Neither of the Hornets' two budding young stars were on the
floor for the start of a 12-2 fourth-quarter run that gave New
Orleans the cushion it needed to put the game away. Instead, it was
the two gritty veterans -- Brown and Mason -- that helped lead the
"They're a big part of this basketball team," West said.
"They play a big role in what we try to do."
With the win, New Orleans remained two games behind eighth-place
Sacramento, which beat the Clippers in Los Angeles later Friday
night, for the final Western Conference playoff spot.
The Hornets have seven games to go, including an April 16 trip
It was the Hornets' first game with all five starters healthy
since March 12, a span of 12 games. Mason had missed 11 in a row
with a sprained left knee. Brown was out for five games and West
three in that stretch -- both with injured left ankles.
"It's very important (to) make sure we've got all options
available, everybody's ready to go and I think most importantly try
to get that chemistry back," Brown said. "I've been out a week,
Mase has been out three weeks. We bring different things to the
game than what everybody else has been doing."
Speedy Claxton hit a jumper, Kirk Snyder made a 3-pointer and
Brown scored when his right-handed dunk attempt bounced off the rim
and in. After a jumper by Toronto's Charlie Villanueva, Mason
scored on a left-handed hook shot and Rasual Butler followed with a
3-pointer to give the Hornets an 88-72 lead.
Even that wasn't safe against the Raptors, who rallied back from
an 18-point second-half deficit in a 120-113 double-overtime win by
the Hornets on Sunday in Toronto.
Paul beat the shot clock with a jumper with 24.2 seconds left to
give New Orleans a five-point lead and James finally missed a
3-pointer to end Toronto's chances.
"It's hard to come back when you dig such a deep hole for
yourself," said James, who finished with 36 points -- two short of
his career high -- on 7-for-10 shooting from 3-point range.
Villanueva added 14 points, Morris Peterson scored 13 on
2-for-14 shooting and Loren Woods pulled down 10 rebounds for
Toronto. The Raptors have lost seven in a row, including their last
six since losing leading scorer Chris Bosh to a sprained left
thumb. It's their longest losing streak since starting the season
"It's tough," James said. "Being the end of the season, guys
are banged up and the only motivation we have is our pride."
Linton Johnson scored 13 points and Claxton added 11 for New
Orleans, which has won five of its last six games.
New Orleans opened the game on a 9-0 run and stretched its lead
to 22-9 before James started pulling Toronto back. He scored 20 in
the first half -- including all 10 of Toronto's points during one
stretch -- and the Raptors trailed 53-47 after a 3-pointer by
Johnson with 0.3 seconds left in the first half.
Another 3 by Johnson gave New Orleans a 63-54 lead but Toronto
kept it close until the very end.
"For us, at times it got too close for comfort down the
stretch," Mason said. "The one thing we need to continue to learn
how to do is how to put teams away. We had a stretch during the
season where we were doing that, consistently putting teams away.
But recently we're letting guys hang around. That's something we
Joey Graham, a former Oklahoma State forward who scored a
career-high 19 points Sunday against New Orleans, replaced Eric
Williams in Toronto's starting lineup. He scored nine points. ...
Hornets coach Byron Scott said he expected forward Marcus Fizer to
be re-signed to another 10-day contract as an insurance policy in
case New Orleans had any more injuries to their frontcourt. Scott
said he likes Fizer's post-up moves, his physical play and his
passing. "We've had limited practices but from what I've seen of
him in practice, I like what he does," Scott said.