NEW ORLEANS (AP) - Chris Paul returned from his latest All-Star appearance looking re-energized and ready to lead the New Orleans Hornets on a final push to secure a playoff spot.
Paul had 19 points, 10 assists, six rebounds and three steals, and the Hornets overcame slam dunk champion Blake Griffin to defeat the Los Angeles Clippers 98-87 on Wednesday night.
``It takes more than one guy to stop a guy like Blake Griffin. It's a collective effort,' Paul said. ``Our bigs did a great job, but we all were helping. ... That's what we weren't doing before the break.'
Griffin had 21 points and 13 rebounds, but the Clippers were sloppy in dropping their second straight. Los Angeles turned the ball over 23 times, leading to 25 Hornets points.
``When you turn it over that much, you have to play on your heels, and when you have a guy like Chris Paul, he'll pick you apart,' Clippers coach Vinny Del Negro said. ``We couldn't put enough offensive firepower out there to put any pressure on them.'
David West scored 22 for the Hornets, who were able control the inside even with center Emeka Okafor missing his 10th straight game with a strained left hip.
The Hornets finished with a 46-34 edge in points in the paint and outrebounded Los Angeles 36-32.
West said the Hornets set out to be fundamentally sound against Griffin and ``make him make basketball plays.'
``If you let him make athletic plays, he'll have big games,' West said. ``But if you limit him - force him to make basketball plays - you can keep him under control.'
Hornets coach Monty Williams had reminded his players they were unbeaten (15-0) when limiting opponents to 86 or fewer points and challenged them to hold the Clippers to that mark. They might have if not for Willie Warren's meaningless 3 with 5.6 seconds left.
Earlier in the day, the Hornets traded shooting guard Marcus Thornton, a popular former LSU star, to Sacramento for power forward Carl Landry, who was expected to join the club on Thursday.
Williams said there may be games when the Hornets miss Thornton's explosive scoring off the bench, but that wasn't the case against the Clippers, with starting shooting guard Willie Green getting 17 points and his backup, Marco Belinelli, scoring 12.
The Hornets shot 51.3 percent (40 of 78) in winning for only the third time in 12 games.
A sellout crowd of 17,537 was on hand to greet Griffin, who threw down several jams but also missed two, including one in which he attempted a difficult spin move. The rookie star also scored on reverse layups, a jump hook, bank shot and even an 18-foot jumper.
He needed more help, though, particularly with starting point guard Baron Davis sidelined by a sore left knee.
The only other Clippers scoring in double digits were Randy Foye with 15 points and Chris Kaman with 14. Los Angeles also missed seven of 21 free-throw attempts.
``We let our offense affect our defense and vice versa,' Griffin said. ``We didn't get stops. We came down the floor and kind of rushed into things and turned the ball over.'
Neither team led by double digits through most of the first three quarters, but the Hornets began to seize control when Green's 3 and driving floater ignited a 13-3 run that put New Orleans ahead 68-54.
The Hornets' lead grew to 16 in the fourth quarter when Jarrett Jack, who had 10 points, sank two free throws to make it 87-71. Los Angeles didn't threaten after that.
The Clippers turned a solid opening into a 16-11 lead before Paul's jumper sparked a 12-0 Hornets run to close the quarter. West hit a pair of jumpers during the surge and Trevor Ariza added a fast-break dunk, after which Eric Bledsoe was not ready for the inbounds pass and lost it off his shoulder. Soon after, Jack's free throws made it 23-16.
NOTES: Griffin was assessed a technical foul early in the third quarter for arguing foul called against him while he guarded West. ... Bledsoe, who started for Davis, had seven points and seven assists in 40 minutes. ... Hornets reserve C Aaron Gray fouled out with six points and seven rebounds in 27 minutes. ... The Hornets are 21-8 at home this season. ... The Clippers, who defeated the Hornets in Los Angeles earlier this season, have lost their last eight at New Orleans.
The Associated Press News Service
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