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Hornets build big lead, cruise to win Oklahoma City opener

OKLAHOMA CITY (AP) -- They're still officially the team from New

Orleans, but judging by the roaring capacity crowd and the

startling success of their Oklahoma City debut Tuesday, the Hornets

should happy to wear those "OKC" patches for a while.

J.R. Smith scored 19 points and had two electrifying dunks as

New Orleans beat the Sacramento Kings 93-67 on the NBA's opening

night, which also marked the first of 35 Hornets "home" games in

Oklahoma City.

The celebration began with a street party outside the Ford

Center, then got even more lively inside the sold-out arena as the

Hornets, 18-64 last season, beat a Kings team expected to contend.

"We're a young team, so we feed off the crowd easily," Smith

said. "It's a great city, full of great fans."

P.J. Brown scored eight points during a 16-2 run midway through

the second quarter that gave the Hornets a 38-27 lead. Smith's

two-handed fast-break dunk was the highlight of the run for New

Orleans, which wore white jerseys with a hexagonal "OKC" patch on

the right shoulder.

Brown finished with 20 points and 10 rebounds, Speedy Claxton

added 17 and Chris Paul, the team's No. 1 pick in this year's

draft, added 13 .

Peja Stojakovic scored 18 and Shareef Abdur-Rahim added 14 for

the Kings, who shot only 31.3 percent.

"We knew they were going to come out and attack us," Kings

coach Rick Adelman said. "It was the first game here. The crowd

was into it."

Adelman said the Kings got out of synch offensively in the

second quarter, when they scored only 12 points and the Hornets

pulled away.

"We've got to come out and be the aggressor," Smith said. "We

got them second-guessing themselves, and that's what you've got to

do to win."

New Orleans, which was the lowest scoring team in the league

last season, built its lead to 20 points in the third quarter as

Smith again energized the crowd. He had seven points during a 12-0

run that put the Hornets up 58-38.

The Hornets were searching for a place to play this season after

Hurricane Katrina devastated New Orleans. The other six home games

will be played in Baton Rouge, La.

"I think everybody's excited about getting the season started,

but there's going to be a lot of people that start to think back on

where we're supposed to be in New Orleans and what happened in New

Orleans," Hornets coach Byron Scott said before the game. "You're

going to get some mixed feelings."

A street party before the game offered fans the chance to take

part in interactive games, get their face painted in Hornets colors

and listen to live bands. New Orleans then got a standing ovation

when players ran onto the court for pre-game warmups to the

announcement "Here come your Hornets!"

Desmond Mason, a former Oklahoma State star, and Paul got the

loudest ovations during introductions, and fans didn't sit down

until Brown scored inside for the Hornets' first basket.

Another ovation came after Claxton hit a 3-pointer and the

Hornets led 22-21 after the first quarter. More came when Hornets

vice president Willis Reed and Bill Walton, who signed autographs

before the game, were introduced.

The crowd chanted "de-fense" and booed when officials called

fouls against the team the public address announcer called the

"hometown Hornets."

"With that loud crowd out there, I think we're going to have

one of the loudest crowds in the NBA, if not the loudest," New

Orleans forward Rasual Butler said.

Before the game, Hornets owner George Shinn admitted he was a

bit leery when NBA commissioner David Stern recommended Oklahoma

City for a temporary home. He was beaming afterward, predicting

that if the level of support continues, "they're going to see a

lot more wins than anyone expected."

"It was electric. It was absolutely electric. It was as good

I've seen it," Shinn said.

Shinn said he had to be careful talking about the Hornets'

future, but it's still the team's goal to return to New Orleans.

"When we go back to New Orleans, this city will get a

franchise, I'm convinced," Shinn said. "Whether the NBA is smart

enough to come here or the NHL or the NFL or baseball, somebody

will come here. This market is going to be too good for them to

pass up."Game notes
Kings first-round draft pick Francisco Garcia had five

points in his debut. ... Sacramento's lowest point total last

season came in a 103-73 loss to San Antonio on Jan. 23 ... All 12

Hornets played, and all but Chris Andersen scored.