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Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Paul leads Hornets past Lakers in upset


LOS ANGELES — Chris Paul and a few teammates sneaked across the street from their hotel to Staples Center the night before the New Orleans Hornets began the postseason, eagerly hoisting up a few shots in the shadows of the Lakers' imposing championship banners.

News photo
Stung: Hornets guard Chris Paul (3) collides with Lakers guard Kobe Bryant during their Western Conference playoff game on Sunday in Los Angeles. Paul scored 33 points in New Orleans' 109-100 Game 1 victory. AP PHOTO

With their tumultuous regular season finally a memory, Paul said the Hornets were almost unbearably eager for the playoffs to start.

Maybe that's why New Orleans got the drop on the defending champs in a stunning series opener.

Paul had 33 points, 14 assists and seven rebounds, flawlessly leading the Hornets down the stretch of a 109-100 victory Sunday.

"I've struggled all season long, trying to figure out where to pick my spots," said Paul, who inscribed his sneakers with the No. 30 of injured teammate David West, New Orleans' leading scorer. "It's the playoffs. It's a whole other energy."

Game 2 is Wednesday at Staples Center.

Kobe Bryant scored 34 points for the Lakers, who opened the postseason with the same halfhearted effort that comprised much of their regular season after three straight exhausting trips to the NBA Finals.

Los Angeles' 213-cm starters, Pau Gasol and Andrew Bynum, were widely expected to be an awful matchup for smallish New Orleans, but the Hornets' rookie coach Monty Williams concocted an impressive game plan to minimize the big men's impact.

"Our defense, I thought, was late," Lakers coach Phil Jackson said. "I think we were late on everything. They were the aggressors, and they stayed aggressive. . . I think they respect the Hornets. I just don't think they were keyed in on what they have to do."

Celtics 87, Knicks 85

In Boston, Ray Allen hit a go-ahead 3-pointer with 12 seconds left, Paul Pierce shut down Carmelo Anthony and the Celtics rallied to beat New York in their playoff opener on Sunday night.

New York led 85-84 before Anthony was called for an offensive foul for pushing Pierce with 21 seconds remaining. Allen, who led the Celtics with 24 points, sank the decisive basket from beyond the left arc.

The Knicks then rushed downcourt and Anthony missed a long 3-point attempt with 2 seconds left. The superstar forward went 1-for-11 from the field in the second half.

Thunder 107, Nuggets 103

In Oklahoma City, Kevin Durant scored 41 points, Russell Westbrook had two crucial late baskets among his 31 points and Oklahoma City pulled out a victory in Game 1 of its first-round playoff series.

Raymond Felton missed a potential tying 3-pointer with 12 seconds left.

Grizzlies 101, Spurs 98

In San Antonio, Zach Randolph had 25 points and 14 rebounds, Shane Battier hit the go-ahead 3-pointer with 23.9 seconds left, and Memphis earned the first playoff victory in franchise history.

Randolph, who scored nine in the fourth quarter and punished San Antonio under the basket, might have saved his hardest contact for a chest bump with Mike Conley after the final buzzer.

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