D.J. Augustin spoiled Chris Paul's homecoming and helped the Larry Brown-led Charlotte Bobcats finally win a game that doesn't matter.
Augustin scored 22 points and hit 16 of 18 free throws to help Charlotte beat the New Orleans Hornets 108-101 on Thursday night and give the Bobcats their first exhibition victory under Brown.
"I was just being aggressive, driving," Augustin said. "Coach told us to drive and not settle for jump shots, and that's what I tried to do."
Stephen Graham scored 15 points, and Gerald Wallace added 14 points as the only starter in double figures for the Bobcats.
Charlotte blew a 21-point lead in the second half, but used a late 10-3 run to snap an 0-9 record in preseason games under the second-year coach.
Augustin played about 17 minutes in the second half after Raymond Felton, the Bobcats' starter at point guard, collided with Sean Marks and left with what he described as a mild rib injury.
Paul scored 15 of his 24 points in the third quarter for the Hornets, who outscored the Bobcats 32-13 during a 9-minute stretch late in the third to erase most of the 21-point deficit.
New Orleans then took its first lead of the game _ and the preseason _ when rookie Marcus Thornton's 3-pointer made it 82-81 with 9:44 left.
Then, Thornton's 3 with 4:08 remaining tied it at 96. He finished with 19 points and is pushing Morris Peterson for playing time at shooting guard. David West scored 14 points and Peterson had 13 and while rookie Darren Collison _ who is competing for the job as Paul's backup at point guard _ finished with 12.
"I like the fact that the young guys kept their poise," Hornets coach Byron Scott said. "We're still making a lot of mistakes on both ends of the floor, and both of those guys are a little part of it ... but overall, it wasn't bad."
Nazr Mohammed's jumper with 3:47 left broke the 96-all tie and put the Bobcats ahead to stay.
He was one of Charlotte's options inside as Brown continued to tinker with a depleted frontcourt that was without injured starters Tyson Chandler (left ankle surgery) and Boris Diaw (sprained left ankle) for a second straight game.
"It's not an experiment. We're just finding out who can play," Brown said. "That's what training camps are for, to give guys that deserve to play the opportunity, and then work on the things you think are important to help your team win."
Mohammed and Vladimir Radmanovic replaced them in the starting lineup, with Radmanovic scoring six points during Charlotte's 12-0 game-opening run and finishing with eight. Mohammed picked up three fouls in a 45-second span of the first.
Replacement officials whistled the teams for a combined 77 fouls, and the teams shot a total 95 free throws.
"If they're going to call the game the way they've been calling it, we've got to adjust to it," Scott said.
The game marked Paul's return to the central North Carolina Triad. He grew up about a 30-minute drive down Tobacco Road in Winston-Salem, led hometown Wake Forest to its first No. 1 ranking in 2004-05 and turned pro after his sophomore season, winning the rookie of the year award in 2006.
"It's always good to come back home and play in front of my friends and family," Paul said. "This is my last time to be this close to home until, hopefully, June."
He played 24 minutes in front of the home folks. Both teams played their starters for roughly two quarters.
The first matchup between the Bobcats and the first draft pick in their history wound up being derailed by injury, with new Hornets big man Emeka Okafor sitting out because if a sprained right big toe. Okafor, taken No. 2 overall by Charlotte in 2004, was dealt in July to New Orleans for Chandler.
But if there was any lingering bitterness between Okafor and his former team, he hid it well. Roughly an hour before tipoff, he and Brown shook hands and shared a laugh in the hallway before the center popped into Charlotte's locker room to visit his old teammates.
"No hard feelings _ both sides understood what they needed to do to make themselves better, and I'm happy that they were able to put me in a good situation as well," Okafor said.