The two worked together perfectly Thursday night, with Paul taking over the game late and Posey hitting the go-ahead 3-pointer with 19.1 seconds left for a 105-101 victory over the Denver Nuggets—the fourth straight win for New Orleans.
“I have confidence in making shots,” Posey said. “I’ve been in those situations before.”
Paul led the Hornets with 22 points and 10 assists but came up six rebounds short of his third straight triple-double.
Still, he took the game over late, scoring seven straight points for his team, including a 3-pointer from well behind the arc, with the shot clock running down, to tie it at 92 with 2:07 left.
Coach Byron Scott had been pleading with Paul to shoot more.
“I told him at halftime he had to go out and rev it up a little bit,” Scott said. “Nine times out of 10 I don’t have to tell him that.”
J.R. Smith led the Nuggets with a season-high 32 points. Denver tied it at 98 on Carmelo Anthony’s dunk with 37 seconds left, but the Hornets worked the ball to Posey, who made the 3 from the top right corner to give them the lead for good.
Chauncey Billups missed his own 3 on the next possession and the Hornets made four free throws down the stretch to ice the win. Denver fell to 9-3 since Billups arrived. He struggled in this one, finishing with only 12 points and never taking over the game.
Anthony had 24 points on 8-for-13 shooting for Denver, showing more signs of coming out of a slump that had him making only 39 percent of his shots so far this season.
Smith’s season high came a night after coach George Karl benched him for being late to practice earlier in the week. He made a 3-pointer and had a steal and dunk to give the Nuggets the lead midway through the fourth quarter after they had trailed by as many as 14.
“Even though it’s a loss, I don’t look at it as a step back,” Karl said. “It’s a step forward. We fought hard.”
In fact, for a while in the fourth quarter, it looked as if the night would belong to Smith, and the Nuggets, but instead it was Paul and Posey doing the celebrating.
Posey won a title with Boston, and Miami before that. He was New Orleans’ key acquisition in the offseason, the thought being he could bring that championship feeling to a team that won 56 games last season behind Paul’s rapid improvement but was bounced in the second round of the playoffs.
Posey, a former first-round pick of the Nuggets, is thought of as more of a defensive specialist. Clearly, he’s not afraid of taking big shots, either.
“He’s used to making them from the experience he’s had with championship teams,” Paul said. “And we got some big stops and plays.”
The Hornets played without Mo Peterson (back) and Tyson Chandler, whose wife gave birth Tuesday. They had something of an advantage, though, having arrived in Denver for this Thanksgiving night game well before the Nuggets, who toughed out a 1-point win at the Clippers on Wednesday. New Orleans hadn’t played since Monday.
Rasual Butler made his first seven shots for New Orleans and finished with 19 points.
Peja Stojakovic had 17 and David West had 15, including a stick back of Paul’s near air ball that gave the Hornets a 98-94 lead with 52 seconds left. It was one of about four late breaks that Karl felt went against his team, including Kenyon Martin’s technical foul with 1:26 left for kicking the scorer’s table in frustration.
“I’ve never seen a game with three, four possessions in the last two minutes that cost you 10 points like that,” Karl said.
Melvin Ely returned for the Hornets after missing three games because of a tooth infection. He had eight points. … Chris Andersen scored six points for the Nuggets in his return after missing nine games because of fractured ribs. … New Orleans improved to 5-0 when scoring 100-plus points.