Hornets smash T-Wolves, 110-76

Published 12:00 am Friday, December 28, 2007

Chris Paul suspected Minnesota would be tired, and did what he could to make the Timberwolves wish they’d stayed in bed.

Paul had 19 points, 15 assists and five steals in only 30 minutes, leading the New Orleans Hornets to a 110-76 victory last Saturday night.

The downtrodden Timberwolves had played in Minnesota a night earlier, putting forth an exhaustive effort to overcome a 21-point deficit and beat Indiana.

“I knew Sebastian Telfair played 48 minutes last night,” Paul said of the Minnesota guard he helped force into six turnovers. “We definitely look at the matchups.”

Paul had his 14th double-double of the season early in the third quarter, when New Orleans built a 27-point lead and soon after went with a lineup of reserves to finish it off.

It was the second-straight lopsided victory for New Orleans, which won 107-93 at Seattle last Wednesday.

“We see we had a team under .500 and when we play those teams we have to take advantage of it,” Paul said. “It’s all a part of us getting that killer mentality where if we have a lead we don’t let the other team back in the game.”

David West scored 22 points for the Hornets (17-10), who’ve won their last four games in New Orleans.

Peja Stojakovic returned from a groin pull that had kept him out for three games. He scored 11 points in 26 minutes for New Orleans. Tyson Chandler grabbed 14 rebounds, reserve Jannero Pargo had 13 points and Morris Peterson scored 10.

Ryan Gomes scored 20 to lead Minnesota (4-22), which has yet to win two straight this season and has won only once in its last eight games. Al Jefferson and Gerald Green each scored 11, and Jefferson also had 13 rebounds.

So little did Minnesota threaten down the stretch that Hornets coach Byron Scott inserted second-year Brazilian forward Marcus Vinicius, who had played only 2 minutes in the Hornets’ previous 16 games. Vinicius responded with his only two baskets of the season, the second a fastbreak dunk.

New Orleans shot 53 percent for the game, scoring 35 fastbreak points and 48 points inside.

“We didn’t have a lot of energy. I was afraid we might not,” Minnesota coach Randy Wittman said. “Sebastian didn’t have really anything. But that’s no excuse. We just got so careless with the ball. We started throwing the ball all over the place.”

Looking sloppy and lethargic, Minnesota turned the ball over 21 times, leading to 32 Hornets points.

The Hornets came out running, scoring 15 points on fastbreaks in the first quarter alone. Paul scored six of those points by running the length of the court after his own steals. He also had an end-to-end layup after Chandler’s block and converted another steal into an assist on Peterson’s fastbreak layup.

“The games your supposed to win, you’ve got to go out there and get the wins if you want to take your team to another level,” Peterson said. “You don’t want to be in Game 75 and be fighting for a playoff position and look back at the games that you lost and regret that you didn’t come out and give a great effort.”

With 16 points inside, New Orleans shot 60.9 percent in the first quarter in taking a 30-20 lead, but might have threatened to run Minnesota out of the building early if not for Gomes, who shot well from outside and scored 12 points in the first 7 minutes.

Minnesota hoped for a spark from reserve Antoine Walker, who a night earlier had hit six 3-pointers and scored 23 points. Walker didn’t have it early on, though, missing his first five field goals, four from 3-point range.

Minnesota shot only 37 percent during the opening two periods, allowing the Hornets to use a 13-3 run to open a 53-38 lead by halftime.