Okafor, Paul lead Hornets past Jazz 121-117 in OTBy LYNN DeBRUIN, AP Sports Writer Friday, Mar 25, 2011
SALT LAKE CITY (AP)—Instead of celebrating after a wild win, the New Orleans Hornets left the locker room more concerned than anything.
The Hornets pulled out an improbable 121-117 overtime victory in Utah, but leading scorer David West(notes) was still stretched out on the trainers’ table, in pain after injuring his left knee on a late dunk.
“When you lose somebody like D-West, it’s devastating,” said Hornets guard Chris Paul(notes), who scored five of his 24 points in overtime. “That’s our go-to guy. But if anybody can bounce back from it, its D-West.”
West scored 29 points before being taken off the court in a wheelchair, grimacing in pain after going down hard following a dunk that tied the game at 103. The team said West sustained a left knee injury and that X-rays were negative. An MRI is planned.
Emeka Okafor(notes), who banked in a 20-footer at the regulation buzzer to force overtime, said he didn’t even know West was injured until he saw a teammate running back to the other end after a defensive stop.
“The way he was lying down, I could tell he was seriously hurt,” Okafor said.
“Aaron Gray was unbelievable for us,” Paul said. “They tried to foul him and he went to the line, knocked two down, went back to the line, knocked another two down. We could have laid down when we lost D-West, but we saw it as an opportunity to lift one of our brothers up.”
Gray heaved the ball three-quarters the length of the court toward Paul but he was undercut by Watson, and the ball bounced out.
“I saw Chris jump, saw the ball bounce and said all I have is time for a touch-and-go,” Okafor said. “I touched it, squared and looked at the rim, and let it go.”
Asked if he called “bank,” Okafor laughed. “I didn’t have time.”
Paul said he didn’t know until after the game that it was Okafor’s shot that forced overtime.
“I was too mad in the fact that I got put on the floor,” Paul said of being undercut but not getting the foul call.
Jazz coach Ty Corbin took responsibility for the loss, saying he should have had Millsap miss the second free throw to run out the clock.
“In this league guys make spectacular plays and they did that tonight,” Corbin said.
“Everybody’s working hard,” Millsap said of the Jazz, who were without starters Andrei Kirilenko(notes) (nerve damage in his knee) and Devin Harris(notes) (hamstring). “Nobody wants to lose; it just happened. A guy hit a tough shot. They just had more energy than we did.”
The Jazz entered Thursday four games behind eighth-place Memphis with 10 to go. In mid-January, they were as many as 14 games over .500. Now they are below .500 (36-37) for the first time since starting the season 2-3.
If they miss the playoffs, it will be the first time in five seasons.
The Hornets, who missed the playoffs last year for the first time in three years, are determined not to let that happen again.
They hadn’t played since Saturday, and coach Monty Williams used the time to hold some closed-door practices.
“We tried to create a bunker mentality, playoff mentality,” Williams said of the practice sessions. “Some things were said in practices that I didn’t want anybody else to hear. That’s just the way it’s got to be for us.”
The Hornets were coming off an 89-85 loss to Boston, playing what Williams called the most undisciplined second half they’ve had all year.
“Guys watched the film, took it to heart,” Williams said. “We had some spirited practices this past week. It was definitely what we needed.”
The Hornets head to Phoenix next, then finish the road trip against the Los Angeles Lakers.
“It’s really huge for us to get off to a good start,” Williams said.
Notes: Mehmet Okur(notes), who will miss the rest of the season because of recurring problems with his back and Achilles’, said he had no thoughts of retiring after the trying year. “I should be OK. I’m not that old. I’m just 32. It’s going to be a huge summer for me,” Okur said of strengthening his left leg and his back. He admitted that he probably tried to rush back too soon from the Achilles’ injury because he was “hungry” to play basketball after missing 10 months. … Former Butler star Gordon Hayward(notes) planned to TiVo Thursday night’s Butler-Wisconsin game. He also will continue to cheer for Arizona—which beat Duke—as he has a promotion with Subway to buy 5,555 Meatball Madness subs if a No. 5 seed wins it all.