PORTLAND, Ore. (AP) -The New Orleans Hornets returned to their winning ways by re-establishing their defense.
Reserve Willie Green scored 13 of his 19 points in the first half, Trevor Ariza added 18, and the Hornets got back on track with a 97-78 victory over the Portland Trail Blazers on Friday night
Chris Paul had 16 points and 13 assists for the Hornets, who got off to one of the best starts in the NBA but had dropped two of their previous three games on a West Coast road trip. The Hornets had given up an average of 102 points in those two losses, including an ugly 105-87 defeat at Utah Wednesday.
New Orleans clamped down on Portland, holding the Blazers to 39.5 percent shooting and a season-low point total.
``That's a credit to our team D,' Paul said. ``At point we got 11 of 12 stops. (Defense) is who we are. That's our identity.'
Brandon Roy scored 27 points, leading the Blazers in his return from a sore knee that kept him out three games. LaMarcus Aldridge added 14 points and nine rebounds for the Blazers, losers of four of their last six. No other Blazer scored in double figures.
New Orleans (12-3) has beaten Portland four straight times. The Hornets clobbered Portland 107-87 in New Orleans on Nov. 13. Roy left that game with the knee injury and had not played since. The banged-up Blazers got a much-needed, six-day break before this game, last playing on Saturday in a 103-94 loss to Utah, but the rest didn't help.
``We kind of got off our rhythm,' said Blazers guard Wesley Matthews, who was 1 of 6 from the field with just four points. ``It's hard to get your rhythm back when the other team is scoring on you.'
The game marked New Orleans coach Monty Williams' return to Portland, where he spent the last five seasons as an assistant under Nate McMillan. Williams' intimate knowledge of the Blazers made a difference, according to Roy.
``They did a good job reading our plays,' Roy said. ``They took certain plays away from us. I think coach Monty had a pretty good read on us. Not just on our plays but our tendencies.'
Portland led most of the first half and the Blazers were up by nine in the second quarter, but New Orleans went on a 17-2 run to take a lead that it never relinquished. The Hornets held their lead throughout the third, going up 75-63 on a driving layup from Ariza.
Roy made a 20-footer to get the Blazers within 79-72 with 8:18 remaining in the game, but Portland stalled from there. Paul scored back-to-back baskets to give New Orleans its biggest lead to that point at 85-72. Portland had just 13 points in the fourth quarter.
``To come back with a defensive effort like that says a lot about our guys,' Williams said. ``They decided yesterday that we have to be a defensive team.'
Portland expected to get center Joel Przybilla back from a ruptured patella tendon, but the 7-footer's return was delayed because of the stomach flu. The Blazers could have used him on the boards - New Orleans outrebounded Portland by 21.
Notes: Duke coach Mike Krzyzewski sat courtside for the game. His Blue Devils play Oregon at the Rose Garden on Saturday. ... New Orleans has won the last three games in Portland. The Hornets last won the season series in 2005-06 when the team was playing in Oklahoma City. ... Roy has hit 36 straight free throw attempts.
The Associated Press News Service
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