Hornets sink struggling Clippers, spoil Paul’s homecoming
LOS ANGELES DPA
CHRIS Paul had a bittersweet homecoming in theBig Easy.
His rival Chris Kaman had 20 points with 10 rebounds against his former team and the New Orleans Hornets rallied from 13 down in the second half to hand the struggling LA Clippers their season-highthird straight loss, 97-90 on Thursday night.
“There were a lot of emotions with Chris coming home to a building he called home for six seasons, being the franchise player and somuch he’s done for this city,” said Hornets guard and close friend Jarrett Jack, who had 17 points and nine assists. “It was just agreat ballgame, nonetheless.” Paul had 16 points, nine assists and mostly cheers from the soldout crowd of 17,209 at the Hive, in his first game back since beingtraded before the start of the season after starring for the Hornetsfor six campaigns.
“They played with more of a sense of urgency than we did,” Paul said. “It was good to see everybody, but for our team, this was a business trip.” “We’ve been struggling.
We were playing for two different thingstonight.
Number one, we need a win to see what it feels like, and welost.” Jason Smith scored 17 points, Marco Belinelli added 15 and Xavier Henry contributed 12 off the bench for the lowly Hornets (12- 35), whostopped a five-game home slide.
Smith was ejected with four minutes and six seconds left in the game after committing a flagrant 2 foul for plowing down Clippers’ Blake Griffin, who was sprinting toward the basket for a fast break layup attempt.
“We have to play them a couple of more times, and I apologized to him,” said Smith. Griffin finished 21 points and 11 rebounds for the Clippers, whod ropped all three road games in backto- back-to-back set.
“There’s frustration,” Clippers coach Vinny Del Negro said. “Wedidn’t get it done down the stretch; we struggled from the field andthat’s what you get.” The Clippers were inspired in building a 73-60 third quarter lead but couldn’t sustain it. Instead, they went cold in the final frame,scoring just 11 points on a frosty four-of-23 field goal shooting.The Hornets entered the fourth frame trailing 79-76 but went on an 11-2 run, with Jack hitting the go-ahead jumper at the 10-minutemark, en route to an 87-81 advantage.
With New Orleans ahead, 89-93, Smith got physical and threw a football-type shoulder block on Griffin.
Paul followed Smith behindthe basket and had words with him.Trailing by seven, the Clippers pulled within 93-90 on Griffin’s free throw with 54.2 seconds left.
They had a shot to square thecontest but Randy Foye missed a three-point attempt with 35 second sremaining.
Belinelli made two free throws that gave the Hornets a 95-90 advantage and Jack added another pair in-between three-point misses by Paul and Nick Young as the Clippers left New Orleans with theirninth straight loss since 2005.