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 Paul drives for game-winner in 100-98 win in OKC

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PostSubject: Paul drives for game-winner in 100-98 win in OKC   Wed Feb 18, 2009 10:27 pm

OKLAHOMA CITY(AP) Chris Paul performed all
kinds of amazing feats in launching his All-Star career in Oklahoma
City. There was still something missing."I don't think I ever hit any game-winners here,'' Paul said.Time to check that off of his list.Returning
again to the city where his NBA career got started, Paul drove the lane
for a layup with 2.7 seconds left to lift the New Orleans Hornets to a
100-98 victory against the Oklahoma City Thunder on Tuesday night.Paul
won the Rookie of the Year award after his debut season, when the
Hornets played most of their games at the Ford Center after being
forced out of their home because of Hurricane Katrina. But all of the
big game-winners that season and the next were hit by David West, and
not Paul.This time, Paul looked at coach Byron Scott after Kevin
Durant's tying 3-pointer with 13.8 seconds to play and urged him not to
call a timeout. That allowed him to attack a Thunder defense that
didn't have a chance to catch its breath and develop a game plan for
stopping him.He made up for a drive to the basket one possession
earlier that ended with rookie Kyle Weaver swatting his shot to give
Oklahoma City the chance to tie in the first place."It was the same move I made when we were up three and he blocked it. I got my body on him a little bit more,'' Paul said.The Thunder are now 1-7 in games decided by two points or less."It's
tough, man, especially when the game was pretty much in your hands -
guarding the guy that scores the last bucket,'' Weaver said. "It's
going to sting a little bit.''David West led the Hornets with 37
points and 13 rebounds, while Paul finished with 21 points and eight
assists in the team's first game since trading starting center Tyson
Chandler to the Thunder earlier in the day for veterans Joe Smith and
Chris Wilcox, plus second-round pick DeVon Hardin.Chandler was due to make about $12 million next season, and the move helps keep the Hornets under the salary cap."It
really bothers me the fact that it came down to a business decision as
opposed to something dealing with basketball. Coach told us before the
game, as much as he meant to this basketball team and as close as we
were to him, it's a business and when the games come before us, we've
got to be ready to play.''Durant followed an All-Star weekend to
remember with a career-high 47 points, capped by his fallaway 3-pointer
from the right wing off an inbounds pass from Russell Westbrook. Durant
had scored a record 46 points in the Rookie Challenge game and won the
HORSE competition during All-Star festivities in Phoenix over the
weekend.Jeff Green added 24 points and Westbrook scored 12 points for Oklahoma City.West
kept the Hornets ahead by scoring 16 of his points in the third
quarter, after Oklahoma City cut into a 15-point deficit with a 9-0 run
just before halftime.But Durant came through with 12 points
against New Orleans' reserves to start the fourth quarter and put the
Thunder up 83-82 on his 3-pointer from the right wing with 9:52 left.
That started to a series of lead changes and ties.West hit a
layup with 2:32 left to put New Orleans ahead 96-95, and then Weaver
and Westbrook missed 3-pointers for the Thunder on back-to-back
possessions before West struck again. He stutter-stepped to get space
against Nenad Krstic and then nailed an 18-foot jumper from the left
wing to push the lead to three.Weaver then came up with his block against Paul."I needed one more tonight, though,'' Weaver said.Paul
came away with a basket the next trip down, the Hornets escaped with
the win they needed after heading into the All-Star break with six
losses in eight games and then getting the sudden news of Chandler's
departure. New Orleans was sixth in the Western Conference heading into
the game, needing a strong final push to ensure a second straight trip
to the playoffs."It just leaves a big question mark in the
middle. I think we were all kind of looking forward to him getting back
healthy and plugging that middle up for us. Now we just don't know,''
West said."We hope that these guys coming in can come in and provide some presence.''Notes:
The Thunder unveiled their mascot at halftime: a bison named Rumble.
... Hornets F Morris Peterson missed his ninth straight game with a
sprained left foot. ... New Orleans' last visit to Oklahoma City was
the last game before P.J. Carlesimo was fired as the Thunder's coach.
Scott Brooks made his debut as Oklahoma City's coach the next night in
a loss at New Orleans. ... Attendance was 18,593.

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Paul drives for game-winner in 100-98 win in OKC
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