- The Washington Times - Sunday, April 12, 2009

NEW ORLEANS (AP) - Chris Paul narrowly missed his seventh triple-double with 31 points, 17 assists and nine rebounds, and the New Orleans Hornets defeated the Dallas Mavericks 102-92 on Sunday to earn a split in a key late season home-and-home series.

David West scored 31 points to help New Orleans (49-31) move a game ahead of Dallas for the sixth playoff seed in the Western Conference. Each team has two games left in the regular season.

Dirk Nowitzki had 29 points and 14 rebounds for the Mavericks, who had pulled even with New Orleans on Friday by beating the Hornets in Dallas. Josh Howard added 15 points for the Mavericks.

The game was tied at 83 after Jason Kidd’s 3-pointer with 4:11 to go before the Hornets slowly began to pull away on West’s tough turnaround fade from the baseline. Paul then found Butler for a fast-break layup as he was fouled by Kidd, giving New Orleans a 91-86 lead.

Jason Terry, who had 13 points, pulled Dallas to 95-92 on a driving scoop over West, but James Posey salvaged a botched drive to the hoop with a pass to the corner, where Peja Stojakovic drilled a crushing 3-pointer to make it 98-92 with 1:09 left.

Butler finished with 13 points and Stojakovic 11. Brandon Bass had 13 points for the Mavericks.

The Hornets showed more fight than in their loss Friday night in Dallas, when they never led. New Orleans made nine of its first 16 shots and took a 20-10 lead on Posey’s inside basket as he was fouled.

Dallas was 5-of-23 shooting in the first quarter, and Devin Brown’s steal and fast-break layup put New Orleans up 24-13 early in the second period before Dallas started scoring consistently. Bass’ dunk ignited a 9-0 run that included a long 3 by Jose Barea and three baskets by Nowitzki, the last of which tied the game at 24.

Dallas made nine of its first 11 shots to start the quarter, with Nowitzki’s turnaround fade putting the Mavs up 28-26.

An 8-0 Hornets run highlighted by 3s from Butler and Paul briefly put the Hornets up 42-36, but Dallas rallied again, with Nowitzki’s free throws pulling the Mavs to 45-44 at halftime.

Dallas then surged ahead by as much as seven early in the third quarter, with Nowitzki’s two jumpers highlighting an 8-0 run while the Hornets opened 0-for-8 shooting with a turnover. New Orleans didn’t score until West’s free throws with 7:13 left in the period. Butler’s 3 made it 54-50, and the Hornets slowly pulled even as West’s driving scoop off the glass tied it at 69 heading into the fourth quarter.

Notes:@ The halftime score was shown as 45-45 until officials reviewed what was initially ruled a 3 by Kidd late in the second quarter. The basket was changed to a 2-point field goal. … Scott said C Tyson Chandler is nearly ready to get back on the court, but he likely won’t allow him to play until Wednesday’s regular season finale at San Antonio on Wednesday. The Hornets also play Monday at Houston. … Paul has scored 25 or more 15 times in his last 21 games. … Nowitzki has scored 20 or more in 23 straight games. … Dallas finishes its regular season with home games against Minnesota on Monday night and Houston on Wednesday night.

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