NEW ORLEANS (AP)—David West’s sprained left ankle kept him from running in practice and forced him to miss three games, but didn’t stop him from trying to maintain his shooting touch.
In his return against San Antonio on Wednesday night, West had 29 points and 10 rebounds to help the New Orleans Hornets take a convincing 100-75 victory over the Southwest Division leading Spurs.
“I stayed in the gym,” West said of his absence from the lineup. “I wasn’t able to run, but I was able to shoot. It was just coming out ready to compete, feeling like I was ready to go tonight. It was big. I was ready to get back out there.”
Many of his assists came on baskets by West, who made everything from mid-range jumpers to tough fades on the baseline, jump hooks from the post or driving floaters off the glass. He even hit a 3-pointer, which gave New Orleans a 91-71 lead with 5 minutes to go—a dagger that led both coaches to replace all of their starters.
It was a masterful display against the defending champions, who resorted to a physically punishing defensive style to little avail.
“Obviously they’re a team with a lot more veteran guys than we have. They’ve been to championships,” West said. “They’re going to try anything, especially against us, where they feel we’re a little bit inexperienced. I like the way the guys responded. We kept our composure and really were able to get what we wanted.”
The Hornets shot a stunning 59 percent against the Spurs, who had held 26 of their previous 30 opponents under 100 points.
“They were making every kind of shot,” Spurs guard Manu Ginobili said. “It’s really hard to win like that. I don’t think we played horrible. We’ve played worse before. They just executed great.”
San Antonio shot 43 percent, going only 2-of-18 from 3-point range and a dreadful 7-of-17 on free throws. Tony Parker had a particularly rough night at the foul line, going 2-for-8.
Tim Duncan led the Spurs with 24 points and 11 rebounds. Parker finished with 26 points, hitting the Spurs’ only two 3-pointers. Ginobili added 11 points for San Antonio.
Paul had his double-double when he set up West’s jumper with 10:44 left in the third quarter, at which point Paul had played only 20 minutes.
The Spurs body-to-body defensive play resulted in a lot of foul calls and numerous players crashing hard to the court, but Paul worked through it and ended up surpassing 20 points and 15 assists in a game for the eighth time this season.
“They did a good job coming out and trying to be more physical with us,” Paul said. “They tried to switch Bruce Bowen on to me, who I know likes to hold and grab and things like that, but we tried not to let it affect us.”
The Hornets began to pull away in the third quarter when Paul made consecutive jumpers and scored inside on a feed from Tyson Chandler. West then hit a pair of jump hooks and a driving floater off the glass. Peja Stojakovic followed with a tough fadeaway and rookie Julian Wright hit a pull-up after spinning into the lane, capping a 16-6 run that put New Orleans up 68-54.
Duncan’s free throws pulled the Spurs to 76-67 at the end of three quarters, but New Orleans scored the first three baskets of the fourth quarter and pulled away from there.
Duncan and Parker combined for all of San Antonio’s first 18 points, with Parker scoring 10, during the opening 10 minutes. That was enough to keep it close early. Parker had 13 points in the first quarter, after which the Hornets led only 25-23.
Parker and Paul each scored 18 in the first half, when Paul also had eight of his assists. Paul and West scored two baskets apiece during an 8-2 run to close out the second quarter, giving New Orleans a 48-41 halftime lead.
“David West and Chris Paul played awesome,” Duncan said. “Chris was just unbelievable. It felt like every shot he put up there went in or he made the right decision.”
Bruce Bowen’s start was his 500th in a row, the longest streak in the NBA. His run began on Feb. 28, 2002. … Paul had two steals in the first quarter, giving him at least one in all 61 games in which he has played this season, a franchise record and the longest streak in the NBA. … Hornets reserve Bonzi Wells returned from a four-game absence (bruised Achilles’) and scored eight points in 16 minutes. … Chandler had 10 rebounds.