Hornets 96, Timberwolves 94

Saturday, April 7th 2007, 9:50 pm
By: News On 6

MINNEAPOLIS (AP) -- Chris Paul scored 18 points and had 10 assists in his return and Rasual Butler added 17 to help the New Orleans Hornets defeat the Minnesota Timberwolves 96-94 on Saturday night.

Marc Jackson added 15 points and 11 rebounds starting in place of injured Tyson Chandler (left big toe). David West also had 15 points for the Hornets, who suffered a costly defeat as they chase the L.A. Clippers for the final playoff spot in the Western Conference.

Rashad McCants led Minnesota with 17 points and Mike James had 15, but they combined for only 7 in the 2nd half. Kevin Garnett scored 5 of his 13 points in the final minute, including a 3-pointer with 1.8 seconds to play to make it 95-94.

Paul followed with a free throw and Craig Smith's shot from just inside half-court hit off the side of the rim at the buzzer.

Paul missed Friday night's loss against Phoenix with a sore left foot, but still had enough quickness to frustrate the Wolves.

He had 10 straight points during a crucial back-and-forth stretch in the 3rd quarter, including an unbelievable 3-point play. With Garnett and Ricky Davis intentionally fouling him on a break, Paul threw up an off-balance shot that banked in. The free throw gave the Hornets a 68-67 lead.

New Orleans closed the quarter with a 12-8 run.

Both teams shot terribly in the 4th quarter. New Orleans was 4-21 while Minnesota went 5-20. The Wolves pulled to 86-85 on Davis' 3-pointer with 3:14 to play, but Butler answered with a 3 at 2:07 and West added a 17-footer with 38.8 seconds left.

The Wolves scored a season-high 36 2nd-quarter points -- rookie Randy Foye and McCants each had 12 -- en route to a 64.9% 1st-half shooting performance.