HOUSTON (AP) -- Chris Paul has a simple remedy for playing with
torn ligaments in his right thumb. He'll simply put the injury out
of his mind.
Playing with a bandage and a plastic brace on the thumb, Paul
had 17 points, six rebounds and five assists Saturday night to lead
the New Orleans Hornets over the Houston Rockets 86-80.
Paul hurt his thumb on Jan. 6. He missed only one game and was
back in the lineup on Jan. 10.
"It's all right," Paul said. "I've tried to get used to it
and not think about it. It hurts a little bit -- but not too much
once the Adrenalin gets going."
Desmond Mason added 16 points and P.J. Brown had 13 points and
10 rebounds for the Hornets, who finished with an 18-6 run to beat
the Rockets for the third time this season.
Juwan Howard had 22 points and 10 rebounds for the Rockets, who
fell to 0-11 without Tracy McGrady, who has missed Houston's last
three games with back spasms that have plagued him all season.
New Orleans coach Byron Scott sensed that his team noticed that
McGrady was out and played sluggishly because of it. The Hornets
trailed 36-31 at halftime after a 13-point second quarter.
"We came out here and thought it was going to be an easy
night," Scott said. "That's when a team has to know they mentally
have to go after it even more."
Scott blasted his team at halftime, but the short-handed Rockets
still led 74-68 after Howard's jump hook with 4:59 left in the
game. Brown then converted a three-point play and hit a jumper from
the wing to start the Hornets' decisive run.
Brown admitted that the Hornets may have taken the Rockets too
"We were caught up in how decimated their team was, how much
personnel they had lost," Brown said. "In the second half, we did
a lot better with our effort, probably the way we should have from
Paul sank three free throws and hit a driving layup in the final
3:26 to keep the Hornets ahead. Paul said that during every timeout
in the second half, Scott urged him to attack the basket.
"Coach just kept saying it: 'Be more aggressive, be more
aggressive," Paul said. "So I finally started taking it over."
Unable to answer, the Rockets dropped their fifth straight
overall and sixth straight at home.
"We just lost our intensity," said Houston rookie Luther Head,
who scored 18. "The whole game, we played great defense, trying to
slow them down and keep them in front of me. We just slipped up on
a couple of plays at the end."
The Rockets should've known how the game would end after the way
it started. David Wesley, averaging 19 points in Houston's last
four games, picked up two fouls in the first 39 seconds and coach
Jeff Van Gundy drew a technical from referee Sean Wright for
The Rockets trailed 18-13 after missing 11 of 14 shots in the
But Houston showed some life after the dull start, mounting a
19-7 spurt early in the second. The Hornets' 13 points in the
second quarter were the lowest total by a Houston opponent in a
second quarter all season.
"The base of our team is our athleticism and our quickness,"
Scott said. "We didn't start using that until the second half.
That's the type of basketball we have to play to be successful."
The pace quickened in the third quarter and the Hornets surged
to a 39-38 lead when Kirk Snyder finished a fast break with a
Houston, with only nine healthy players for the third straight
game, adjusted to the faster tempo and answered with an 11-3 burst,
led by Howard's six points.
Mason scored nine points in the third quarter, though, and the
Hornets trailed only 60-59 heading to the fourth.
Game Notes The Hornets' 31 points was the lowest first half total for a
Houston opponent this season. ... Hornets F/C Chris Anderson missed
his second straight game with the flu. ... Howard topped 20 points
for the fifth time this season after reaching the mark only twice
last season. ... The Rockets fell to 0-13 when they score in the