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Hornets give fans in New Orleans a long-awaited victory

NEW ORLEANS (AP) -- The Hornets had toured some of the
neighborhoods flattened by Hurricane Katrina. They saw people
living in tents.

If an eight-game losing streak hadn't provided enough motivation
to play better against the Los Angeles Clippers on Tuesday night, a
sense that they had to win at least one game for New Orleans' fans
did.

"Guys are leaving here with images they'll never forget for the
rest of their lives," said Hornets forward P.J. Brown, whose home
in suburban Slidell also was damaged by the storm -- and still isn't
repaired yet. "We just wanted to win this one for the fans."

And finally, they did.

Rasual Butler scored a career-high 32 points, hitting seven
3-pointers, to lead the Hornets a 120-108 victory.

New Orleans hit 12 3-pointers in all, the last at the final
buzzer when Butler heaved the ball at the hoop in celebration and
it went in.

Butler shot well from the outset, hitting seven of his first 11
shots, including three from long range, to help the Hornets take a
63-49 lead at halftime.

"He just had a game of his life," Hornets coach Byron Scott
said. "Hopefully he can keep playing like that or somewhere near
like that."

New Orleans fans, taking in only the third and final Hornets
game in New Orleans this season because of Hurricane Katrina, were
exuberant throughout in seeing their first pro sports victory in
over a year. They offered a prolonged, standing ovation as the game
ended.

"It felt really good," Butler said. "It's something that I'll
think about -- that I was able to help this team get one (victory)
before we left this city."

The Hornets won only 18 games last season and their last victory
in New Orleans was on March 12, 2005. This season, they had lost a
game in Baton Rouge and their recent losing streak included the
other two games in New Orleans. The Saints lost every game they
played in Louisiana in 2005.

Corey Maggette scored 25 for the Clippers, hitting a pair of
3-pointers early in the fourth quarter to cut the Hornets' lead to
four after they had led by double digits most of the game.

Butler responded with one of his 3-pointers and rookie Chris
Paul hit another a few possessions later to help the Hornets hold
on.

David West had 21 points and 11 rebounds for New Orleans, while
Paul finished with 21 points and reserve Marc Jackson 10.

Elton Brand scored 24 for Los Angeles, but was held to only one
basket in the fourth quarter. Vladimir Radmanovic scored 18, Sam
Cassell had 13 points and 11 assists and Cuttino Mobley scored 12
for Los Angeles.

"We shouldn't have let these guys beat us, man," said Mobley,
who later cursed and punched a locker. "This is the time of year
where your mind has to adjust faster. This is not the first half of
the season."

Clippers coach Mike Dunleavy said he warned his team about the
Hornets' desperation to win.

"That message was delivered and we didn't respond," he said.

Radmanovic's 3 pulled the Clippers to 113-108 inside the final
minute, then the Clippers fouled Butler with 25 seconds left.
Butler missed both free throws, but Brown forced a jump ball
fighting for the rebound and the Hornets maintained possession.

Paul then made two free throws to seal it.

"I felt we were a better team than we were showing" during the
losing streak, Paul said. "Everybody spoke up a little bit,
saying, 'enough is enough.' I think we can build on it."

Game notes
West has scored in double figures in 40 straight games. ...
The Hornets, now 32-33 and still in playoff contention, were 15-51
at this point last season. ... The Clippers had won two straight
coming in, but fell to below .500 (16-17) on the road this season.
... The game was the only one of the three in New Orleans that did
not sell out, but it was close. Attendance was announced at 16,799,
about 400 short of the sellout figure used in the New Orleans Arena
the past three seasons.