OKLAHOMA CITY – Chris Paul scored 19 of his 21 points in the second half to rally the New Orleans Hornets from a 12-point halftime deficit for an 84-80 victory over the Minnesota Timberwolves on Wednesday night.

Paul hit a 3-pointer from the left wing with 2:09 left to give the Hornets a 77-74 lead. Anthony Carter missed a 3-pointer for Minnesota, and Paul found P.J. Brown for an open jumper at the other end.

Eddie Griffin scored off an offensive rebound to pull Minnesota within 79-76, but the Timberwolves were unable to capitalize on an opportunity to tie after Paul missed a rushed 3-pointer as the shot clock expired.

Kevin Garnett missed a 3-pointer from the top of the key, and the 6-foot Paul grabbed the rebound and hit one of his two free throws with 22 seconds left.

Garnett hit both of his free throws after being fouled under the basket with 19 seconds left, but J.R. Smith answered with two of his own for New Orleans.

Garnett followed Wally Szczerbiak’s miss to get Minnesota within 82-80 and he had one final chance to tie the game after stealing David West’s inbounds pass, but he couldn’t score from right under the basket. West sealed the game with two free throws with 3.2 seconds left.

West added 22 points and 12 rebounds and Brown scored 13 for the Hornets, who trailed by as many as 18 points in the first half and beat Minnesota for the first time in eight tries. Their last win over the Timberwolves was on Feb. 25, 2002, when the team was still based in Charlotte.

Garnett finished with 24 points and 11 rebounds for his third consecutive double-double and his sixth of the season. Troy Hudson added four 3-pointers and 17 points, and Michael Olowokandi scored 11 for Minnesota, which fell to 0-4 on the road.

Paul, who entered the game leading all NBA rookies in points, assists and steals, scored 11 points during a 17-4 run to lead New Orleans back from a 12-point halftime deficit. His driving layup put the Hornets ahead 53-52.

The teams traded leads several times, leading up to a confrontation between Desmond Mason and Garnett after Garnett fouled Mason on a right-handed dunk try.

Mason and Garnett stared at each other for a moment, and Garnett appeared motivated afterward. He hit back-to back baskets to give Minnesota a 74-70 lead, but the Hornets weren’t done.

Paul made a driving layup at the other end, and his miss set up a putback dunk by West that brought the sellout crowd to its feet.

With the crowd still roaring, Garnett traveled on Minnesota’s next possession, and Paul’s ensuing 3-pointer put the Hornets up for good.

Notes: The crowd of 19,163 was the Hornets’ third sellout in six games at Oklahoma City’s Ford Center. … New Orleans forward Chris Andersen sat out with a bruised back and bruised right knee. He had been one of only five players to appear in each of the Hornets’ first 10 games. … The Timberwolves had allowed 100 points or more in their first three road games, all losses.

AP-ES-11-23-05 2244EST


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