NEW ORLEANS (AP) -David West loves to box and Monty Williams is wondering if the forward's offseason hobby is helping him flourish in the first-year coach's defense-oriented system.
West had 22 points, two steals and two blocked shots, and New Orleans dominated the fourth quarter in an 89-73 victory over the Charlotte Bobcats on Wednesday night.
``He has such good hands,' Williams said of West's presence on the defensive end. ``I don't know if it comes from boxing or just having big hands, but he does a good job of contesting shots.'
The Hornets entered the game having lost four of five and two straight in which they blew fourth-quarter leads. Williams and his staff saw late-game defensive lapses becoming a problem and worked to address it after Monday night's loss at Oklahoma City.
The Bobcats scored only four points over the last 9:04, during which the Hornets put together an 18-4 run that turned what had been a close game with 16 lead changes into a lopsided affair in the end.
``We just wanted to lock down, maybe sacrifice a little offense to get teams under control in that fourth quarter defensively,' West said. ``We've got to be a defensive basketball team. I thought we just had that mindset tonight. We were going to try to be solid, not a whole lot of gambling and making stuff up on the fly. Just stay committed to the game plan, especially defensively.'
New Orleans blocked eight shots, had seven steals and outrebounded the Bobcats 42-38.
Emeka Okafor had 14 points, 13 rebounds and two blocks for New Orleans. Chris Paul dished out 14 assists, scored nine points on seven shots and collected four steals. Trevor Ariza and Willie Green each scored 10.
Gerald Wallace led Charlotte with 18 points. Boris Diaw and D.J. Augustin each added 13 points and Tyrus Thomas had 10 assists.
The game was tight until the final minutes. New Orleans led 43-42 at the break, but only became the halftime leader after officials examined a replay of Diaw's 3-pointer with 2:02 left in the second quarter and ruled his shot left his hands just after the shot clock had expired.
Charlotte was as close as 71-69 when Kwame Brown hit a 15-foot jumper with 9:05 to go. The Hornets then scored the next five points as they began to pull away.
After Augustin's driving floater pulled Charlotte to 76-71 with 3:57 to go, West came back with a short floater in traffic as he was fouled. Soon after, Ariza hit a 3 and West added another short floater to make it 84-73 - the first double-digit lead for either team - with 1:48 remaining.
``It's the same old, same old,' said Bobcats coach Larry Brown, whose club has lost four of five and two straight. ``We didn't match their intensity. They have a couple of finishers. West and Chris Paul took over. They defended great. They made every play and we didn't.'
The Hornets (13-5), who entered the game leading the NBA in points allowed (92.4), now have held 15 of their 18 opponents to fewer than 100 points. New Orleans also forced 16 turnovers - 11 in the second half - marking the seventh time the Hornets have forced 15-plus turnovers in a game.
``I guess we waited until the fourth quarter to defend like we're capable of,' Paul said. ``It's a good sign for us to finally close out a game. The last few games we've had trouble holding on at the end.'
NOTES: Players who ranked third, fourth and fifth in active consecutive games played streaks were on the court. Hornets G Jarrett Jack, who ranks third, played his 307th straight, while Diaw, who ranks fourth, played his 285th and Okafor, who ranks fifth, played his 275th. ... The Bobcats had two south Louisiana natives in the game, with Augustin being from New Orleans and Thomas from Baton Rouge. A Hornets official said together they combined for more than 100 tickets. ... Announced attendance was 10,866, marking the Hornets' sixth straight home crowd of less than 15,000.
The Associated Press News Service
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