Paul, West lift surging Hornets over Thunder
NEW ORLEANS – Chris Paul made a critical steal with just more than 10 seconds left, David West swished a 17-foot fadeaway with 0.5 on the clock and the New Orleans Hornets pulled out their ninth straight victory, 91-89 over the Oklahoma City Thunder on Monday night.
Paul finished with 24 points, nine assists and three steals. West had 20 points for New Orleans, which overcame a 15-point first-half hole and then held Oklahoma City to one basket during the final 4:19.
Kevin Durant scored 22 points for the Thunder but missed all five of his shots in the fourth quarter, including several in the final minutes as the Hornets erased a late four-point deficit with a couple of jumpers by West, who hit New Orleans' final four baskets on jumpers of 16 feet or more.
Emeka Okafor added 11 points and nine rebounds for the Hornets (30-16), who opened the season with an eight-game winning streak. Now, they have their longest winning streak of the season and the longest active streak in the NBA.
The victory also moved the Hornets ahead of Oklahoma City and Dallas in the standings and all the way up to third in the Western Conference.
The Hornets entered allowing a league-low 91 points per game and surprisingly lowered that average even after being outscored 33-19 in the first quarter.
Oklahoma City (28-16) outshot New Orleans 46.5 percent to 45.5 percent and outrebounded New Orleans 41-33. However, the Hornets combined for nine steals and converted 17 Thunder turnovers into 27 points.
The Thunder were able to take a fourth-quarter lead thanks to Jeff Green, who was 3-of-11 shooting and benched for all but 40 seconds of the fourth quarter in Oklahoma City's narrow victory over New York on Saturday night. He enjoyed a drastic turnaround in New Orleans.
Green was 8 of 13 from the field and his jump hook gave the Thunder a 79-73 lead early in the fourth.
The Thunder still led by five when Paul stole the ball from Westbrook for a fast-break layup and later hit a 3-pointer to tie it at 83.
Serge Ibaka put Oklahoma City back in front when he battled for an offensive rebound and then went back up for an authoritative jam over Okafor. Soon after, Westbrook hit a jumper to make it 87-83, but the Hornets' defense tightened up long enough for West to hit two jumpers to tie it with 1:53 left.
After Westbrook soared through the paint to tip in Durant's missed 3 and put the Thunder back ahead once more, West hit another jumper to tie it at 89 with 57 seconds left.
Oklahoma City missed two shots on its next possession, but still had a chance to win after Marcus Thornton's missed jumper with 14.4 seconds to go. That's when Paul stole Nick Collison's handoff pass and was fouled, hurting his left ankle as he was knocked to the floor. He remained in the game.
Oklahoma City dominated early, when West went to the bench after two early fouls.
Durant, who had 12 points in the first quarter, gave the Thunder a 24-10 lead with a turnaround jumper, then later hit a 3 to make it 27-14.
The Thunder led by as much as 15 when Green hit one of two free throws early in the second quarter, then the Hornets began to lock down defensively, allowing only 11 points the rest of the quarter.
Thornton's 3 ignited a 9-0 run that included two tough inside baskets by West to cut it to 40-37. Soon after, Okafor's dunk on a cut through the lane opened a 6-0 spurt that put New Orleans back in the lead at 45-44.
As the half wound down, D.J. Mbenga put back Paul's miss as he was fouled, then Paul hit an off-balance jumper at the horn, completing a 20-point swing that gave New Orleans a 50-45 halftime lead.
Notes: Oklahoma City had won both previous games against the Hornets this season. ... The Hornets are 19-5 at home. ... The Thunder dropped to 19-4 when outrebounding an opponent. ... Attendance was 17,233, the club's second straight sellout. The Hornets needed a crowd of 11,758 to void a provision in the lease that would have allowed the team to leave after this season.