Paul capped a 26-point, 10-assist, five-steal performance by setting up West’s dunk with 12.6 seconds left that gave the New Orleans Hornets a 94-93 victory over the Minnesota Timberwolves on Wednesday night.
“When it gets to those types of situations, D-West is a guy just like myself, we want the ball,” Paul said. “We know the team is counting on us.”
Minnesota’s Randy Foye missed a 17-foot jumper as time expired, allowing New Orleans to escape with the victory. But it was an officials’ review of a long-range shot Foye made earlier in the fourth quarter that also affected the outcome. The shot was initially ruled a 3, but the Wolves had a point taken off the board after a replay review during a timeout a few minutes later.
“That’s why we have replays,” West said, crediting Paul with telling officials that Foye’s foot was on the 3-point line.
West and Paul combined for all of the Hornets’ last 14 points. West was only 3-of-13 shooting, but was 8-of-10 on free throws and scored nine of his 14 points in the last 3:24.
“I just keep trucking. I always think the next one’s going in. That’s just kind of the way I’m built,” West said. “I just wanted to finish the game strong, win or lose.”
Kevin Love had 23 points and 11 rebounds for the Timberwolves, one night after getting 17 points and 19 rebounds in a loss at San Antonio.
“We had a chance to win that game and hopefully things will turn around for us,” Love said. “Sometimes it feels like we’re beating our heads against a wall. … We’re all just trying to get better in these last few weeks and then prepare for next season.”
No team led by double digits in the second half and the game was tied at 66 late in the third quarter after Love’s putback. Just as the crowd began to groan, the Hornets appeared to come to life when Morris Peterson’s 3 sparked an 8-0 run during the last 1:21 of the quarter. Paul capped the surge by spinning a driving floater off the glass as he was fouled, and New Orleans led 74-66.
Despite being out of the playoff race, Minnesota refused to pack it in. Craig Smith hit a jump hook, two free throws and scored inside during a 9-2 Timberwolves run to open the final quarter. The Wolves took their first lead, 79-78, on Love’s ball-fake and driving dunk with 5:03 to go. Minutes later, Sebastian Telfair sandwiched two 3s around a driving layup to help Minnesota take a what was initially thought to be a 90-85 with 2:39 left, but the officials’ review of Foye’s shot made it 89-85.
The Hornets then went on a 7-2 run, taking a 92-91 lead on West’s free throws with 1:12 left
Minnesota went back in front once more on Love’s free throws with 28 seconds to go. Then Paul set up the winning basket by dribbling into a crowd in the lane and feeding West with a bounce pass underneath.
“Once I got in the lane, I planned on throwing the floater up there, but Kevin Love jumped and I knew that left D-West open,” Paul said. “They only had a choice of let him dunk it or foul him.”
Chandler sat out to rest his sore left ankle. A night earlier, San Antonio defeated Minnesota with Tim Duncan taking a night off. The Hornets nearly weren’t as lucky, though it looked like they’d have an easy night early on.
New Orleans took its largest lead when Butler’s 3 made it 44-31 in the second quarter.
Carney responded with a 3 of his own, which began a 13-4 Minnesota run to close out the period. Gomes hit a 3 and Carney added two fast-break layups during the surge, which cut New Orleans’ lead to 48-44 at halftime.
Hornets swingman Peja Stojakovic missed his eighth straight game with a sore back. Head coach Byron Scott said Stojakovic should be ready to return soon. … Armstrong’s eight rebounds marked a season high. … A Hornets employee appeared to dislocate his ankle after using a trampoline to dunk a ball during a timeout in the third quarter. His left leg was folded under him as he landed awkwardly on padding below the hoop. His foot was turned sideways as he dangled his leg and he had to be helped off the court. Team officials said they could not discuss the injury because of privacy concerns.