Paul made a 15-footer with 3.8 seconds remaining to lift New Orleans to a 98-97 win over the Portland Trail Blazers on Monday night. The Hornets outscored the Blazers 10-1 during the game’s final 3:06.
New Orleans rallied from a deficit of 11 points or more to win an NBA-leading six times this season.
“We’re used to this. We do this night in and night out. We don’t do any blowouts. We don’t believe in them,” said Paul, who led New Orleans with 24 points and 12 assists. “Our core has been around each other for a while, so when we get in close games, we don’t get rattled.”
New Orleans didn’t allow Portland to score a field goal during the final 3:51, but hit plenty of shots of its own to complete the comeback. Reserve guard Darrin Collison hit a 3-pointer, then canned a 15-foot jumper to tie it at 96 with 2 minutes remaining.
Paul, who had fallen near the free throw line, thought teammate David West(notes) would take the shot. Instead, West, who was double teamed, passed to a wide-open Paul, and he buried the uncontested shot.
“D-West has hit that shot time and time again, so I assumed he shot it, but when I got up he threw it to me, and I knew I had to shoot it,” Paul said.
New Orleans coach Jeff Bower said the move to obtain the 25-year-old Gray, who is averaging 2.3 points a game, “is an opportunity to add a tough player who adds something different to our front line.”
In his first start of the season, Thornton hit 8 of 12 shots and scored 19 points in 38 minutes.
“He’s a guy with a lot of confidence that doesn’t back down, so he’s going to be just fine,” West said of Thornton.
Also scoring in double digits for New Orleans were West with 18 points, and Emeka Okefor with 14.
For Portland, Juwan Howard(notes) and LaMarcus Aldridge(notes) shared scoring honors with 16 points. Howard’s 16 tied a season high. Martell Webster(notes) hit four 3-pointers and scored 14 points, while Jerryd Bayless(notes) and Rudy Fernandez(notes) had 12 points each.
Early on, Portland found itself in a hole. The Trail Blazers trailed 24-8 seven minutes into the first quarter, but rallied to take a 42-41 lead by the middle of the second quarter. Portland led throughout most of the second half, and by as many as nine points in the fourth quarter before misfiring during the final minutes.
The Trail Blazers had a chance to win the game, but Bayless missed a 16-footer at the buzzer.
“This is tough to lose a game like this, especially on your floor,” Portland coach Nate McMillan said.
NOTES: Portland small forward Nicolas Batum(notes) made his season debut after missing the first 45 games recovering from a torn labrum in his right shoulder. Batum was treated to a standing ovation when he entered the game at the start of the second quarter. Batum, who started 76 games and averaged 5.4 points as a rookie last season, hit 3 of 5 shots and scored six points in 10 minutes of action. Thornton received a flagrant foul for an elbow to Fernandez’s chin during the fourth quarter. “Rudy being Rudy, he flopped and whatever. The refs were on their side the whole game so I guess they called a flagrant,” Thornton said.