Hornets 104, SuperSonics 99

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OKLAHOMA CITY (AP) – Chris Paul scored 21 points, including four in the final minute, and New Orleans held off the charging Seattle SuperSonics for a 104-99 win Wednesday night that helped the Hornets gain ground in the playoff race.

Marc Jackson and Desmond Mason added 17 points apiece as both players had their first double-doubles of the season. Jackson had a season-high 14 rebounds while Mason pulled down 10.

The Hornets trail Sacramento by two games for the final playoff spot in the Western Conference. The teams meet Sunday in Sacramento. The Kings’ magic number is two.

“That door is still open,” Hornets coach Byron Scott said. “It hasn’t shut on us yet.”

The Hornets took their largest lead when Jackson followed Kirk Snyder’s two-handed alley-oop dunk with a layup to make it 93-82. The lead was still 11 when Seattle started a comeback with a 3-pointer by Rashard Lewis with 4:40 to play.

Robert Swift pulled the Sonics within 100-97 when he made one of two free throws after being fouled on a dunk attempt with 58 seconds left.

Paul then started to drive against the 7-foot center but stepped back to sink a jumper to put New Orleans up by five with 35 seconds to play.

After Ray Allen answered on the other end with a reverse layup, Paul missed a jumper but Snyder was able to knock the offensive rebound to Paul. The rookie point guard sealed the game with two free throws with 3.2 seconds left.

Allen scored 36 on 6-for-9 shooting from 3-point range and Lewis added 20 points. Sonics forward Chris Wilcox sprained his right foot and did not play the fourth quarter.

Snyder and Speedy Claxton each added 10 points off the bench and rookie Brandon Bass scored a career-high nine points. Bass got more playing time with leading scorer David West (sprained left ankle) out and Aaron Williams leaving in the second quarter with a sore right knee.

The Hornets outrebounded Seattle 44-30.

Seattle made 17 of its first 27 shots (63 percent) and led 41-30 in the second quarter when Allen finished a 7-0 run with a driving finger roll and a 3-pointer from the right wing.

Claxton then sparked a 15-4 response by the Hornets with a three-point play off an inbounds pass under the basket, and P.J. Brown tied the game at 45 with two free throws.

The Hornets then pushed ahead for a 55-50 lead and were up 58-56 at halftime after Jackson hit his first 3-pointer of the season.

Notes: Oklahoma City businessman Clayton Bennett, who is reportedly negotiating to buy a minority stake in the Hornets, sat in a courtside seat at halfcourt. He also was thought to be a possible buyer of the Sonics, whose request asked for financial assistance was not taken up by the Washington Legislature this year. … Brown was called for a foul on the opening tip. … Jackson, a 6-foot-10 center, is 7-for-31 from 3-point range in his six-year NBA career. … The Hornets outscored an opponent in the third quarter for the second time in their last 17 games. In that span, they scored more than 22 points in the third quarter only three times and scored 15 or less four times.

AP-ES-04-12-06 2248EDT

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