Hornets advance past Mavericks, Spurs finish off Suns in 5


Chris Paul had never appeared in the playoffs when the New Orleans Hornets began their first-round series against the Dallas Mavericks.

Fellow first-time All-Star David West was a rookie reserve the last time the Hornets were in postseason &

and they lost in the first round.

Yet, when New Orleans eliminated Dallas in five games with a 99-94 victory on Tuesday night, West and Paul kept their celebration brief.

"We're not going to pop champagne bottles or anything like that," said Paul, who had 24 points, 15 assists and 11 rebounds in the clincher. "We're trying to set a new standard here with our organization. This isn't like a fairy tale for us. This is something that we're trying to keep going."

Also, the San Antonio Spurs beat the Phoenix Suns 92-87 to win that series in five games; the Houston Rockets beat Utah 95-69 to cut the Jazz's lead to 3-2; and the Detroit Pistons took a 3-2 lead over the Philadelphia 76ers with a 98-81 rout.

The Hornets' victory closed the latest happy chapter for a team that won only 18 games in the last full season it played in New Orleans before a two-year displacement to Oklahoma City because of Hurricane Katrina.

Their 56-26 regular season set a franchise record for victories. It also earned the Hornets the second seed in the tough Western Conference and the Southwest Division crown, the first division title in the franchise's 20-year history.

Earlier Tuesday, coach ron Scott was presented with the NBA coach of the year award for the first time. Hours later, the Hornets' triumph gave New Orleans fans another first: an NBA playoff series victory.

Spurs 92, Suns 87

Tony Parker scored 31 points, Tim Duncan added 29 points and 17 rebounds, and San Antonio advanced to the Western Conference semifinals by eliminating Phoenix in five games.

Boris Diaw, who had a near triple-double in the Suns' rout of the Spurs in Game 4, led the visitors with 22 points.

But the Suns had a number of costly turnovers down the stretch and were sent home yet again by the Spurs, who have eliminated Phoenix in four of their last five playoff appearances.

Rockets 95, Jazz 69

Tracy McGrady scored 29 points, Luis Scola added 18 points and 12 rebounds, and Houston staved off elimination by routing Utah in Game 5 of its first-round series.

Now, the Jazz can end the series at home, where they went 37-4 during the regular season. But it's no guarantee &

Houston was the first team to beat Utah in Salt Lake City during the regular season and won Game — there last Thursday.

Pistons 98, 76ers 81

Chauncey Billups scored 21 points, Richard Hamilton had 20 and Rasheed Wallace added 19 to lift host Detroit to a 3-2 lead over Philadelphia in its first-round series.

Detroit leads in the series for the first time after being the first team to win consecutive games. If the Pistons win Game 6 on Thursday night in Philadelphia or Game 7 at home, they will advance in the playoffs for the seventh year in a row.

Andre Iguodala scored a career playoff-high 21 points, finally putting together a night that resembled his play in the regular season, but he didn't have much help.

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