Saturday , Jan , 07 , 2006 C.Y. Ellis

Paul injured as Hornets top Portland

Oklahoma City, OK (Sports Network) – Kirk Snyder scored a career-high 22
points and David West had 19 along with 13 rebounds as New Orleans/Oklahoma
City posted a 90-80 victory over Portland at the Ford Center.

Rasual Butler had 10 of his 12 points in the fourth quarter for the Hornets,
who wasted a 19-point first-half lead but blew by the Trail Blazers down the
stretch to register their third consecutive triumph.

The win didn’t come without a price, however. Hornets’ rookie standout Chris
Paul left the game in the opening minute of the second half after tearing a
ligament in his right thumb. The point guard will be sidelined a minimum of
two weeks.

“The players’ minds were on their teammate instead of the game, which is
understandable,” said Hornets head coach Byron Scott on Paul’s injury and
Portland’s subsequent rally. “I thought after a while that (his players) had
to realize that we still had to win this game.”

Juan Dixon poured in 27 points for Portland, which played without leading
scorer and rebounder Zach Randolph. Ruben Patterson and Jarrett Jack each
finished with 12 points in the loss, the Blazers’ fifth in a row.

Randolph sat out the contest with the flu.

Portland trailed 53-39 at halftime but outscored the Hornets 21-1 to start the
third quarter to move in front. New Orleans/Oklahoma City missed nine straight
field-goal attempts during the run.

Dixon had seven of those points and Steve Blake ended the flurry with a three-
pointer with 4:28 left in the quarter that put the Blazers up 60-54.

The Hornets answered with eight straight points and went ahead 62-60 on Chris
Andersen’s tip-in with 1:20 left in the third.

“We got a little rattled when they made their run,” said West. “They were
aggressive and got us on our heels. Fortunately we made some stops and gained
control down the stretch.”

New Orleans/Oklahoma City led 78-76 with under 3 1/2 minutes left before
embarking on a 10-0 run to pull away. A three-point play by West followed by
Snyder’s basket from beyond the arc gave the hosts an 88-76 advantage with
1:34 to go.

“We fought back, got up six, but then lost it,” said Trail Blazers head coach
Nate McMillan. “When you are on the road you have to be solid, and we just
didn’t hold on.”

Portland quickly put itself in a double-digit hole by missing nine of its
first 12 shots from the field, leading to an 11-3 Hornets’ run which put the
hosts up 17-7 with four minutes left in the opening quarter.

A Speedy Claxton three-pointer extended the Hornets’ lead to 22-13 late in the
period, and they would take a commanding 30-13 advantage into the second after
West knocked down a jumper with two seconds on the clock. Claxton’s midrange
bucket to start the following quarter accounted for the largest margin of the
night.

The Blazers drew within striking distance after Dixon’s basket capped a string
of eight straight points and cut Portland’s deficit to 44-36 with 2:49
remaining before intermission. The Hornets, however, outscored the Blazers 9-3
over the rest of the half and took a 53-39 lead into the break following
West’s three-pointer just before the buzzer.

Game Notes

Paul ended with eight points and three assists in 17 minutes…Snyder’s
previous career-best of 15 points was set against the Trail Blazers on April
17 of last season while with Utah…The Hornets finished 3-1 on their four-
game homestand and improved to 10-6 as the host this year…Portland defeated
the Hornets 98-95 at home on December 9 in the only other meeting between the
clubs this year.

POR NOH