- The Washington Times - Friday, March 13, 2009

MILWAUKEE (AP) - Chris Paul scored 30 points and Rasual Butler hit a pair of key 3-pointers down the stretch, helping the New Orleans Hornets beat the Milwaukee Bucks 95-86 Friday night.

David West added 21 for the Hornets, who have won nine of their last 10 games. Paul also had nine assists and six rebounds.

Richard Jefferson scored 27 for the Bucks, who have lost five of their last six. It’s a critical stretch for the Bucks, who came into Friday’s game clinging to the final playoff spot in the Eastern Conference but must host contenders Boston, Orlando and Portland in a stretch of eight days.

Jefferson was 11-for-20 from the field, shaking off his 3-for-16 shooting performance in Tuesday’s disappointing home loss to New York. But Milwaukee’s other primary scorer for the moment, Charlie Villanueva, hit only four of 13 shots and scored 10 points.

Milwaukee put together a 10-2 run to tie it at 73 on Luke Ridnour’s 3-pointer with 7:27 left in the game, but New Orleans responded with a 7-0 run that included a pull-up jumper in the lane by Paul, a 3-pointer by Butler and a driving layup by James Posey on a sharp pass from Paul.

New Orleans had trouble putting it away, and led by only five after Villanueva put back his own miss with 2:22 left in the game. But Butler answered with another 3-pointer, putting New Orleans ahead 87-79 with 1:59 remaining.

Paul clinched it by hitting a jumper at the 1:30 mark, putting New Orleans ahead 89-81.

New Orleans again played without Peja Stojakovic, who missed his fifth straight game because of back spasms. Hornets coach Byron Scott said before the game that Stojakovic still had some soreness and would likely sit out Saturday’s game at Chicago as well.

The Hornets took a 39-38 halftime lead on a pull-up jumper by Paul with a second remaining in the second quarter _ completing a 20-9 run over the last 6:45 of the half. Paul had eight points at halftime.

Paul then had a scare early in the third quarter, falling hard to the floor after a foul by Milwaukee’s Francisco Elson. After languishing on the floor for a few seconds, Paul was helped to his feet and stayed in the game.

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