Chris Paul scored 27 points and had a hand in three clutch baskets in the final minutes, leading the New Orleans Hornets to a 100-88 victory over the New York Knicks last night at Madison Square Garden.
Tyson Chandler added 15 points and 18 rebounds for the Hornets, who sent the Knicks (18-42) to their seventh straight losing season. They did it by controlling the final minutes behind Paul, who finished with 8 assists, 5 rebounds, and 3 steals.
"That's what great players do," Hornets coach Byron Scott said. "Either make a play for themselves or make a play for their teammates. He did a real good job of getting to the basket. And when he wasn't getting to the basket he was finding open guys."
The Hornets pulled within 1 1/2 games of Southwest Division leader San Antonio, which is percentage points ahead of the Lakers for the best record in the Western Conference. New Orleans is third.
Jamal Crawford scored 20 points and Eddy Curry ended a month-long slump with 19 for the Knicks, who played without starting forward Zach Randolph (bruised right foot).
Knicks coach Isiah Thomas gave more playing time than usual to the young players at the end of his bench: Wilson Chandler, Randolph Morris, and Mardy Collins. But he made a curious substitution with 1:33 left and the Knicks in possession in the frontcourt trailing by four, sending Wilson Chandler in for Nate Robinson, one of New York's best offensive players - a move that brought immediate boos.
Paul then closed the decisive stretch by converting a 3-point play with 43 seconds left, making it 97-88.
New Orleans (40-19) surpassed its win total from last season. David West finished with 19 points.
Jazz 116, Mavericks 110 - Deron Williams had 20 assists and 17 points, and host Utah rallied for a 16-0 run late in the fourth quarter to beat Dallas.
The Jazz took a 21-point lead shortly after forward Andrei Kirilenko was knocked out of the game because of a hip injury on a flagrant foul by Dallas's Dirk Nowitzki in the first quarter. But they allowed the Mavericks to creep back and take a late lead before Utah's rally at the end.
Utah made all 18 free throws in the fourth quarter and improved to 26-3 at home, the best home record in the league. Carlos Boozer (28 points) stripped the ball two times in a row from Nowitzki as the Jazz pulled away in the final minutes.
76ers 106, Clippers 80 - Andre Iguodala scored 18 points, five teammates also scored in double figures, and visiting Philadelphia avoided a letdown after its upset win at Phoenix by routing the Clippers.
The 76ers, trying to earn their first playoff berth since 2005, are a game ahead of eighth-place New Jersey and two ahead of ninth-place Atlanta in the Eastern Conference.