NEW ORLEANS (AP) -David West stomped toward Dirk Nowitzki with a message about the type of defense he intended to play against the Dallas star forward.
So forceful was West in his delivery that teammates stepped in to pull him away.
``I just thought he felt like he was able to do what he wanted to do, and I'm just not going to allow that kind of leeway,' West said of Nowitzki.
West scored 17 points and backed up his tough talk in the final seconds, stealing the ball from Nowitzki to preserve New Orleans' 99-97 victory over the Mavericks on Wednesday night. The victory kept the Hornets (9-1) unbeaten at home and avenged their first loss of the season in Dallas on Monday night.
``We knew this was a big game for us in terms of just being able to respond to what happened at their place and we want to keep the momentum that we built, especially here at home,' West said.
Trailing 98-97, Dallas was in position to shoot for the win after Jason Kidd forced a turnover on Trevor Ariza's inbound pass by tipping the ball away form Peja Stojakovic. Coming out of a timeout, the Mavs inbounded the ball to Nowitzki, who had a game-high 29 points and had been shooting well all night.
West, however, forced Nowitzki to catch the ball well beyond the top of the key, then tipped the ball away when Nowitzki tried to dribble past him.
``I was just trying to crowd him and felt like I wasn't going to give him any space,' West said. ``If he was going to make a shot, he was going to have to shoot a tough turnaround jump shot.'
Nowitzki said he thought he was too far from the basket to spin away from him, ``so I decided to go with a behind-the-back move, which was obviously the wrong move to make. So, just a bad move at the wrong time.'
West made one of two free throws with 1.9 seconds left for the final margin.
``The last play is on me, I'll take the blame,' Dallas coach Rick Carlisle said. ``I put Dirk in a bad situation.'
Chris Paul had 20 points and 11 assists while leading New Orleans' comeback from a double-digit deficit in the second half. Emeka Okafor had 13 points and 10 rebounds, while Marco Belinelli scored 17 and Ariza added 12.
Jason Terry had 16 points in a reserve role and Kidd had 11 points for Dallas (7-3), which led 52-42 at halftime but was outscored 33-17 in the third quarter as New Orleans surged into the lead.
The Hornets didn't take their first lead until Paul set up Belinelli's 3 to make it 58-57 with 6:19 to go in the third quarter. Soon after, Paul brought the crowd to its feet when he dribbled behind his back in traffic on a fast break and scored as he was fouled by Kidd. The basket highlighted a 13-0 run - part of a decisive 27-7 surge that ended with Paul's 3.
The Hornets ramped up their defense in the second half, when they forced 10 of the Mavs' 15 turnovers. The Hornets wound up with 23 points off of Dallas turnovers, while Dallas converted New Orleans' 10 turnovers into only six points.
``They really came out and put it to us to start the game, so we had to come out and be more aggressive in the third quarter,' Paul said. ``That's my responsibility. I can't let us come out flat, and I did that tonight.'
There was plenty of banging and yapping in the second game in three days between the Southwest Division rivals.
Nowitzki got his fifth foul with 8:49 left for bumping West in the post. That was when West starting yelling at Nowitzki and was pulled by teammates back toward the Hornets' bench.
The moment harkened back to the 2008 playoffs, when West tapped Nowitzki on the cheek during a face-to-face argument.
``There's tension between us,' West said calmly after the game. ``It's just from playing over the years and being in the same division and just having history.'
Undaunted, Nowitzki maintained remarkable accuracy on mid-range jumpers, but his defense was limited as Dallas could not afford for him to foul out.
Ariza drove past him for a floater in the lane that put New Orleans up 90-88. After Terry responded with a 3, Paul played a role in New Orleans' next seven points, finding West for a baseline jumper and Belinelli for a 3, then hitting a pull-up of his own to make it 97-91 with 2:14 to go.
Dallas still was able to pull within a point on Nowitzki's driving layup before squandering their chance at the end.
Notes: The Hornets have held every opponent under 100 points this season. ... The Hornets went down 12-2 in the first 4:10 of the game, marking the first time all season New Orleans had trailed by double digits. ... Caron Butler started for Dallas after missing the last three games with back spasms. ... Hornets G Marcus Thornton was inactive a third straight game and has not played in four straight.
The Associated Press News Service
The Associated Press
All Rights Reserved