Hornets spoil Paul's return, rally past Clippers

Chris Kaman had 20 points, 10 rebounds and 90, at New Orleans Arena.

Jason Smith added 17 points and eight rebounds before being ejected late in the fourth quarter for a flagrant 2 foul thanks to a football-like tackle on the Clippers' Blake Griffin, while Jarrett Jack contributed 17 points and nine assists in the Hornets' second win in three games.

"Although we certainly don't teach or condone the flagrant fouls, I do understand in the heat of the moment things happen," Hornets head coach Monty Williams said about Smith.

Chris Paul recorded 16 points and nine assists in his first game against his former team. Paul was drafted by the Hornets with the fourth overall pick in 2005 and averaged 18.7 points and 9.9 assists over 425 career games with New Orleans.

Griffin finished with a game high 21 points to go along with 11 rebounds as the Clippers dropped each game of a back-to-back-to-back road stretch.

New Orleans trailed, 58-54, at the half and opened the third with a Kaman layup to pull within two, but the Clippers responded with a 11-0 stretch to run out to a 69-56 lead.

However, the Hornets would not fade away, using a 14-5 swing over the final five minutes of the third quarter to make it a 79-76 game entering the fourth.

That momentum carried into the fourth as New Orleans recorded the first five points of the frame, including Jack's go-ahead pull-up jumper, to take their first lead of the contest, 81-79.

Griffin quickly knotted the game with a short hook shot on the other end, but the Hornets responded with six straight points to pull ahead.

After Xavier Henry's three-pointer later gave New Orleans its largest lead of the contest, 92-85, with 3:30 left in the game, the Clippers used a 5-1 spurt to close the gap to three, 93-90, when Griffin converted on the front end of two foul shots with 54.2 showing on the clock.

Los Angeles' Randy Foye then got a quick steal off of Kaman on the Hornets' ensuing possession, but his potential game-tying three rimmed out and Marco Belinelli's two foul shots gave New Orleans a two-possession cushion.

Jack then made a pair from the foul line after a pair of missed three-pointers by Paul and Nick Young to account for the final margin.

"We've got to keep battling and keep fighting. We can't feel sorry and we can't make excuses," Clippers head coach Vinny Del Negro said. "We were taking too many plays off. We can't always try to make the home-run play instead of the smart, solid play."

Los Angeles opened the game with a 20-12 run to take control, but New Orleans used a 70.6 percent shooting performance in the first quarter to battle back, closing its deficit to 27-25 on Jack's jumper with 3 1/2 minutes remaining in the opening period.

The Clippers, though, scored eight of the final 12 points of the first to take a 35-29 lead into the second quarter.

The Hornets offense cooled down in the second quarter, connecting on 53.3 percent of their shots in the frame, but held Los Angeles to just 35 percent from the floor to stay within striking distance.

After a pair of Griffin free throws gave the Clippers their fourth doubled- digit advantage of the quarter, 54-44, with 3:37 left in the half, the Hornets reeled off nine straight points to cut their deficit to one.

But Paul's bank shot snapped the run and kept Los Angeles on top, and the Clippers took a 58-54 lead into the break.

Game Notes

Clippers guard Mo Williams left the game early in the fourth quarter with a toe injury and did not return...Los Angeles fell three games behind the Lakers for the top spot in the Pacific Division...New Orleans improved to 5-20 at home, while the Clippers fell to 11-13 on the road this season...The Hornets have won 16 of the last 17 meetings between the teams, including nine straight in New Orleans.