MINNEAPOLIS (AP) -- Chris Paul was dominating the Minnesota
Timberwolves with the highest-scoring night of his young NBA
career. But in the final seconds, the New Orleans Hornets turned to
Peja Stojakovic for the game-winning play.
Stojakovic's 3-pointer with 0.6 seconds to play lifted the
Hornets over the Timberwolves 99-96 on Saturday night.
"Unbelievable," Paul said. "I have a lot of confidence in
myself, but I have the utmost confidence in Peja."
The shot capped a wild final minute that featured four lead
changes and Paul -- all 6-feet and 175 pounds of him -- driving the
lane without hesitation against 7-footer Kevin Garnett.
Paul had 10 of New Orleans' final 15 points, including two
crucial shots against Garnett and a pair of free throws in the
closing seconds. Stojakovic finished with 20 as the Hornets sent
the Wolves to their sixth loss in seven games.
The game appeared headed to overtime when Minnesota tied it at
96 on Mike James' 3-pointer with 2.9 seconds to play -- his only
field goal of the game. But on the ensuing play, Stojakovic broke
away from Marko Jaric on the perimeter in front of the Wolves bench
and displayed the pure touch that earned him a reputation as one of
the game's most dangerous outside shooters.
"I ran a brush screen for (Paul)," Stojakovic said. "And
there was a good screen for me. I got a pretty good look."
Said Hornets coach Byron Scott: "I just knew if we could get a
real good look for Peja, by the time he knocks it down, it is going
to be less than a second left in the game."
Minnesota had no answer for Paul's drives into the lane. He hit
a driving layup over Garnett with 20 seconds to play and added two
foul shots to make it 96-93 with 6.7 seconds remaining.
"He's a task," Garnett said. "We knew he was going to have
the ball in his hands the majority of the time. ... You keep him
under control, you keep the team under control."
Garnett led Minnesota with 22 points and 17 rebounds. Troy
Hudson added a season-high 20 points.
Tyson Chandler and Marc Jackson both returned from injuries to
give a boost to the Hornets' ailing frontcourt. The Hornets
outscored Minnesota 46-28 in the paint, but thanks to Garnett, the
Wolves still outrebounded New Orleans 50-37.
Chandler returned to the starting lineup after missing two games
with a concussion, but had only four points and six rebounds.
Jackson played for the first time this season after being inactive
for the first eight games with a strained hamstring and not playing
Wednesday night at Detroit. Jackson had six points.
Garnett scored 12 points in the first quarter. Minnesota went on
a 25-10 run late in the second quarter and took a five-point
halftime lead. Hudson sparked the run by going 5-for-9, including
3-for-4 from 3-point range, for 13 points in the period. But those
players combined for only 13 points in the second half.
Paul's previous career high was 34 on Nov. 9 at Golden
State. ... Wolves G Bracey Wright, Minnesota's second-round draft
pick in 2005, was inactive for the fourth time this season. He's
played only 1:52 this season. Despite the lack of playing time,
Wolves coach Dwane Casey said assigning Wright to the D-League has
not been discussed. "Our roster is so many guys who are guards,
and it's unfortunate for Bracey because he's one of our best
shooters," Casey said. "But right now he's got guys ahead of
him." ... Though the returns of Chandler and Jackson added some
much-needed depth to New Orleans' frontcourt, coach Byron Scott
still misses F David West, who's missed the last three games with
an injured forearm. "It's good to be almost healthy," Scott said.