OKLAHOMA CITY – Rookie Chris Paul scored 25 points, including five late free throws, and the New Orleans Hornets held off Atlanta’s fourth-quarter rally to beat the winless Hawks 95-92 on Friday night.

Salim Stoudamire, who scored 30 points to lead Atlanta, missed a desperation 3-pointer from near half court that would have sent the game to overtime. Atlanta dropped to 0-9, the worst start in franchise history.

Paul, who hit five free throws in the final 22.7 seconds, added a career-high 12 assists, and Chris Andersen had 10 points and 18 rebounds for the Hornets, who were playing without two starters and their top reserve.

The Hornets led 76-50 after Brandon Bass’ two-handed, fast-break dunk early in the fourth quarter before Stoudamire took over. The former Arizona standout scored 21 of the Hawks’ next 31 points to cut the deficit to eight, and Joe Johnson added two 3-pointers and a layup to get Atlanta to 90-89.

Paul, the Hornets’ first-round draft pick, hit one of two free throws with 22.7 seconds left, and Johnson and Zaza Pachulia each missed baskets that could have tied the game for the Hawks.

Paul hit two more free throws to stretch New Orleans’ lead to 93-89, and Stoudamire made his fourth 3-pointer of the quarter to pull Atlanta within one again. Paul then sealed the game with two free throws with 3 seconds left.

Johnson scored 21 points, Harrington had 14 points and 10 rebounds and Pachulia added 10 points and 14 rebounds.

The Hornets played without starting guard J.R. Smith (ankle) and starting center P.J. Brown, who was attending his mother-in-law’s funeral. Reserve guard Speedy Claxton (ankle), the team’s second-leading scorer, also didn’t play.

Still, the Hornets (3-6) snapped a four-game losing streak and ensured they wouldn’t duplicate last season’s 2-29 start. New Orleans didn’t pick up its third win until a 121-117 victory against Sacramento on Jan. 8 ended its second losing streak of 10 or more games.

Notes: Two of the Hawks’ three preseason wins came against New Orleans. The other was against Charlotte. … Atlanta faced nine straight Western Conference opponents to start the season. Its first Eastern Conference game is Sunday against Boston. … The attendance was 17,554, the Hornets’ lowest in five games in Oklahoma City. … A night after going 0-for-13 from 3-point range, the Hornets were 8-for-16 from behind the arc.

AP-ES-11-18-05 2301EST


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