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Hornets cruise past short-handed Bobcats

OKLAHOMA CITY (AP) -- Once New Orleans figured out Charlotte's small lineup, the Hornets were able to pull away for a big win.

Chris Paul scored 24 points and had 11 assists and David West took advantage of Charlotte's depleted front line to score 20 points in the Hornets' 103-86 win over the Bobcats on Monday night.

"We had to get a feel for those guys," Paul said. "They were able to switch screens at times and just beat us to different spots. They were just so fast and athletic out there on the court."

With four big men injured and their 7-foot-1 center in foul
trouble, the Bobcats resorted to a smaller lineup that gave the
Hornets trouble throughout the first half.

"They're scrappy," West said. "They're one of the hardest
teams to match up with, especially when they're small. They play
hard and are really aggressive."

West had six points during an 11-2 run that gave New Orleans the
lead for good late in the third quarter. Charlotte hit one field goal -- Keith Bogans' layup -- over a 7½-minute span and West hit three jumpers as the Hornets pulled away.

Desmond Mason's two free throws with 2 minutes left in the third
quarter gave the Hornets their largest lead to that point at 70-63.

Speedy Claxton's running jumper stretched the lead to 76-68, and
the Bobcats could never get closer than five points.

The Hornets closed with a 17-6 run sparked by Claxton's layup.
P.J. Brown made it 90-80 when he drove the baseline for a
right-handed jam with 4:04 to play, and West extended the lead to
12 on the last of five straight offensive rebounds for the Hornets.

Paul made two 3-pointers down the stretch -- including one on the
Hornets' final possession -- and recorded his 10th double-double of
the season. Claxton and Brown each scored 16 and Mason added 15 to
help the Hornets to their highest scoring output since a 105-99 win
at Seattle on Nov. 26.

Brevin Knight led Charlotte with 19 points and Gerald Wallace
scored 14.

Hornets coach Byron Scott said his team was fortunate to lead at halftime.

"They were playing harder," Scott said. "They were getting
after loose balls, long rebounds. We had to match their energy. In
the third quarter and fourth quarter, we did a much better job."

With Sean May out with a sprained right knee and Emeka Okafor,
Melvin Ely and Jake Voskuhl all out with sprained right ankles, the
Bobcats' only player over 6-foot-8 was Primoz Brezec. Foul trouble
kept Brezec on the bench for all but 11 minutes through the first
three quarters, and that helped create openings for West to shoot
10-for-15.

Led by Bernard Robinson's career-high 12 rebounds and Jumaine
Jones' season-high 11 boards, the Bobcats still won the rebounding
battle 43-41 and scored 21 second-chance points.

Robinson also had 11 points for his first career double-double.

Knight scored 10 of his points as the Bobcats jumped out to a
19-13 lead in the first quarter.

"I think Brevin was very aggressive. I think the first shot is
very key to a player's confidence. I went under that first screen,
he made it. I went under the second one, he made it again," Paul
said. "I think he had 10 points in the first quarter, so I knew it
was going to be a long night."

Neither team led by more than six points in a first half
featuring strong shooting at both ends. The Bobcats shot 50 percent
and the Hornets, who shot 55 percent, led 53-52 at the break.

The teams then traded the lead seven times in the first 3
minutes of the second half.

Game notes
The Bobcats and Hornets have played one game in each of the
Hornets' three regular home cities -- Charlotte, New Orleans and
Oklahoma City. The Bobcats' only win came in Charlotte last season.
... Kirk Snyder replaced J.R. Smith in the Hornets' starting lineup
and had his only basket on a two-handed jam in the second quarter.
He was called for a technical foul after hanging on the rim. Snyder
had averaged 7.6 points in five starts earlier this year, including
four while Smith was out with a sprained left ankle. Smith, who had
started all of the Hornets' other 24 games, was averaging only 5.5
points on 12-for-43 (28 percent) shooting in the last six games. He
did not play. Hornets coach Byron Scott said Smith needed to work
harder in practice to get back into the lineup.