When Washington Wizards coach Ed Tapscott and his assistants convened Wednesday morning to plan for the game against the New Orleans Hornets later that evening, they burned up 90 minutes debating the most successful method for limiting All-Star point guard Chris Paul.
When the game began, the Wizards attacked the NBA's assists leader with multiple defensive strategies - single-teams, double-teams, containment schemes.
But none of it worked.
Paul recorded 30 points, 13 assists and 10 rebounds and led his team to a 109-98 victory over the Wizards at Verizon Center.
"He's an All-Star and MVP for those reasons. Tonight Chris Paul had the antidote for everything we did," Tapscott said. "We double-teamed him, we [contained] him, we switched on him, switched big to small and back. We threw basically every defensive scheme we had, and Chris Paul had the antidote. Sometimes you have to say great players make great plays."
The triple-double was Paul's league-high sixth of the season and his second this year against the Wizards (15-50). The effort improved the Hornets' record to 40-23 and moved them into fifth place in the Western Conference.
Paul was one of five Hornets players to score in double figures and one of two with 10 rebounds. Rasual Butler scored 21 points and went 6-for-13 from 3-point territory, outdoing Washington's combined 6-for-17 3-point performance.
Antawn Jamison had 25 points and 10 rebounds to lead the losing effort, and Caron Butler was the second of four double-digit Wizards scorers, recording 23 points to go with nine assists.
But too much Paul, a 40-point third quarter by the Hornets and two scoring droughts did Washington in.
"It's disappointing considering how close we were," Jamison said. "We did some pretty good things, but Chris Paul just did a good job of taking over. ... Of course, we went into a dry spell and didn't get to convert on some opportunities, and they took advantage of it."
The first drought came in the second quarter when the Wizards went cold after staking a 12-point lead over the Hornets. With the Wizards up 40-28 with 6:03 left in the second, Paul went to work. He scored 10 points in a 12-0 run that tied the game with 2:59 left in the first half.
Guard Juan Dixon broke the Wizards' scoring drought, but by halftime they only had a 46-45 lead.
The second and most costly drought came with the score tied at 57-57 with 6:24 left in the third quarter. New Orleans blew open the game with an 11-0 run. Paul - who in the third quarter alone notched 14 points, six assists and four rebounds - capped the run by weaving through Wizards defenders while working with the ball like a yo-yo, then shook Mike James for a jump shot at the top of the key that gave New Orleans a 68-57 lead with 5:19 left on the clock.
With his team fully deflated, Tapscott called a timeout, but it did little good. As the quarter came to a close, Paul threw up an acrobatic shot, drew a foul and made it while falling away. His momentum carried him nearly into the Wizards' bench, but he stopped himself short and patted Tapscott on the shoulder before going to the foul line and converting the three-point play for an 85-68 lead.
"I think he was saying, 'Keep trying, Coach. You might find something that'll stop me,' " Tapscott said with a chuckle. "And I was looking in my pocket, saying, 'It's just about empty by now, Chris.' "
The Wizards pulled within six of the Hornets with five minutes left in the fourth quarter but came no closer.
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