Stumble with Hornets
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New York @ New Orleans
100 - 111
Record: 14-35
Jamal Crawford had 13 points and 5 assists (AP Photo)
Jamal Crawford had 13 points and 5 assists (AP Photo)
OKLAHOMA CITY (AP) - Without their budding star at point guard, the New Orleans Hornets took care of the ball and exploited a weak Knicks defense for a confidence-building win.

Speedy Claxton scored 18 points and added a season-high 11 assists in place of injured point guard Chris Paul and David West added 21 points and 10 rebounds in the Hornets' 111-100 win against New York on Friday night.

P.J. Brown added 11 points and, along with Kirk Snyder , helped Claxton fuel a late 14-1 run that lifted New Orleans to its fifth consecutive home win.

With Claxton running the offense, the Hornets had a franchise-low five turnovers and shot 52 percent - not missing a beat in Paul's absence.

"I think they're very similar," Brown said. "They're up-tempo and they both like to get out in the open floor and make things happen."

Coach Byron Scott said the Hornets "slow it down a little more with Speedy," but otherwise run the same offensive sets.

"Speedy likes to put that thing up and he likes to score a lot - that's that New York mentality - but he can get in there and pass it and he gets it to the open man," Brown said. "He keeps the offense going. We're comfortable with either him or Chris running the show."

Claxton, who'd been New Orleans' top reserve all season, made his first start as Paul sat out with bruised ribs and directed the Hornets' offense to their highest scoring output of the season.

"We all know what Chris means to our team, but ... we all feel like if one of us goes down, then the other guys are going to step up," Brown said. "Guys are hungry on this team. We've got a lot of guys who have been sitting on that bench for a while and don't get a lot of minutes, so they're itching to get out there when they get their chance.

"As you saw tonight, we had a lot of people contribute to our win tonight and that's what being a team is all about."

The loss was New York's eighth straight.

Afterward, New York coach Larry Brown criticized his defense for creating no steals and blocking only one shot.

"We couldn't keep anyone in front of us, and that's been the story all year," he said. "If you can't extend your defense and can't keep people in front, then maybe we ought to play zone."

New Orleans, which eliminated most of a 10-point Knicks lead in the closing minutes of the first half, surged ahead with a 10-2 run started by a Brown jumper and capped when Snyder drove the lane and found West for a layup to make it 71-65.

The lead reached 91-82 before the Knicks scored eight straight points to get within one on Channing Frye 's two free throws with 6:54 left.

Brown connected from the right side and Snyder hit one of two free throws resulting from a Qyntel Woods flagrant foul, then Brown drove the lane for a layup and converted the ensuing free throw for a three-point play that gave New Orleans a 97-90 lead.

After a free throw by Jalen Rose , Claxton hit a fallaway jumper in the lane, Snyder and Claxton each hit two foul shots and West extended the lead to 105-91 with a jumper from the foul line with 2:25 left.

Rose led seven Knicks players in double figures with 20 points. Quentin Richardson added 14, Jamal Crawford and Jackie Butler scored 13 and Maurice Taylor and Frye each had 12.

"I think teams that don't have good records always find ways to break down more than have pretty good records," said Rose, who joined the team four games into its current losing streak. "That happens. The difference between good teams and teams that are struggling are the teams that are struggling don't make the most of their offense and find ways to communicate when things break down.

"That's what the winning teams do, and that's what we've got to learn how to do."

Desmond Mason added 20 points for New Orleans, which also got 11 in the first half from Bostjan Nachbar . Nachbar played his most minutes since Nov. 26 and scored his most points since a week before that.

"Guys are getting an opportunity and they're coming in and they're taking advantage of it," Scott said. "In the long run, it's going to make us a better basketball team."

Paul, wearing a black suit and red mock turtleneck, slowly walked onto the court to high-five his teammates, who'd lost to Atlanta in their only previous game without him. The Knicks fell to 0-8 without their point guard, Stephon Marbury (bruised left shoulder).

New Orleans, which trailed by as many as 10 in the opening half, scored nine of the last 10 points before halftime and pulled within 59-57 on a Nachbar 3-pointer from the right wing at the buzzer.

Brown tied it with a jumper on the Hornets' first possession of the second half.

Knicks center Jerome James left in the second quarter with a sore right hamstring. ... New York coach Larry Brown said all the Knicks autographed a T-shirt and left it on a fence at the Oklahoma City National Memorial containing articles left in memoriam to the 168 killed in the April 19, 1995, bombing. "It's a pretty amazing memorial. It puts games in perspective, I think." ... Brown said Marbury will be out at least until the All-Star break ... In response to TNT analyst Charles Barkley's comments during an All-Star selection show that Oklahoma is "no place for black people," Oklahoma Gov. Brad Henry said, "Obviously, Charles Barkley doesn't know what he's talking about," and his comments have "no basis in fact."

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