NEWARK, N.J. (AP) — There aren’t many nights when Chris Paul can take the blame for a New Orleans Hornets’ loss.
The Nets’ 103-101 overtime win that snapped a three-game New Jersey losing streak and extended the Hornets’ slide to four was one of them.
Paul struggled, hitting 4 of 15 shots from the field and turning the ball over seven times. The All-Star guard missed a shot late in regulation that gave New Jersey a chance to force the overtime. He also turned the ball over with 19 seconds left in the overtime and the Hornets down two, and finally he had a 3-pointer at the buzzer go in-and-out, ending a miserable night.
“I don’t care what anybody says about a bunch of different things happening over the course of the game,” said Paul, who finished with nine points, 11 assists and five rebounds. “I feel like this was my loss. The turnovers. The decision-making down the stretch. We have to impose our will.”
The guys who imposed their will were Nets backup guard Sasha Vujacic, point guard Devin Harris and center Brook Lopez.
Vujacic regained his shooting touch and scored a career-high 25, hitting 5 of 7 3-pointers as the Nets made a season-high dozen long balls. Lopez hit two go-ahead free throws with 24.3 seconds to go to finish a 20-point effort and Harris spent most of the game hounding Paul and keeping him from going down the lane.
“We had to grind it out,” Lopez said. “You’ve got to give it to our guys who never gave up.”
The Hornets had three chances to either tie or win the game in the closing seconds of overtime. Paul turned the ball after losing his footing following a bump. Willie Green missed a jumper with about 5 seconds to go after Harris was called for 5 seconds while inbounding the ball.
Kris Humphries got the rebound after the Green miss and was fouled but he missed two free throws, giving New Orleans one final chance. It went to Paul, who was wide open after Nets guard Jordan Farmar was knocked down.
Paul’s 3-pointer went halfway down and came out, allowing New Jersey a chance to celebrate.
“I should have made that shot, but we shouldn’t have been in that situation,” Paul said. Humphries had 14 points and 15 rebounds for the Nets, who rallied from a five-point deficit in the final minute of regulation to force the overtime.
David West led the Hornets with 32 points and 15 rebounds, which matched his season high. Green matched his season high with 19 points and Marco Belinelli had all 17 of his points in the second half after losing his starting job and sitting in the first half.
New Jersey built a 101-96 lead in the overtime, but Belinelli hit his fifth 3-pointer and West made two free throws with 46 seconds to go to tie the game at 101.
Lopez got the game-winning points on the next trip down the floor and then there was the wild ending.
New Orleans rallied from an eight-point fourth quarter deficit and eventually tied the game at 84 and 86 on baskets by West, who was 13 of 23 from the field.
A 3-pointer by Green, who started in place of Belinelli, and a basket in the lane by Aaron Gray gave the Hornets a 91-86 lead with 57 seconds to play.
Farmar, who was playing for the first time since being sidelined by back spasms last week, hit a 3-pointer with 41.4 seconds to go to cut the lead to two. Paul then missed a jumper with about 20 seconds to go and Humphries tied the game with a layup off a Vujacic assist with 12 seconds to play.
A potential game-winning shot from the top of the key by West hit off the front of the rim, sending the game to overtime.
“The ability to close out games is a skill,” Hornets coach Monty Williams said. “In that situation, we’ve done it before. They hit that 3 and then things got a little tight. He (Vujacic) hit a big shot but in those situations, you’ve got to get closer to the guy.”
The Hornets trailed much of the first half and they went down 55-46 early in the third quarter when Travis Outlaw converted a three-point play off an alley-oop pass and hit a 3-pointer to cap an 8-0 run by New Jersey.
Belinelli was put in the game and promptly hit three 3-pointers in a 23-9 spurt that gave New Orleans a 69-64 lead with less than a minute left in the quarter.
A dunk by Johan Petro and a 3-pointer by Vujacic tied the game before West hit two free throws with less than a second to play to give New Orleans a two-point lead entering the final quarter.
NOTES: Hornets swingman Trevor Ariza missed his third straight game with an ankle injury. Williams hopes to have him back by the weekend. Starting center Emaka Okafor is out indefinitely with a strained muscle in his side. Williams started Sasha Pavlovic, who signed a 10-day contract recently, started at the small forward with Quincy Pondexter nursing a sore ankle. ..New Orleans has dropped 6 of 7. …Gray had 10 points and 11 rebounds, his second double-double of the season.
(Copyright 2011 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)