|Los Angeles Clippers guard Chris Paul (3) shoots over New Orleans Hornets center Chris Kaman (35) in the first half of an NBA basketball game in New Orleans, Thursday, March 22, 2012. (AP Photo/Gerald Herbert)|
Hornets beat Clippers 97-90 in Paul's return to NO
NEW ORLEANS—Chris Kaman scored 20 points and the Hornets rallied for a 97-90 victory over the Los Angeles Clippers on Thursday night, spoiling Chris Paul's return to New Orleans.
The Clippers were held to 11 points in the fourth quarter as they shot 4 for 23 from the field. Los Angeles also missed its last 19 3-point attempts.
After trailing throughout the first three quarters, the Hornets went ahead with an 11-2 run at the start of the fourth and led the rest of the way.
Jarrett Jack and Jason Smith each scored 17 as New Orleans snapped a five-game home losing streak and won for only the 12th time in 47 games this season.
Blake Griffin had 21 points for Los Angeles, which has lost three in a row for the first time this season. Paul, who forced a trade from New Orleans before the season after six years as the face of the franchise, added 16 points on 5-for-14 shooting.
Jack, Paul's replacement as the starting point guard in New Orleans, put the Hornets ahead for the first time, 80-79, with a jumper in the lane. After the Clippers tied the score at 81, Xavier Henry hit a fallaway buzzer-beater to put New Orleans ahead for good, Jason Smith dunked off a beautiful bounce pass from Greivis Vazquez and Smith sank an outside shot to give the Hornets a six-point lead.
The game took an ugly turn with 4:06 left when Smith body-slammed Griffin to the floor on a fastbreak. Paul followed Griffin into the concourse behind the basket and had words with him as several players jawed at each other.
Smith was assessed a flagrant 2 foul, which carries an automatic ejection, but left the court to a loud ovation.
Griffin hit both free throws, but the Clippers failed to score on the ensuing possession and never caught up.
Typical of their frustration, DeAndre Jordan shot an air ball from 3 feet that turned into a shot clock violation with the Hornets leading 93-89. Griffin cut the gap to 93-90 on a free throw with 54.2 seconds left, but Randy Foye missed a 3 that would have tied it on Los Angeles' next possession.
Marco Belinelli's two free throws with 14.9 seconds left gave New Orleans a 95-90 lead. Paul and Nick Young then missed desperation 3s in the final seconds.
Paul, a four-time All-Star with the Hornets, drew a mixed reaction. He was greeted with cheers and boos in the introduction. A tribute that ran on the video screens above the court at the end of the first quarter -- focusing on his off-court projects with kids in New Orleans -- drew a loud ovation, and he waved his acknowledgement while standing in front of the Clippers' bench.
But fans cheered again when he picked up his third foul late in the second quarter and even started screaming "Beat L.A.," a chant normally reserved for the Lakers.
Paul needed only 16 seconds for his first assist, a pass to Randy Foye for a 3-pointer. He had three assists on the Clippers' first four baskets and also scored on a driving layup and a wide open 3-pointer from the top of the key in the first 8 minutes.
That was part of the Clippers' 35-point outburst -- the most points the Hornets have allowed in the first quarter all season -- and Los Angeles led by six. They had three dunks, including one by Young over Smith immediately after Smith blocked a dunk attempt by Jordan.
But the Clippers slowed down dramatically from there, failing to score 100 points for the ninth consecutive game. Paul had five assists in the open quarter and only four more the rest of the way. He also did not have a rebound.
Jack outscored him by 1 and matched his nine assists.
NOTES: This was the only game the teams will play in New Orleans this season. They meet two more times, both in Los Angeles. ... The Hornets shot 71 percent in the first quarter. ... Clippers guard Mo Williams was carried off the court with a left big toe injury in the second half. Hornets starting forward Trevor Ariza left in the third quarter with a sore right ankle and did not return. ... Actor Samuel L. Jackson, in town for the filming of a Quentin Tarantino movie, announced the starting lineups.