Paul narrowly missed his fifth triple-double of the season with 29 points, nine rebounds and eight assists, and New Orleans beat the New Jersey Nets 102-92 on Wednesday night.
"The little fella is something special," Hornets coach Byron Scott said of his 6-foot point guard.
Vince Carter scored 20 points for New Jersey but the Nets lost their fourth straight, unable to take advantage of the absence of Hornets starters Tyson Chandler (left ankle) and David West (back spasms). New Orleans also was without Chandler's primary backup, Hilton Armstrong (left knee).
Peja Stojakovic had 20 points and 10 rebounds. Adjusting his perimeter game to make up for the Hornets' lack of size, Stojakovic sneaked inside to grab double-digit rebounds for the first time all season and New Orleans wound up outrebounding New Jersey 42-37.
"We talked about that the past couple days, that we all have to be aggressive on both ends of the floor and help each other," Stojakovic said. "I think the way we scrambled on the defensive end, we played most of the minutes with a small lineup and had to gang-rebound."
"It's a great win for us. Guys had opportunities to step up and that's what they did," Paul said. "It's going to be tough for us to keep this thing going, but as long as we played like we did tonight, we're going to be fine."
Bothered by a nagging rib injury, Devin Harris played a little less than 28 minutes and was 1-of-11 shooting. He ended up with six points.
New Orleans put the Nets in a deep hole with a 16-2 run that started with Ely's reverse layup early in the third quarter. Stojakovic and Posey each added 3-pointers during the spurt and Paul converted a spinning layup as he was grabbed by Carter, though no foul was called.
The Nets made matters worse for themselves during that crucial stretch by starting 3-of-12 from the field and turning the ball over five times, including three times on offensive fouls.
"In the third quarter, frustration took over," Nets coach Lawrence Frank said. "We missed some easy shots, we got some fouls called against us. At times we did not take great shots."
Down by 15 in the final period, the Nets made one last charge with a 9-2 run ignited by Dooling's third 3 of the game and capped by Carter's putback, cutting New Orleans' lead to 91-85 with 3:33 left.
After Paul hit a pull-up in the lane, Simmons' third 3 of the game cut it to 93-88 with 2:24 to go. New Jersey missed its next two shots, and Paul hit a running floater as he was fouled with 59 seconds left, giving New Orleans a 96-88 lead. Paul then added a fast-break, one-handed dunk to punctuate his dominant night.
"Chris does a great job of facilitating and comes up looking for his offense as well," Carter said. "So when he's facilitating and making plays and then he's hitting shots, they're a tough team to beat."
For the Nets, it was the first game since Frank benched starters Carter and Harris for the second half of a blowout loss to Boston, the reason being a poor first half in which New Jersey started 1-of-9 from the field.
Early on, it seemed the Nets had gotten the message, surging in front by shooting better than 50 percent for most of the first two periods. Simmons hit two 3s and scored eight points in the opening quarter, then the Nets took a 38-29 lead on Dooling's second 3-pointer of the second quarter.
Paul pulled New Orleans with eight points in the last six minutes of the half and Wright scored inside in the final seconds of the quarter to give the Hornets a 47-46 halftime lead.
"We let one slip away," Carter said. "But the positive I take out of it is that we were able to fight back and not lay down. ... We lost by 10 points or so, but I think guys continued to fight, continued to play hard just to chip away and try to get ourselves back in it. ... They just did a great job of closing us out."
The Hornets are 21-1 when leading after three quarters. ... New Orleans has won 11 of its past 13 home games. ... New Jersey (19-23) dropped to 10-9 on the road.