NEW ORLEANS (AP)—Chris Paul gave the New Orleans Hornets reason to believe they could dominate an elite team without 7-foot-1 center Tyson Chandler. Then the Hornets found out, much to their delight, that Chandler would be rejoining them after all.
Paul had 36 points and 10 assists, and New Orleans handed the Orlando Magic their worst loss of the season, 117-85 on Wednesday night. As the Hornets entered the locker room following the victory, general manager Jeff Bower informed them that Oklahoma City had rescinded Tuesday’s trade that would have sent Chandler to the Thunder for Chris Wilcox, Joe Smith and the rights to Devon Hardin.
Team doctors for Oklahoma City refused to medically clear Chandler, who missed New Orleans’ last 12 games before the All-Star break with a sprained left ankle.
“We were all kind of excited” by news of Chandler’s return, said Hornets forward David West, who’d been an outspoken critic of the deal. “I’m quite sure he’ll have some personal feelings about the whole ordeal, but we’ve just got to get his mind focused on basketball and let him know we need him to perform and I think he’ll do that. … We’ll get him re-acclimated. He’s only been gone one day.”
In the meantime, the Hornets have played well, winning both of their games this week, starting with a close victory in Oklahoma City on Tuesday night.
Against the Magic, the Hornets were up by double digits for most of the game, with Rasual Butler scoring 15 points and West 14.
“Me and D-West talked about it before the game last night—if we go down, we’ve got to go down fighting,” Paul said. “Any time you see the rim you’ve got to shoot it. You can’t pass up shots and stuff like that. We just have to be aggressive and see where it takes us.”
Rashard Lewis had 17 points, and J.J. Redick 14 for Orlando, which shot poorly from the field and free-throw line. Dwight Howard had 12 points and was a non-factor for most of the last three quarters, when he scored only two points.
Orlando’s previous worst loss was by 19 points to Boston on Dec. 1. Having won in overtime against Charlotte on Tuesday night, the Magic looked flat in New Orleans, shooting 37 percent (26-of-70) and going 20-of-36 on free throws.
“It was a nightmare tonight,” Howard said. “We just have to regroup. It’s just one game.”
New Orleans outscored Orlando 44-18 in the paint and outrebounded the Magic 46-35.
Orlando was as close as 58-50 after Hedo Turkoglu’s 3 early in the third quarter, but the Hornets were unfazed. Minutes later, West’s driving scoop ignited an 8-0 run that included six points from Paul, the last on a soft jumper set up by a weaving dribble across the lane.
“It was one of those nights a player just obliterated us,” Orlando coach Stan Van Gundy said. “You can complain about your defense all you want, but sometimes great players just make you look worse than you are.”
Butler added a pair of 3s later in the quarter and Paul another jumper as New Orleans built its lead back up to 86-62 heading into the final period. New Orleans’ lead only grew from there as all 12 Hornets who dressed ended up with at least two points.
After Howard had 44 points, 19 rebounds and eight blocks a night earlier, the big worry for New Orleans was what Orlando’s superstar center would do against Hilton Armstrong, Sean Marks and Ely, who’d been reserves before Chandler injured his left ankle in January.
Those worries began to fade when it became apparent that Paul’s advantage over the likes of Anthony Johnson and Tyron Lue would more than compensate.
New Orleans raced to a 17-6 lead, with Paul scoring 12 of those points and assisting on Stojakovic’s transition jumper.
Late in the first quarter, Paul had 16 points, three assists and four rebounds, compared to 14 points, four assists and three rebounds for the entire Orlando team. At that point, New Orleans had made 13 of its first 17 shots and led 33-14.
From late in the first quarter until several minutes into the second, Orlando was mired in a 1-of-17 shooting slump.
The Magic made five of six 3-point attempts late in the second half, but could not reduce their deficit much because of Paul’s continued onslaught, which included a 3 of his own and a fast break layup that he started with a steal and ended with hesitation dribble as he drove to the hoop.
Paul ended up with 26 points by halftime, at which point New Orleans led 56-43.
It’s not clear when Chandler will be healthy enough to play again. New Orleans plays next on Friday against the Lakers in Los Angeles. … The Magic won the only other meeting this season at home on Christmas Day, 88-68, and the Hornets said payback was on their minds. “We knew we owed this team from the embarrassing loss they handed us,” Paul said.