Paul's late heroics help Hornets stave off Bulls

OKLAHOMA CITY (AP) -- New Orleans Hornets rookie Chris Paul
prevented the Chicago Bulls from completing a big comeback.

The Bulls, who almost overcame a 30-point deficit in a
four-point loss to Dallas on Tuesday, dug themselves out of a
17-point hole before Paul took over and led the Hornets to a 100-95
victory Wednesday night.

Paul had 25 points -- 11 in the final 5 minutes -- and 13 assists,
showing why he was named the Western Conference rookie of the month
earlier in the day for the third straight time.

"He really just blew me away," said new teammate Aaron
Williams, acquired from Toronto on Tuesday. "He's got a special

Chicago fell behind 64-47 in the opening minutes of the third
quarter, then held the Hornets to just four field goals in the
final 8:35 in cutting the deficit to 74-71 with a 10-0 run that Ben
Gordon capped with a pair of 3-pointers.

The Bulls took a 90-89 lead on a follow by Darius Songaila with
2:45 to play. The putback finished a 15-5 spurt during which Paul
scored all of New Orleans' points.

After David West made two free throws to give the Hornets the
lead, Paul scored on a spinning drive in close. He added a jumper
with 1:16 to play to push the lead to 95-90, then hit two free
throws with 28.7 seconds left after stealing the ball from Gordon.

"It was his willingness and determination," Hornets center
P.J. Brown said. "He was willing to go out and get it done."

Paul said his late performance "was just sort of the way things
fell in place."

"We weren't being aggressive," he said. "Coach told us to
push the ball up the court and not make it a halfcourt game."

Chicago coach Scott Skiles liked his team's resilience but said
a few bad plays -- and Paul -- made the difference.

"Paul pretty much had his way with us the whole night," Skiles

Kirk Snyder scored 15 and Rasual Butler had 14 points for the
Hornets, who announced Tuesday they would remain in Oklahoma City
next season. At 23-22, they are above .500 for the first time since
Dec. 2, when they were 8-7.

Kirk Hinrich scored 20, and Luol Deng and Darius Songaila added
18 points apiece for the Bulls.

The teams plodded through the first 20 minutes before the
Hornets got going and took a 53-42 halftime lead. With Paul
directing things, Butler hit 3-pointers at the start and end of a
12-0 run that gave New Orleans a 13-point lead.

Chicago made just six field goals in the first quarter but went
9-for-12 from the line. The Hornets struggled as well but managed
to stay close despite West, their leading scorer, going to the
bench with two fouls just 5 minutes in.

Game notes
Williams had eight points and five rebounds in 21 minutes.
... Skiles got hit with a technical in the second quarter for
walking to halfcourt to argue a foul called against Songaila. ...
Paul will play in the rookie challenge Feb. 17 as part of All-Star
weekend. ... The Bulls are off to an 0-2 start to their seven-game,
14-day road trip. "We put a lot of emphasis on this West Coast
trip," Hinrich said. "We've got to turn it around quick."