Taking over the game when he wanted to, Chris Paul compiled his NBA-leading sixth triple-double with 30 points, 13 assists and 10 rebounds Wednesday night, steering the New Orleans Hornets to a 109-98 victory over the Washington Wizards.
The Wizards led by as many as 12 points in the first half, but Paul brought his team back, scoring or setting up teammates seemingly at will.
Eastern Conference-worst Washington began the second half with a one-point lead, before Paul compiled 14 points, six assists and four rebounds in the third quarter alone to help the Hornets outscore the Wizards 40-22 in the period.
After drawing boos from the announced crowd of 15,255 and falling into a 17-point hole heading into the fourth quarter, the Wizards tried to make things interesting. Twice when the hosts got within six points, though, Rasual Butler answered by making 3s _ part of his 21-point night.
Antawn Jamison led Washington with 25 points and 10 rebounds, and Caron Butler added 23 points and nine assists. But the Wizards could not figure out a way to stop Paul.
While the Hornets have won eight of their past nine games _ getting back on track against Washington after Monday's loss against Atlanta _ the Wizards' struggles simply continue.
Washington, which won at Minnesota on Monday, was attempting to put together consecutive victories for only the third time in 2008-09. But the Wizards have yet to win three in a row during a dispiriting campaign in which they've missed Gilbert Arenas and Brendan Haywood all season and now have lost a third starter, DeShawn Stevenson, to back surgery.
Wizards interim coach Ed Tapscott knew, of course, what his team was getting into against Paul.
"Certainly, he's as dynamic a player as you'll find in the league, and who probably does as fine a job of making his teammates better as anybody in the league," Tapscott said before the game. "He's a joy to watch _ after you play him. He is a nightmare in terms of preparation."
The Wizards went ahead 40-28 on Jamison's jumper with a little under 6 1/2 minutes left in the first half. That gave Jamison 15 points already. Paul? He had zero up until then.
And that's precisely when the All-Star point guard decided to assert himself for the first time.
Guarded by Wizards reserve Juan Dixon, Paul did pretty much whatever he wanted over the next 3 1/2 minutes, engineering a 12-0 run that tied the score.
During that stretch, Paul scored 10 points and assisted on the other basket. He probably should have had two fewer points and an extra assist, but Butler somehow missed a layup off a perfect pass. So all Paul did was grab the rebound and drive for a layup himself.
After Paul assisted on a teammate's 3-pointer, David West scored inside to give the Hornets their first lead, at 45-44 with about a minute left in the half. Darius Songaila's free throws gave Washington a 46-45 edge at halftime.
After Washington went ahead 55-53 in the third quarter, Paul went to work again, accounting for 12 points in a 15-2 spurt that pretty much decided things.
Notes:@ Hornets G Morris Peterson was back in uniform after missing 20 games with a sprained left foot. He did not play. ... Hornets F Peja Stojakovic missed his fourth straight game with back spasms, while F-C Sean Marks sat out with flulike symptoms. Stojakovic could be ready to return Friday at Milwaukee, or Saturday at Chicago, Scott said. ... PG Mike James was back in Washington's starting lineup after missing one game with the flu.
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