Hornets head home leading 3-1


Dirk Nowitzki already is using the past tense when discussing the Dallas Mavericks' first-round series with the New Orleans Hornets. And he's not even the star player who might have to sit out the possible finale.

Yeah, Game 4 went that badly for the Mavs &

and that well for the Hornets.

David West scored 10 of his 24 points during a game-breaking stretch early in the third quarter and Paul had 16 points, eight assists and seven rebounds, leading New Orleans past Dallas 97-84 Sunday night.

The Hornets are headed home with a chance to end the series in Game 5 on Tuesday night. The Mavericks will have to find out Monday whether Jason Kidd will be joining them.

Kidd got a flagrant foul-2 and automatic ejection for taking down Jannero Pargo by his neck on a layup with 7:16 left. The league office will review the play and could suspend him.

"I was just trying to stop him from getting an easy layup," Kidd said.

"That's what he's supposed to do," said Pargo, adding that he "was a little surprised" about the ejection.

In the other NBA playoff games Sunday, it was: Cleveland 100, Washington 97; Phoenix 105, San Antonio 86; and Detroit 93, Philadelphia 84.

The Hornets had lost 14 straight games in Dallas since January 1998. Now they might not have to come back, with the Mavericks are on the brink of a second straight first-round exit.

"It's a great feeling to be up 3-1, but it doesn't mean too much right now," Paul said. "It's tough to close out a team, to get that fourth win. That's what coach has been preaching to us. We feel pretty confident going back in front of our fans."

Nowitzki had 22 points and 13 rebounds and Jason Terry scored 20 points, but they didn't get much help. Josh Howard was 3-for-16 and Kidd had only three points, three assists and four rebounds.

The Mavs went from scoring 30 points in the first quarter to 14 in the second quarter, then 40 in the entire second half.

"This sport is still about scoring points and we just didn't have a great offensive series, I guess," Nowitzki said, his word choice certainly eye-raising.

Dallas' meltdown &

in this game, in this series and since being up 2-0 on Miami in the finals two years ago &

might end up costing coach Avery Johnson his job.

"I don't really have an answer for it," said Nowitzki, exhaling loudly and running a hand through his hair in frustration.

Suns 105, Spurs 86

Boris Diaw had 20 points, 10 rebounds and eight assists in one of the best playoff performances of his career, and host Phoenix avoided a sweep in the first-round series.

Raja Bell scored 21 of his 27 points in a dominant first half to help the Suns bring a one-sided end to the defending NBA champions' nine-game playoff winning streak. The Suns were 11-0 in the regular season when Bell scored at least 20.

Cavaliers 100, Wizards 97

LeBron James had 34 points and 12 rebounds, and dished the ball to Delonte West for a tiebreaking 3-pointer with 5.4 seconds left, helping visiting Cleveland take a 3-1 series lead.

After Gilbert Arenas' 8-foot fadeaway with 28 seconds remaining made it 97-all, James dribbled out the clock before finding West, whose career playoff-high 21 points included five of Cleveland's 13 3-pointers.

Pistons 93, 76ers 84

Tayshaun Prince scored 23 points and made all but one shot from the field, and visiting Detroit played with a purpose and dominated the second half to even the best-of-seven Eastern Conference playoff series at 2-2.

The Pistons erased a 14-point, first-half deficit against the upstart 76ers.

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