David West had 26 points and eight rebounds and the weary New Orleans Hornets took advantage of Tyrus Thomas' late ejection to beat the Charlotte Bobcats 88-81 on Saturday night for their fourth straight victory.
Chris Paul added 19 points in the return to his home state for the Hornets, who after playing their second straight overtime game didn't arrive at their Charlotte hotel until 6:15 a.m. Saturday following travel problems.
Thomas was ejected for elbowing Emeka Okafor in the face after grabbing a rebound with 2:38 left and New Orleans up 81-77. Okafor and West hit four straight free throws following the flagrant foul to put it away.
Gerald Wallace and Stephen Jackson had 15 points apiece for the cold-shooting Bobcats, who lost their second straight.
In a game where neither team had led by more than six points, a silly play by Thomas helped put New Orleans in control.
After Chris Paul's 3 with 3:16 left put New Orleans up 81-75, Wallace responded with two free throws with 3:01 left, and when Thomas grabbed a missed shot, the Bobcats were in good shape.
But Thomas violently swung his elbow square in Okafor's face. Okafor crumpled to the floor and the officials huddled before ejecting Thomas. A replay review confirmed the call.
Okafor hit both free throws and West converted two free throws on the ensuing possession to make it 85-77, and the Hornets had a satisfying win after a sleepless night.
The Hornets were already facing a late arrival by playing an 8:30 p.m. EST game in Houston Friday that went to overtime. They then learned their pilot was sick and another one would have to be flown in.
The players went out for a long dinner before heading to the airport and it was about 3:30 a.m. EST before they finally got airborne.
Coach Monty Williams said he didn't want to bring up their plight to the players before the game, and the Hornets showed remarkable energy against a team that didn't have difficulties returning from Boston a night earlier.
The Hornets played their second straight game without starting shooting guard Marco Belinelli (ankle), with Willie Green again starting in his place. Green had eight points and five assists and the Hornets committed only eight turnovers while constantly exposing their mismatch inside with West guarded by Boris Diaw.
The Bobcats shot just 41 percent in a disjointed performance as they've suddenly hit a snag under new coach Paul Silas. Wallace, Jackson and D.J. Augustin, who scored 12 points, combined to make just 13 of 38 shots and the Bobcats committed 16 turnovers.
It spoiled a solid night from Charlotte's Kwame Brown, who had 12 points and 14 rebounds.
The game marked a number of reunions, including the Hornets' seventh trip back to Charlotte since bolting for New Orleans in 2002.
Silas was the Hornets' coach then and Hornets center Emeka Okafor was the first draft pick of the expansion Bobcats when the NBA returned to Charlotte in 2004.
Notes: Silas said there was "no question" he was low-balled when he turned down the Hornets' contract extension offer of $1.85 million a year before his final season there in 2002-03. "I asked (GM) Bob Bass, 'Do you think I'm worth this kind of money? And he went, 'No!'" Silas said. "So I said, 'No, I'll take my chances.' Silas said it worked out because after he wasn't retained in New Orleans he was hired by Cleveland for a contract that "set me up for life." ... Williams said Belinelli is about 75 percent. He could play Monday against Toronto, his former team. ... The game featured players ranked 2-4 on the NBA's longest active consecutive games played streaks: Jarrett Jack (330), Diaw (305) and Okafor (298). The Lakers' Derek Fisher (452) ranks first.