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Okafor, Paul lead Hornets past Jazz 121-117 in OT

Emeka Okafor banked in a 20-footer at the regulation buzzer to force overtime, and reserve Aaron Gray scored six points in the extra period to lead the New Orleans Hornets to a 121-117 victory over the short-handed Utah Jazz on Thursday night.

David West scored 29 points for the Hornets before being taken off in a wheelchair holding his head and grimacing in pain after going down hard after 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.

Paul Millsap hit two free throws to put the Jazz ahead 105-103 with 1.3 seconds to go, but Okafor, who had subbed back in when West was injured, managed to get off the game-tying shot.

Millsap had 33 points to lead the Jazz, who have dropped four straight.

Chris Paul scored five of his 24 points in overtime for the Hornets, and Trevor Ariza added 14, including a 3-pointer in the extra period.

While the Jazz were coming off an 0-3 road trip, the Hornets 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 were starting a three-game Western trip just a ½-game ahead of eighth-place Memphis in the Western Conference playoff race. They also face Phoenix and the Los Angeles Lakers on the trip.

"It's really huge for us to get off to a good start," Williams said.

Williams knows there are doubters after the Hornets finished 37-45 last season and missed the playoffs for the first time in three years.

"I'm sure (the players) are hearing all the stuff people are saying and writing about our team," said Williams, in his first season as coach. "The best thing is we control our destiny. We have no one to blame but ourselves."

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.

Despite being without starters Andrei Kirilenko and Devin Harris, they continued to play spirited ball.

They trailed by five after Jarrett Jack's 3-pointer with 8:47 remaining but fought back, with Earl Watson sinking a pair of 3-pointers to tie it at 89, then Millsap converted a three-point play for a 92-91 Jazz lead with 5:24 left.

The Hornets surged ahead 98-92 on Paul's running jumper, but the Jazz came back again.

Notes: Mehmet Okur, 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 planned to TiVo Thursday night's Butler-Wisconsin game. He also will cheer for Arizona on Friday against Duke as he has a promotion with Subway to buy 5,555 Meatball Madness subs if a No. 5 seed wins it all.