NEW ORLEANS – Trevor Ariza scored 19 points and Chris Paul shook off a minor knee injury with 18 points and eight assists to lead the New Orleans Hornets to a 108-96 win over the Indiana Pacers on Sunday night.
Emeka Okafor, who had a double-double by halftime, finished with 14 points and 17 rebounds for the Hornets, who can all but assure themselves a playoff berth by beating Houston at home on Wednesday. Carl Landry added 18 points.
Ariza and Paul were both 8 of 13 from the floor.
The game was never close. The Hornets led 29-21 at the end of the first quarter, 57-44 at the half and 89-65 entering the fourth quarter, outrebounding the Pacers 48-33 while shooting 51.2 percent. The only nervous moment for the Hornets came when Paul hobbled off the court with a left knee injury in the second quarter, but he returned less than 3 minutes later.
Danny Granger and Mike Dunleavy each scored 15 points for Indiana, which snapped a three-game win streak and is two games ahead of Charlotte for the final playoff spot in the Eastern Conference.
New Orleans, which had scored a season-low 12 points in the first quarter of a home loss to Memphis on Friday, came out hot, hitting 15 of 25 shots in the first quarter while taking a 29-21 lead. Ariza was 3 for 3 from the field, and Okafor had eight points and eight rebounds.
After the Hornets scored the first six points of the second quarter, they had a brief concern when Paul fell to the court holding his left knee.
Paul, who missed 24 games last season with a torn meniscus in the same knee, knocked it against Indiana's Jeff Foster while the Pacers had the ball in the second quarter. When the Hornets gained possession, he called a timeout with 6:25 left while lying on the floor grimacing, and teammates gathered around him in concern.
After being assisted off the court, he shook off the pain, stayed on the bench and returned to a loud ovation with a 3:38 left in the quarter. He immediately fed Okafor for a layup.
Paul hit two jump shots and passed to Aaron Gray for another layup on the Hornets' next three possessions as they stretched their lead to 53-39. They put the Pacers away with a 13-2 run to start the second half, going ahead 70-46 on a running one-leg bank shot from Paul.
With New Orleans ahead comfortably, Paul sat out the first 9 minutes of the fourth quarter, returning with 2:11 left after Indiana cuts the deficit to 103-92. The Pacers could have cut it to single but Dunleavy missed an outside shot.
Jared Jack and Okafor made two free throws on the next two possessions to close it out.
Notes: With a steal off Indiana center Roy Hibbert in the third quarter, Paul became the fourth fastest player in NBA to history to record 1,000 steals, doing it in 420 games. The only guys who did it faster are Michael Ray Richardson (383), Michael Jordan (362) and Alvin Robertson (351). ... Indiana's Darren Collison, Paul's backup in New Orleans last season, had 10 points and five assists. ... James Posey, who played for the Hornets the past two years, went 0 of 4 from the floor before getting a dunk in garbage time.