Paul shoots down Blazers

PORTLAND — Chris Paul made a 15-foot jumper with 3.8 seconds remaining, lifting the New Orleans Hornets to a 98-97 win over the Portland Trail Blazers on Monday night.

With the Hornets trailing by a point, Paul was left wide open at the free throw line when he caught a pass and buried the shot. Paul led all scorers with 24 points, and also had 12 assists.

Marcus Thornton had 19 points, David West scored 18 and Emeka Okefor added 14 for New Orleans.

Thornton made his first start of the season after New Orleans traded shooting guard Devin Brown to the Chicago Bulls earlier Monday for backup 7-foot center Aaron Gray.

Juwan Howard and LaMarcus Aldridge had 16 points apiece for Portland.

Howard's 16 matched a season high. Martell Webster hit four 3-pointers and scored 14 points, while Jerryd Bayless and Rudy Fernandez had 12 points each.

Portland led 49-47 at halftime even though New Orleans led for most of the first half. The Hornets got off to a quick start, hitting their first six shots on the way to a 24-8 lead seven minutes into the first quarter. But Portland slowly cut the deficit.

The Blazers closed it to 31-23 at the end of the first quarter, and took their first lead at 42-41 on a runner by Aldridge with four minutes left before halftime.

The game remained tight through the third quarter, but Portland opened up a 90-81 lead with 4 minutes left in the game on back-to-back layups by Howard and Fernandez. New Orleans later rallied from a 96-88 deficit by scoring eight consecutive points, then took the lead for good on Paul's jumper.

Portland had a chance to win, but Bayless missed a 15-footer at the buzzer.

Notes: Portland small forward Nicolas Batum made his season debut after missing the first 45 games recovering from a torn labrum in his right shoulder. Batum was treated to a standing ovation when he entered the game at the start of the second quarter. Batum, who started 76 games and averaged 5.4 points as a rookie last season, hit 3 of 5 shots and scored six points in 10 minutes of action. New Orleans coach Jeff Bower said the move to obtain Gray "is an opportunity to add a player to our front line with very good size. He's a tough player who adds something different to our front line."

Gray added that by trading Brown, the Hornets are able to give rookie guards Darrin Collison and Thornton increased playing time.

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