Paul’s layup lifts Hornets over Timberwolves 97-96

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MINNEAPOLIS (AP)—Minnesota Timberwolves rookie Jonny Flynn(notes) went toe-to-toe with New Orleans Hornets All-Star Chris Paul(notes) for 47 minutes, 56 seconds Wednesday night.

It was the final 4 seconds that gave Flynn trouble.

Paul streaked past Flynn on an inbounds pass to hit a layup with 1.4 seconds left, lifting the Hornets to a 97-96 victory over the Timberwolves.

Paul finished with 15 points and 14 assists and one more lesson taught to the youngster. Trailing by one point with 3.9 seconds to go, Paul threw an inbounds pass to David West(notes). As Flynn turned his head, Paul raced to the basket and took a backdoor feed from West for the win.

“We should have got this win tonight,” said Flynn, who had 14 points and a career-high nine assists. “I’ll take some of the blame on that last backdoor cut.”

Wolves coach Kurt Rambis said Flynn and veteran Damien Wilkins(notes) shared the blame for allowing the easy bucket.

“As long as a player is receptive and as long as a player continues to work hard, which he does, he’s going to learn from these mistakes and they’re going to be valuable learning experiences because he’s not going to want to replicate those,” Rambis said. “So they hurt. They sting. But you learn from them.”

Peja Stojakovic(notes) scored 21 points and reserve Marcus Thornton(notes) added 20 for New Orleans, which snapped a five-game road losing streak.

Al Jefferson(notes) had 17 points and a season-high 16 rebounds and Ryan Gomes(notes) scored 21 points for the Timberwolves.

Minnesota had a chance to win it in the final seconds, but Wayne Ellington’s(notes) 3-pointer was well off the mark. The Wolves outrebounded New Orleans 49-29 and shot 52 percent, but missed nine free throws and turned the ball over 21 times.

“We needed this one so bad,” Stojakovic said. “I mean, somehow we just didn’t play good basketball on the road. And even tonight, we got a win but it was so inconsistent. I think we’ve got to be more focused in executing our game plan and stay with it.”

The Wolves led by 16 points midway through the third quarter before the Hornets made their move. Stojakovic hit two 3-pointers and Thornton added another during a 15-2 spurt that cut the deficit to three points.

James Posey(notes) hit a 3-pointer from the corner with 8 minutes to play, giving New Orleans its first lead since early in the second quarter. Thornton added another 3 from the elbow for a 91-87 lead with 7 minutes to go.

The young Timberwolves hung in, but had two points taken off the board by review late in the game. Corey Brewer(notes) made a baseline jumper to tie the game at 93 with 4:25 to go, but officials weren’t able to review the play until two minutes later. Replays showed Brewer did not beat the shot clock, so with 2:47 to go, Minnesota’s 97-95 lead turned into a 95-95 tie.

The last time Paul matched up against Flynn, he was playing his first game in three weeks. He scorched the rookie and the Wolves, racking up 16 points, 15 assists, eight steals and six rebounds in a 98-89 victory in New Orleans last Friday.

In his third game back from a sprained left ankle, Paul was his usual dazzling self on Wednesday. He had five assists in the first quarter, one on a brilliant two-on-one break. With Flynn backpedaling and Stojakovic on the wing, Paul made a behind-the-back dribble through his legs before dishing to Stojakovic for the easy layup.

Flynn came right back, finishing the first quarter with a flourish. Using a pick-and-roll to get to the elbow, he floated a perfect lob pass to Ryan Hollins(notes) for a dunk just before the period ended. It was quintessential CP3, who made a living threading those alley-oop passes to Tyson Chandler(notes) to help the Hornets to the Western Conference finals two years ago.

“He’s in the situation that I was in my rookie year where he can go out and play,” Paul said of Flynn. “He can shoot it, he can penetrate, he’s athletic, everything you want in a point guard.”

NOTES: Kevin Love(notes) had 12 points and 11 rebounds for the Wolves. … The Timberwolves play the Lakers in Los Angeles on Friday night in coach Kurt Rambis’ first game against his former team. Rambis will receive the championship ring he earned as an assistant last year. … New Orleans made 13 3-pointers, the sixth time they have hit at least 10 in a game. Only Orlando (13), Phoenix (12) and New York (11) have hit 10 3s in a game on more occasions.

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Top Performers

 Top Performers
 New Orleans
C. Paul Chris Paul
6-14,  15 Pts
3 Rebs, 14 Assists
 Minnesota
A. Jefferson Al Jefferson
8-12,  17 Pts
16 Rebs, 1 Assists

Team Stat Leaders

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Rebounds
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Wednesday, Dec 9