Paul's catch-and-shoot in final seconds puts Blazers away

PORTLAND, Ore. -- Just another night for Chris Paul and the
New Orleans Hornets.

Paul made a 15-footer with 3.8 seconds remaining to lift New
Orleans to a 98-97 win over the Portland Trail Blazers on Monday
night. The Hornets outscored the Blazers 10-1 during the game's
final 3:06.

New Orleans rallied from a deficit of 11 points or more to win
an NBA-leading six times this season.

"We're used to this. We do this night in and night out. We
don't do any blowouts. We don't believe in them," said Paul, who
led New Orleans with 24 points and 12 assists. "Our core has been
around each other for a while, so when we get in close games, we
don't get rattled."

New Orleans didn't allow Portland to score a field goal during
the final 3:51, but hit plenty of shots of its own to complete the
comeback. Reserve guard Darren Collison hit a 3-pointer, then
canned a 15-foot jumper to tie it at 96 with 2 minutes remaining.

Portland's Andre Miller gave the Blazers their last lead by
hitting one of two foul shots with 1:42 left, but both teams went
scoreless until Paul hit the game winner.

Paul, who had fallen near the free throw line, thought teammate
David West would take the shot. Instead, West, who was double
teamed, passed to a wide-open Paul, and he buried the uncontested

"D-West has hit that shot time and time again, so I assumed he
shot it, but when I got up he threw it to me, and I knew I had to
shoot it," Paul said.

Earlier in the day, New Orleans got a bit of a facelift when the
Hornets traded shooting guard Devin Brown to the Chicago Bulls for
backup 7-foot center Aaron Gray.

New Orleans coach Jeff Bower said the move to obtain the
25-year-old Gray, who is averaging 2.3 points a game, "is an
opportunity to add a tough player who adds something different to
our front line."

Bower said that by trading Brown, the Hornets are able to give
rookie guards Collison and Marcus Thornton increased playing time.

In his first start of the season, Thornton hit 8-of-12 shots and
scored 19 points in 38 minutes.

"He's a guy with a lot of confidence that doesn't back down, so
he's going to be just fine," West said of Thornton.

Also scoring in double digits for New Orleans were West with 18
points, and
Emeka Okafor with 14.

For Portland, Juwan Howard and LaMarcus Aldridge shared scoring
honors with 16 points. Howard's 16 tied a season high. Martell Webster hit four 3-pointers and scored 14 points, while
Jerryd Bayless and Rudy Fernandez had 12 points each.

Early on, Portland found itself in a hole. The Trail Blazers
trailed 24-8 seven minutes into the first quarter, but rallied to
take a 42-41 lead by the middle of the second quarter. Portland led
throughout most of the second half, and by as many as nine points
in the fourth quarter before misfiring during the final minutes.

The Trail Blazers had a chance to win the game, but Bayless
missed a 16-footer at the buzzer.

"This is tough to lose a game like this, especially on your
floor," Portland coach Nate McMillan said.

Game notes
Portland small forward Nicolas Batum made his season
debut after missing the first 45 games recovering from a torn
labrum in his right shoulder. Batum was treated to a standing
ovation when he entered the game at the start of the second
quarter. Batum, who started 76 games and averaged 5.4 points as a
rookie last season, hit 3-of-5 shots and scored six points in 10
minutes of action. Thornton received a flagrant foul for an elbow
to Fernandez's chin during the fourth quarter. "Rudy being Rudy,
he flopped and whatever. The refs were on their side the whole game
so I guess they called a flagrant," Thornton said.


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