CLEVELAND (AP) - The New Orleans Hornets were more concerned with the condition of their star point guard than with talking about a win that was crucial to their playoff hopes.
Chris Paul left the court on a stretcher in the Hornets' 96-81 victory over the Cleveland Cavaliers on Sunday night. The Hornets said the four-time All-Star was taken to the Cleveland Clinic, where tests showed that Paul had a concussion.
Paul rejoined the Hornets at the arena and accompanied them on their charter flight to Chicago. He will miss Monday's game.
Hornets coach Monty Williams didn't speak directly to Paul during a phone call he made to the hospital following the game.
``I talked to people in the room with him on the phone, and he is in good spirits, talking and cracking jokes in the background,' Williams said. ``He was upset that they had to wait for the CT results. He was ready to get out of the hospital, as most of us hate being in hospitals. We'll see what the doctors say.'
Williams said Paul knew the Hornets had won the game.
``He was getting updates,' Williams said. ``The world is so small with these blackberries and iPhones. He probably knew the score before I did.'
Paul was injured with 4:36 remaining in the third quarter when he lost the ball driving into the lane as he was defended by Ramon Sessions and Samardo Samuels. When Paul tried to retrieve the ball, he hit his forehead on Sessions' right shoulder and immediately fell to the court. Paul stayed on the floor as trainers from both teams attended to him.
Paul, who was moving his legs and feet, was placed on a flat board and a brace was put on his neck. Players from both teams surrounded him. He was wheeled to the locker room and gave a thumbs up to the crowd as he left the court. The fans gave him a loud ovation.
The Hornets said Paul was fully conscious and never lost any feeling anywhere.
Williams knew there was a problem when Paul didn't get up.
``Chris is not the type to lay down,' he said. ``To see him flat on the floor like that, you forget about basketball for a minute and you start thinking about him as a person, his fiancee and his kid. It is amazing how thin that line can be at times. You just worry about your guys.'
Cleveland coach Byron Scott had some reassuring words for Paul as he was taken off the floor. Scott was Paul's coach for four seasons in New Orleans.
``I just said, 'We are praying for you,'' Scott said. ``I don't know if he even heard me.'
Scott said he planned to visit Paul after leaving the arena.
New Orleans (37-28) has won two straight and moved past Portland into fifth place in the Western Conference standings.
David West scored 23 points, and Paul had 13 points and 11 assists in 26 minutes. West played with a sprained left ankle that occurred Friday in Memphis. It was uncertain whether West would play, but his ankle felt better at Sunday morning's shootaround.
West's thoughts were also with his injured teammate.
``I thought the wind got knocked out of him, but when I saw he wasn't moving, that is when I called the timeout just to make sure our trainers could get out there,' West said. ``He was talking before he left the floor. Let's just hope that he is OK and everything checks out.'
West led six Hornets in double figures. Marco Belinelli scored 18 points, while Jarrett Jack added 14 for New Orleans. Emeka Okafor and Willie Green had 10 apiece.
Cleveland was leading 61-60 with 4:36 remaining in the third quarter at the time of the injury, but the Hornets went on a 24-8 run to take an 84-69 lead with 7:25 remaining in the game. New Orleans outscored Cleveland 36-20 and held the Cavaliers to 4 of 22 shooting following the injury.
``With a situation like that, you circle the wagons a little bit,' Williams said. ``D-West rallied the troops before they went out there. We felt like we wanted to win this one for Chris.'
``Sometimes things like that happen,' West said. ``You can kind of get deflated, but I thought we stayed engaged and just pushed through. We can worry about it now, but we had a job to do while we were out there.'
Cleveland (12-49) hasn't won consecutive games since winning three in a row from Nov. 5-9. The Cavaliers were coming off a win in New York on Friday night.
Baron Davis, making his home debut, scored 17 points for Cleveland, including a 40-footer at the third quarter buzzer for his only points of the second half.
``In the first half he played great and in the second half he was kind of so-so,' Scott said. ``A little bit like our whole team it seemed like.'
Sessions and J.J. Hickson scored 15 points apiece for the Cavaliers. Samuels added 11.
Notes: F Trevor Ariza (strained groin) missed his second straight game for the Hornets. ... New Orleans finishes its five-game road trip Monday night in Chicago. ... G Daniel Gibson (strained quad) missed his third straight game for Cleveland.
The Associated Press News Service
The Associated Press
All Rights Reserved