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Hawks drop to 0-9 as comeback falls short

OKLAHOMA CITY (AP) -- Chris Paul kept telling Salim Stoudamire
not to shoot. Once Stoudamire stopped listening, the Atlanta Hawks
rallied from a 26-point deficit and almost came away with their
first victory.

But Paul saved the day for the New Orleans, scoring five of his
25 points on free throws in the final 22.7 seconds in the Hornets'
95-92 victory over the winless Hawks on Friday night.

The rookie from Wake Forest also had a career-high 12 assists.

"I just always like to get guys involved," Paul said. "I
never want to feel like I'm ball-hogging. But at the same time,
coaches keep telling me I've got to look for my shot more."

He might have done just as much good by talking to Stoudamire,
who scored 24 of his 30 points in the fourth quarter.

"It didn't surprise me," Paul said. "I talked to him
throughout the whole game. I told him, `Don't start shooting. Don't
start shooting.' ... I know when it gets down to that type of
situation, that's when he's going to start."

Paul and Stoudamire met in college and attended a rookie camp
together.

"He was telling me that, and I was like, 'I'm going to be
patient and pick and choose my spots," Stoudamire. "They opened
up for me, and I knocked them down."

The Hornets, playing without two starters and their top reserve,
led 76-50 after Brandon Bass' two-handed, fast-break dunk early in
the fourth quarter before Stoudamire took over. The former Arizona
standout scored 21 of the Hawks' next 31 points to cut the deficit
to eight, and Joe Johnson added two 3-pointers and a layup to get
Atlanta to 90-89.

"I didn't want to give up. I wanted to compete until the buzzer
sounded, and luckily I caught fire," Stoudamire said.

Paul, the Hornets' first-round draft pick, hit one of two free
throws with 22.7 seconds left, and Johnson and Zaza Pachulia each
missed baskets that could have tied the game for the Hawks.

Paul hit two more free throws to stretch New Orleans' lead to
four at 93-89, and Stoudamire made his fourth 3-pointer of the
quarter to pull Atlanta within one again. Paul then sealed the game
with two free throws with 3 seconds left.

Stoudamire missed a shot from near half court that could've sent
the game to overtime. It was one of only three misses on his 12
fourth-quarter shots.

"It was just one of those nights where the basket was like a
huge bucket," Stoudamire said. "But we lost, so it doesn't mean
anything to me."

Johnson scored 21 points, Harrington had 14 points and 10
rebounds and Pachulia added 10 points and 14 rebounds for Atlanta,
which dropped to 0-9, the worst start in franchise history.

The Hornets played without starting guard J.R. Smith (ankle) and
starting center P.J. Brown, who was attending his mother-in-law's
funeral. Reserve guard Speedy Claxton (ankle), the team's
second-leading scorer, also didn't play.

Still, the Hornets (3-6) snapped a four-game losing streak and
ensured they wouldn't duplicate last season's 2-29 start. New
Orleans didn't pick up its third win until a 121-117 victory
against Sacramento on Jan. 8 ended its second losing streak of 10
or more games.

Before Stoudamire started shooting, it appeared New Orleans
would cruise to win No. 3.

"It shouldn't have been that close," Hornets forward David
West said.

Game notes
Two of the Hawks' three preseason wins came against New
Orleans. The other was against Charlotte. ... Atlanta faced nine
straight Western Conference opponents to start the season. Its
first Eastern Conference game is Sunday against Boston. ... The
attendance was 17,554, the Hornets' lowest in five games in
Oklahoma City. ... A night after going 0-for-13 from 3-point range,
the Hornets were 8-for-16 from behind the arc.