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 Paul leads Hornets past Kings, 99-90

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PostSubject: Paul leads Hornets past Kings, 99-90   Sun Dec 21, 2008 4:48 pm

NEW ORLEANS(AP) Chris Paul wasn't bashful about his intent to "smash'' the record for consecutive games with a steal.After his season-high eight swipes against the Sacramento Kings, it's no wonder why.Paul
complemented his heady defense with a season-high 34 points, along with
nine assists, and New Orleans won for the 11th time in 13 games, 99-90
on Saturday night."One thing we talked about at halftime is,
whether we're scoring or not, defense has to be a constant and that's
what we did,'' said Paul, who set an NBA record Wednesday night with
his 106th straight regular-season game with a steal.Make that 107 now.Paul
took over the game in the third quarter, when he had four steals in a
span of 2:11. He hit all four of his shots and eight of 10 free throws
for 16 points in the period, when he also assisted on Tyson Chandler's
alley-oop dunk."He's so good at hesitating and getting in the
paint,'' Kings guard Bobby Jackson said about Paul, a former teammate.
"It's hard to guard the guy. When he's on top of his game like that,
it's going to be hard for anybody to beat them.''Chandler added another alley-oop dunk on a feed from David West, giving New Orleans a 69-56 lead late in the period.Paul
began the fourth quarter on the bench and the Kings briefly got as
close as 74-67 on Jackson's free throw, but the Hornets scored the next
seven points, beginning with Morris Peterson's second 3 of the game and
ending with James Posey's steal and fast-break layup, which gave New
Orleans its largest lead at 81-67.Sacramento appeared ready to
threaten once more when Brad Miller and Jackson each hit 3s late in the
final quarter, the second pulling the Kings to 88-81. Paul had other
ideas, responding with a 3 of his own, then grabbing his seventh steal
to start a fast break that ended with his assist on Posey's layup. Paul
then hit two more free throws, giving the Hornets a 95-81 with 1:52 to
go.Posey scored 19 points, and David West 12 for New Orleans,
which is playing it's best basketball of the season going into its next
contest at home against the Los Angeles Lakers on Tuesday."All
the talk is about the Lakers, Celtics and Cleveland, and rightfully
so,'' Hornets coach Byron Scott said. "We are getting better and better
each month, and that's the important thing.''The same can't be
said for Sacramento, which dropped its third straight despite 26 points
from John Salmons and 16 from Francisco Garcia."Obviously, we
made some bad decisions early in the third quarter that got us in a rut
again,'' said coach Kenny Natt, who took over after Reggie Theus was
fired on Monday. "It's more our fault than anything that we weren't as
aggressive as I wanted us to be.''Sacramento's inability to cope
with the Hornets' hustling defense on the ball-handler proved to be a
key factor in the game. The Hornets converted 18 Kings turnovers into
25 points.Paul said his instincts help him cause turnovers, but stressed that the Hornets' team defense deserves a lot of the credit."We
were smothering the ball screens,'' Paul explained. "That forces guys
into tough passes and that just means I have to be in the right place
at the right time.''The Hornets also were the aggressors the inside, where they outscored Sacramento 48-28.Chandler finished with 10 points. Peterson also scored 10.Miller finished with 13 points, while Jackson had 12 for Sacramento, which has lost seven consecutive road games.Paul
scored nine points in the first quarter and the Hornets led 29-19 on
Posey's free throws late in the period. New Orleans led by 10 again
after Posey's 3 and Rasual Butler's basket inside after a feed from
Paul late in the second quarter.The tide turned when the Kings
hit three straight 3s, two by Salmons and one by Garcia, igniting a
13-0 surge that gave Sacramento a 46-43 lead after Miller's free throws.Peterson snapped the run with a 3 from the left corner for the last basket of the half, which tied it at 46.Notes:
The Hornets were without Peja Stojakovic (back spasms). The Kings' Beno
Udrih (left hamstring) also sat out. ... The Kings won their only
previous game with the Hornets this season, 105-96 in New Orleans on
Nov. 19. That also was the last road win for the Kings. ... The Kings
are 1-3 under new coach Kenny Natt, who took over on Dec. 15 when
Reggie Theus was fired. ... The Hornets have held their last eight
opponents to 95 or fewer points, winning seven of those games. ... The
Hornets are 15-1 when leading after three quarters.

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