Paul had 23 points and 14 assists, Willie Green(notes) keyed a fourth-quarter rally and the New Orleans Hornets beat the Memphis Grizzlies 98-91 on Friday night to move up in the Western Conference standings.
Paul, who was limited to 17 points over the previous three games, was 7 of 15 from the field, including 2 for 3 on 3-pointers.
“It was nice,” he said. “I was able to get into the lane and create a little bit. We picked up the tempo. When we play at that type of tempo, that’s the kind of game we need to play, and the kind of game we all can thrive in.”
Willie Green scored 13 of his 15 points in the fourth as the Hornets snapped a three-game skid and moved past idle Portland into sixth place in the West.
“(Green) got hot, and they started looking for him,” said Mike Conley(notes), one of three Grizzlies to finish with 12 points. “It’s tough when he’s making shots like that. Guys were putting hands up and playing good D, but that was the guy they were going to.”
Hornets coach Monty Williams said before the game he thought the criticism of Paul during the slump was unfair, and his second-leading scorer was taking the blame for a lot of other players’ mistakes.
“Obviously, he hasn’t played up to his standards,” Williams said, before adding: “Sooner or later—more likely sooner—he’s going to break out, and hopefully, everybody can retract all that was said about him.”
Sooner, in fact, was against the Grizzlies, who had won five straight at home and remains in eighth in the West despite the loss.
“We didn’t come out with a lot of energy early,” Memphis coach Lionel Hollins said. “We couldn’t sustain, and we weren’t consistent.”
Memphis had a chance to tie it with 34.1 seconds left, but Gasol missed two free throws, then fouled Jack, who hit both of his foul shots for a 95-91 Hornets lead.
“The first one, I felt like it was good, but it came up a little short,” Gasol said. “The second one was a little longer. It happens.”
The Hornets, who went 5 for 6 at the line in the final 32.1 seconds, managed to get the win despite losing leading scorer David West(notes) to a sprained left ankle with about 8:20 left in the first quarter.
New Orleans closed the first half with a 14-2 run to tie it at 45. Jack capped the surge with a layup in the final seconds of the second quarter.
Mayo had 11 points at the break, and Conley had 10, hitting all four of his shots. But he struggled guarding Paul, spending the final minutes of the half on the bench with three fouls.
The Hornets made nine of their first 11 shots in the third to build a 68-58 lead. But the Grizzlies rallied to send it to the final period tied at 72.
Williams had criticized his team’s play and lack of passion after Wednesday night’s 107-88 loss to the Knicks. The scolding apparently had an effect.
“Our guys came out with an attitude,” Williams said of Friday’s win, “whether they were mad at me, mad at themselves or mad at the world. The bottom line is, that’s how we have to play.”
NOTES: Hornets F Trevor Ariza(notes) was out with a strained muscle. … Many of the Grizzlies have begun sporting beards, part of a pledge to let their facial hair grow until they earn a playoff berth. … Mayo earned a technical in the first half when he and Paul got tangled up and Mayo reacted. … Memphis G Ish Smith, obtained in the trade deadline deal with the Rockets, got his first action in a Grizzlies uniform, entering in the third quarter. He had 4 points and an assist. … Mayo matched his season high with six assists.