WASHINGTON -- As Chris Paul made a shot from an awkward angle while getting fouled, just one of many acrobatic plays en route to an NBA-leading sixth triple-double, his momentum carried him over to the Washington Wizards sideline.
Paul reached over and playfully patted Wizards interim coach Ed Tapscott on the shoulder.
"I think he was saying to me, 'Keep trying, Coach. You might find something that'll stop me,'" a smiling Tapscott would say later. "I'm looking in my pocket, thinking to myself, 'It's just about empty right now, Chris.'"
Taking over the game when he wanted to -- no matter what defensive schemes he faced -- Paul compiled 30 points, 13 assists and 10 rebounds Wednesday night, steering the New Orleans Hornets to a 109-98 victory over Washington.
Hornets coach Byron Scott "usually looks at me, and says, 'Be more aggressive,' and that's what I try to do," Paul said.
Tapscott's staff spent about 1½ hours Wednesday morning debating how to deal with Paul. The Wizards tried a little bit of everything against the All-Star point guard, but nothing really worked.
"We double-teamed him," Tapscott explained. "We switched on him. We switched big to small -- and back. We threw just about every defensive scheme we had, and he had the antidote to whatever we tried."
The Wizards led by as many as 12 points in the first half, while Paul took it easy in the first quarter, with only two assists, one rebound and no baskets.
"That happens a lot in our games," Paul said. "I don't score too much in the first quarter, and try to let my teammates get going."
Indeed, when the Wizards went ahead 40-28 on Antawn Jamison's jumper with a little under 6 1/2 minutes left in the first half, Washington's co-captain already was up to 15 points (he would wind up with 25). And Paul? He still was stuck on zero.
That is precisely when he began asserting himself.
Guarded by Wizards reserve Juan Dixon, Paul did pretty much whatever he wanted over the next 3½ minutes, engineering a 12-0 run that tied the score.
During that stretch, Paul scored 10 points and assisted on the other basket. He probably should have had two fewer points and an extra assist, but Rasual Butler somehow missed a layup off a perfect pass. So all Paul did was grab the rebound and drive for a layup himself.
Eastern Conference-worst Washington began the second half with a one-point lead, before Paul had 14 points, six assists and four rebounds in the third quarter alone to help the Hornets outscore the Wizards 40-22 in the period.
"He's the guy who makes this thing go," said David West, who had 13 points and nine rebounds.
After drawing boos from the announced crowd of 15,255 and falling into a 17-point hole heading into the fourth quarter, the Wizards tried to make things interesting. Twice when the hosts got within six points, though, Butler answered by making 3s -- part of his 21-point night.
"They came up with the critical play whenever they needed to," Tapscott said.
And Paul generally was right in the middle of things -- no matter what Tapscott and his players tried.
"He's every team's dream point guard," said Caron Butler, who had 23 points and nine rebounds for Washington. "He just kept breaking down our defense."
New Orleans has won eight of its last nine games. ... Washington, which won at Minnesota on Monday, was attempting to put together consecutive victories for only the third time in 2008-09. ... Hornets G Morris Peterson was back in uniform after missing 20 games with a sprained left foot. He did not play. ... Hornets F Peja Stojakovic missed his fourth straight game with back spasms, while F-C Sean Marks sat out with flulike symptoms. Stojakovic could be ready to return Friday at Milwaukee, or Saturday at Chicago, Scott said. ... PG Mike James was back in Washington's starting lineup after missing one game with the flu.