the ability to score whether he’s hitting or not,” West said. “You’ve just got to give him opportunities to find you and he’ll find you.”
Added Stojakovic: “He’s used to doing a lot more. That’s why when he doesn’t score 20 and 15 assists and seven or eight rebounds it’s weird to all of us. But he played an amazing game and as I’ve said many times, he’s getting better and better. He’s so mature for his age. He’s leading this team in the right direction.”
“We battled. … We kept Paul from scoring, which was the goal, but any time you do that with traps, he’s going to see people,” Memphis coach Marc Iavaroni said. “His 16 assists and four turnovers is a pretty good ratio. He deserves to be an All-Star.”
The Hornets finally pulled away for good when reserve Ryan Bowen’s free throws began the decisive surge that gave New Orleans a 98-84 lead with about 4 minutes to go. West add four free throws during the run, composing himself after a hard foul inside that had him punching the padding under the basket in frustration.
“I just felt like at that point of the game, we couldn’t give them any life, especially here at home,” West said.
One night after a double-digit loss at Dallas, the Grizzlies came out flat, making only one of their first nine shots. The Hornets ran out to a 16-2 lead with the help of Stojakovic’s 3-pointer and a dunk by West.
The Grizzlies survived the early slump, snapping out of it when Gay’s driving dunk ignited an 11-2 run. The Grizzlies fought back to tie it at 22 early in the second quarter on a jumper by Gay, who came in averaging a team-leading 19.7 points.
Reserve guard Bobby Jackson hit a pair of free throws and a running floater to spark a 13-2 New Orleans run, which included Stojakovic’s second 3 and a pair of fast-break layups by Bowen and Butler.
West’s dunk on a feed from Paul shortly after restored New Orleans’ 14-point lead at 44-30. But Memphis refused to go quietly. Gay’s spinning layup in the lane and his pair of free throws helped Memphis close with four late in the second quarter before West’s fadeaway gave New Orleans a 48-42 halftime lead.
Paul had three fouls in the first half and was called for a technical foul at the end of the first half, when he had eight assists but no points. … Attendance was 17,231, the second home sellout for the Hornets this season. … Memphis has its longest road losing streak since dropping 10 in a row from Dec. 8, 2006 through Jan. 22, 2007. … The Hornets won all four meetings with Memphis and won’t play the Grizzlies again this season. … In his last six games, Stojakovic is 24-of-46 from 3-point range. … West has 21 double-doubles this season.