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Paul comes alive in the second half of Hornets' win

OKLAHOMA CITY (AP) -- With Chris Paul pushing the tempo, the New
Orleans Hornets punished the Minnesota Timberwolves and their zone
defense.

Attacking the basket, Paul scored 19 of his 21 points in the
second half to rally the Hornets from a 12-point halftime deficit
for an 84-80 victory over the Minnesota Timberwolves on Wednesday
night.

Paul pushed the tempo against Minnesota's zone after halftime
and found scoring opportunities for himself and for David West, who
had 12 points in the second half. West finished with 22 points and
13 rebounds.

"He makes plays," West said of Paul. "He makes plays with his
feet. He makes plays with the basketball in his hands, out of his
hands. We feed off of his energy. The energy that he brings really
gets us going."

After the Hornets trailed by as many as 18 points in the first
half, Paul hit a 3-pointer from the left wing with 2:09 left to
give the Hornets a 77-74 lead. Anthony Carter missed a 3-pointer
for Minnesota, and Paul found P.J. Brown for an open jumper at the
other end.

Eddie Griffin scored off an offensive rebound to pull Minnesota
within 79-76, but the Timberwolves were unable to capitalize on an
opportunity to tie after Paul missed a rushed 3-pointer as the shot
clock expired.

Kevin Garnett missed a 3-pointer from the top of the key, and
the 6-foot Paul grabbed the rebound and hit one of his two free
throws with 22 seconds left.

Garnett hit both of his free throws after being fouled under the
basket with 19 seconds left, but J.R. Smith answered with two of
his own for New Orleans.

Garnett followed Wally Szczerbiak's miss to get Minnesota within
82-80 and he had one final chance to tie the game after stealing
West's inbounds pass, but he couldn't score from right under the
basket.

"I saw Speedy (Claxton) for a split-second and when I was going
to pull it back, the ball was already gone," West said. "Luckily,
he didn't get a dunk. There were guys under there who made him make
a tough shot."

West got the rebound and sealed the game with two free throws
with 3.2 seconds left.

Brown scored 13 and Smith added 12 points for the Hornets, who
beat Minnesota for the first time in eight tries. Their last win
over the Timberwolves was on Feb. 25, 2002, when the team was still
based in Charlotte.

Garnett finished with 24 points and 11 rebounds for his third
consecutive double-double and his sixth of the season. Troy Hudson
added four 3-pointers and 17 points, and Michael Olowokandi scored
11 for Minnesota, which fell to 0-4 on the road.

After allowing Minnesota to shoot 47 percent in the first half,
the Hornets held the Timberwolves to 32 percent from the field in
the second half.

"We just felt like we had a lot more that we could show," Paul
said. "We were just letting KG and guys do whatever they wanted to
in the first half, and we just locked up in second half."

Paul, who entered the game leading all NBA rookies in points,
assists and steals, scored 11 points during a 17-4 run to lead New
Orleans back from a 12-point halftime deficit. Minnesota didn't
score for nearly 6 minutes to start the second half.

"It started defensively because we were getting stops, and that
allowed us to get out and run and push the ball up the court,"
Paul said.

Paul's driving layup put the Hornets ahead 53-52.

The teams then traded leads several times, leading up to a
confrontation between Desmond Mason and Garnett after Garnett
fouled Mason on a right-handed dunk try.

Mason and Garnett stared at each other for a moment, and Garnett
appeared motivated afterward. He hit back-to back baskets to give
Minnesota a 74-70 lead, but the Hornets weren't done.

Paul made a driving layup at the other end, and his miss set up
a putback dunk by West that brought the sellout crowd to its feet.

With the crowd still roaring, Garnett traveled on Minnesota's
next possession, and Paul's ensuing 3-pointer put the Hornets up
for good.

Garnett said he was impressed by Paul and called him a
"gorilla," because "he has that team right now on his back."

"He has a lot of natural ability," Garnett said. "He knows
how to get to the rack. He seems to have a lot of confidence in
himself. I like that. I like the fact that he plays with that
emotion."

Game notes
The crowd of 19,163 was the Hornets' third sellout in six
games at Oklahoma City's Ford Center. ... New Orleans forward Chris
Andersen sat out with a bruised back and bruised right knee. He had
been one of only five players to appear in each of the Hornets'
first 10 games. ... The Timberwolves had allowed 100 points or more
in their first three road games, all losses.