EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. (AP) -- Count Nets coach Lawrence Frank
among the many fans of New Orleans point guard Chris Paul. Just
don't ask him to trade in his own, older model just yet.
Playing for the first time against the heralded rookie, Jason
Kidd missed a triple-double by one rebound Monday night as New
Jersey (25-21) beat the Hornets 99-91 to extend its home winning
streak to 11 games.
Kidd finished with 14 points, 11 assists and 9 rebounds. Paul
handed out 13 assists but shot 2-for-12 and was held to 6 points,
11 below his average.
"He's a tough-minded guy who is as good with the ball as
anybody in the league," Frank said. "He has some things that just
aren't taught, and he's going to be a great player in this
Kidd, meanwhile, directed a second-half surge that put the
visitors away and pulled the Nets within two games of tying the
franchise record for consecutive home wins. The Nets trailed by 12
at halftime, but by the middle of the fourth quarter the only
suspense was whether Kidd would earn his 71st career triple-double,
tops among active players by a huge margin.
In the locker room after the game, the soon-to-be 33-year-old
looked every bit his age as he sat soaking both feet and with an
ice pack strapped to one knee. In the next locker, Richard
Jefferson, who led the Nets with 26 points, assessed the point
"(Paul) went up against one of the greatest point guards of all
time tonight," he said, "and I think it showed in some areas."
Speedy Claxton led New Orleans (24-23) with 23 points off the
bench -- though he was scoreless in the fourth quarter -- on a night
when the Hornets' starters combined for just 43.
The Nets fell behind by as many as 12 points in the first half
after shooting 5-for-20 in the second quarter. The 6-foot Paul and
the 5-foot-11 Claxton double-teamed and pestered 6-foot-7 Vince
Carter (21 points) and the rest of the Nets, who had trouble
hitting wide-open shots. On the offensive end, both New Orleans
guards seemed to penetrate the lane effortlessly.
"You have to give New Orleans credit, they doubled Vince and he
made the right play to kick it out," said Frank. "We just
couldn't get the job done. But in the second half we did a good job
of adjusting. When the outside shot isn't going, you have to resort
to getting into the paint."
Trailing 71-68 to start the final period, the Nets went to
Jefferson, Kidd and Carter and took control of the game as New
Orleans' lack of a big scorer began to show. Jefferson had four
points and Kidd and Carter both hit 3-pointers in a 21-4 spurt, and
center Nenad Krstic, back after missing Saturday's win over Miami
with the flu, contributed eight points in the quarter before
fouling out with 4:07 left.
"We showed why road games have been tough for us throughout
this year," said Paul. "That's where we've got to get better.
It's a learning experience."
^Notes:@ Paul went down hard and appeared to hit his tailbone with
4:07 left in the game, but he remained in the game ... Hornets
coach Byron Scott, who was fired by the Nets midway through the
2003-2004 season, fell to 0-3 against his former team ... In
response to a comment in a recent newspaper article by Scott that
he was the victim of a "mutiny" by Nets players two seasons ago,
Kidd said after the game, "The numbers speak for themselves. If
there was a mutiny, maybe it was the right time for a change." The
Nets were 22-20 when Scott was let go ... The Hornets extended the
deadline to Tuesday at noon to finalize the trade to bring center
Steven Hunter from the 76ers. Hunter missed 39 games in 2002 with a
torn right anterior cruciate ligament.