- The Washington Times - Wednesday, April 1, 2009

SACRAMENTO, CALIF. (AP) - Rasual Butler hit a 3-pointer as time expired to cap a final minute full of dramatic plays, and the New Orleans Hornets survived the Sacramento Kings’ late rally for a 111-110 victory on Tuesday night.

David West matched his career high with 40 points and Chris Paul had 15 points and 15 assists as the Hornets barely held off the Kings, who thought they had it won when Beno Udrih hit an improbable fallaway jumper with 1.7 seconds left.

Instead, Butler caught a simple inbounds pass, found himself wide open and coolly drilled his fourth 3-pointer. Butler’s teammates mobbed him, celebrating their move into sixth place in the Western Conference standings after blowing an eight-point lead in the final minutes.

Andres Nocioni scored 23 points and Kevin Martin added 20 for the Kings, who retired Vlade Divac’s No. 21 jersey during a halftime ceremony. Francisco Garcia scored 19 points, hitting two big shots and blocking Paul’s layup from behind in the final 2 minutes, yet Sacramento still failed to win consecutive games for the first time since early November.

With New Orleans native and Hornets fan Lil Wayne cheering wildly from his courtside seat, West added nine rebounds and six assists to his 15 field goals. Butler finished with 18 points for the Hornets, who opened a three-game road trip without injured regulars Tyson Chandler, James Posey and Peja Stojakovic.

New Orleans’ victory and Utah’s 21-point loss to Portland pushed the Hornets past the Jazz into sixth in the conference standings. But the Hornets are just 1 1/2 games behind third-place Houston and San Antonio, who lead the Southwest Division _ and New Orleans has a game in hand on both the Rockets and Spurs.

The Hornets led 103-95 with 5 1/2 minutes to play, but Garcia hit a long jumper with 1:38 left to tie it at 105. Paul immediately threaded a pass inside to West, who hit a layup and tied his previous career high on a free throw _ but Garcia answered with a tying 3-pointer.

Devin Brown missed two free throws for New Orleans, but stole the ball on the other end. Paul then drove for a layup, but Garcia swooped in from behind to swat it off the backboard.

After Sacramento missed two shots and still retained the ball, the Kings ran down the shot clock until Udrih was forced to throw up an awkward shot as he fell away from the hoop _ and it went in, setting off a celebration similar to what was normal during Divac’s days with the club.

Chris Webber, Doug Christie and Scot Pollard attended the game to honor Divac, their teammate and emotional leader during the most successful seasons in franchise history. Stojakovic, who sat out with back spasms, got a standing ovation from the Sacramento crowd at halftime.

“I’m sure the Kings are going to be back again with the atmosphere that we had here in the late ‘90s and early 2000s,” Divac said before the game.

The Kings had just their second sellout crowd of the season. Sacramento’s fans also sold out Webber’s jersey retirement ceremony game in early February.

Notes:@ Lil Wayne played Arco Arena on Monday night with T-Pain and Gym Class Heroes. … WEC mixed martial artist Urijah Faber, who grew up in Sacramento, also attended the game. … Posey, who was suspended from Sunday’s game against San Antonio after throwing the ball at an official, also missed this game with a sprained left elbow.

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