Paul had 23 points, 15 assists, five rebounds and three steals in 36 minutes, leading the New Orleans Hornets to a 101-96 victory over the Indiana Pacers on Tuesday night.
"He looks like he's ready to go," said Hornets coach Byron Scott, who said he wanted to give his starters more playing time as the regular season nears. "Midseason form, end of season, beginning, I don't know what. ... He looks like he's ready to start the season."
David West added 26 points, hitting 12 of 17 shots in the Hornets' return home from their two-game trip to Berlin and Barcelona last week.
Harboring hopes of playing for a championship, the Hornets are 6-0 in the preseason with one exhibition remaining against Miami in Mobile, Ala., on Thursday night.
"Obviously we're trying to make sure, as preseason winds down, we're closer to where we need to be by the start of the season," West said. "We can't carry these games over, but I think everybody wants to be ready. Everybody knows that in the Western Conference, there's really not going to be a time to warm up or get your timing or anything like that. You've got to be ready to go from the first game because things are going to be pretty contested out this way."
Indiana outshot New Orleans 49 percent to 46 percent and outrebounded the Hornets 48-35, but the Pacers were sloppy, turning the ball over 21 times, leading to 34 Hornets points.
"They are very aggressive with their hands," Pacers coach Jim O'Brien said of the Hornets. "They cause so many turnovers and some of them we just threw away."
Pacers rookie center Roy Hibbert, who had seven points and three rebounds in 18 minutes, left the game in the fourth quarter with what team officials said was a mild sprain of his right ankle.
Peja Stojakovic had 12 points and Morris Peterson 10 for New Orleans, which led 81-72 at the end of the third quarter. Hornets coach Byron Scott sat his starters for the next six minutes, while Indiana left several starters on the floor and surged ahead.
Murphy hit two 3s and Brandon Rush another during a 15-2 run that put Pacers ahead 87-84.
Scott began to rotate his starters back in with under six minutes remaining. Soon after, the Hornets briefly regained the lead when Paul found Melvin Ely for a basket inside.
Granger made a reverse layup as he was fouled and Rasho Nesterovic's baseline jumper put Indiana back up by four, but West's free throw and Stojakovic's 3-pointer tied it at 94 with three minutes left.
Nesterovic, who had 10 points, briefly put Indiana back up 96-95 with a layup. But Paul quickly found Tyson Chandler for an alley-oop layup, then West fed Chandler inside to put New Orleans ahead 99-96.
"It was good for us to have a tight game," Scott said. "It was good to see the way we reacted."