Paul leads Hornets past Nuggets 101-95

Monty Williams is getting the hang of this head coaching thing — with a big assist from Chris Paul.

Paul scored 18 points and the New Orleans Hornets kept their rookie coach unbeaten with a 101-95 victory over the Denver Nuggets on Friday night.

David West scored 17 points and Emeka Okafor, who did not attempt a shot in the Hornets' opener on Wednesday, added 13 points in the club's second game.

Carmelo Anthony had 24 points and 10 rebounds for Denver, which led 79-74 early in the fourth quarter before Paul returned from a rest to score 10 of his points inside the final nine minutes.

Chauncey Billups had 20 points for Denver, J.R. Smith added 12 and Al Harrington 11.

Both teams shot better than 48 percent, but the Hornets' defense stepped up in the final minutes, with David West stuffing Billups' drive and Okafor swatting away a shot by Anthony.

After scoring 10 points in the first half, Anthony added 10 more in the third quarter while helping Denver erase a nine-point halftime deficit. Then Denver, which had not led since the first quarter, went back in front on Harrington's 3 with 1:44 to go in the third period.

With Paul and West on the bench to start the fourth, Denver was able to push its lead to five on Harrington's dunk before Williams sent Paul back into the game with just under nine minutes to go.

Paul quickly hit a mid-range jumper and set up Okafor's dunk. He then scored on a putback and a jumper before setting up West for an open jump shot that put the Hornets in front 86-84. On New Orleans' next possession, Paul fired a cross-court pass to an open Trevor Ariza, who hit a 3 to make it 89-84 with 4:56 to go.

Paul later made three free throws after Billups fouled him in the corner as the shot clock wound down. West added a turnaround just before the shot clock expired to make it 94-88. West added another key basket in the final minute, after which a frustrated Billups was called for a technical foul. Paul made the resulting free throw to extend the lead to 97-90, and Denver never recovered.

Ariza finished with 11 points and Marcus Thornton 10 for New Orleans.

Shelden Williams had 13 rebounds for Denver and Arron Afflalo had 10 points.

The Hornets held the early edge thanks to their reserves, who opened a double-digit lead in the second quarter.

Peja Stojakovic and Jerryd Bayless each hit a 3, and Thornton added two more from long range, the second putting New Orleans up 48-34.

The Hornets' starters returned and briefly increased the lead to 53-37 on West's free throws, before Denver began to chip away. Billups, who had 13 points in the first half, hit five free throws in the last 1:20 of the half to get the Nuggets back within single digits at 59-50

NOTES: West moved into third on the Hornets' career scoring list, two points ahead if Larry Johnson, who had 7,405. ... Paul was called for a technical for 1:20 left in the second quarter for apparently showing up the referee after a foul was called against Denver. ... Former Saints coach Jim Mora attended and was applauded when shown on the videoboard. ... Attendance was 12,474, nearly 5,000 short of a sellout.