NEW ORLEANS -- Julian Wright had been in the wrong spot on the court so often this season that Hornets coach Byron Scott had trouble trusting him to play even 10 minutes a game.
Then when Peja Stojakovic went out with back spasms this week, Scott wondered if it might help to insert Wright in the starting lineup instead of playing his fellow reserves. He tried it a couple times and it paid off handsomely Saturday night.
Wright tied a career high with 20 points, complementing Chris Paul's 21 points, 13 assists and six steals, and the New Orleans Hornets won their seventh straight game, beating the Oklahoma City Thunder 108-90.
"We've been trying to put him in a position where he can be successful and not get himself into trouble," Scott said of Wright, a former first-round draft choice whose second NBA season out of Kansas had not met expectations to this point.
"He did a real good job getting up and down the court and being active," Scott continued. "We know what he can do. I have been trying to put him in with veterans that can maximize his potential and calm him down when they need to. I knew he was going to be more comfortable and play well this game."
"I knew going into this game that we were going to have to play pretty flawless basketball for 48 minutes," Thunder coach Scott Brooks said. "We played good for three quarters, but in the fourth quarter they made some big shots, we turned it over a few times, but I was proud of our guys' effort."
Paul was forced to sit out the last half of the third quarter after committing his fourth foul, and Oklahoma City was within 76-72 when the period ended. Paul returned and the Hornets opened the fourth quarter on 15-3 run that included a pair of 3s by James Posey, the second coming in transition after Wright hustled back to block Westbrook's fast-break layup attempt on the other end.
"It was a turnover and you can easily just say, 'Oh man, they're going to score on this," Wright began. "I just tried to hustle back and use my length to my advantage. I swiped at the ball ... I was able to save it and Posey hit a big shot and it was a momentum changer."
Wright capped the surge with a transition jumper set up by Paul's steal, and the Hornets led 91-75. The Thunder didn't threaten again.
It was easily the best game of the season for the Wright, a quick, 6-foot-8 swingman and good ball-handler who was active on both ends of the floor and ran hard in transition. He threw down several crowd-pleasing dunks, twice on alley-oops. One of Wright's four assists set up Tyson Chandler's alley-oop jam and Wright also had seven rebounds.
"Hopefully he just builds off the energy he brought tonight," Paul said. "He brings a different dimension to our team. ... When Peja and those guys are running the break we're running for jump shots. When Ju-Ju's running, we're running for lobs and dunks and I think the crowd feeds off it and so does out team."
Chandler finished with 12 points and Posey 11, hitting three 3-pointers as the Hornets outshot the Thunder 53.8 percent to 39.8 percent. New Orleans also finished with a 44-38 rebounding edge.
Chandler stuffed a pair of alley-oop lobs in the opening minutes and the Hornets led 17-5 on Butler's jumper less than half way through the first quarter. West added eight points in the opening period, after which New Orleans led 31-18.
When Paul went to the bench for his usual rest to start the second quarter, New Orleans stagnated and the Thunder went on an 11-0 run on baskets by five different players, including a 3 by Chucky Atkins, and trailed only 53-49 at halftime.
The Thunder briefly took a 54-53 lead on Nenad Krstic's 3 early in the third quarter, but New Orleans quickly regained the lead on jumpers by Butler and Paul and never trailed again.
"Chris Paul did his MVP-like thing," Brooks said. "He is a great player. They are a terrific team -- a playoff team that is fighting for home-court advantage."
Paul passed his head coach on the career assists list. Paul, in his fourth season, has 2,737, while Scott, a shooting guard, had 2,729 in his 14-year career. ... This was the final meeting between the teams this season. The Hornets won the previous three. ... Stojakovic missed his second straight game with back spasms. ... Oklahoma City swingman Kevin Durant missed his fourth straight game with a sprained right ankle. ... Chandler was called for a technical foul for arguing a defensive foul called against him in the third quarter. The Hornets also were called for a delay of game technical in the quarter.
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