AT OKLAHOMA CITY OK
0-1, 0-1 away
81
1234T
DAL2320231581
NO2517241884

NO/Oklahoma City 84, Dallas 81

OKLAHOMA CITY (AP) -- David West was one of the NBA's most

improved players last season. He doesn't want to stop there.

West scored 17 points and Brandon Bass hit the go-ahead jumper

to lift the New Orleans Hornets to an 84-81 victory over Dallas on

Tuesday night in a preseason game without most of the Mavericks'

starters.

West, who finished second in the voting for the league's most

improved player last season, was 7-of-10 from the field and matched

his scoring average from last season in only 24 minutes.

"I'm going to be a threat," West said. "I'm going to shoot

the basketball until somebody shuts the water off. That's the way

I'm going to approach it."

After missing most of the 2004-05 season with a right knee

injury, West nearly tripled his scoring average last season after

moving into the starting lineup when Jamaal Magloire was traded in

the preseason.

This year, he came into training camp as the team's leading

scorer.

"I felt like I was in pretty good shape coming into camp,"

West said. "It was just a matter of coming in and getting my

timing down."

Reigning rookie of the year Chris Paul also picked up where he

left off for New Orleans, with 10 points and six assists in 21

minutes. He had assists on five of West's seven baskets.

"Me and David West, we could probably do what we do with

blindfolds," Paul said. "We just always know where each other's

going to be."

Linton Johnson III added 12 points for New Orleans, which went

up 82-81 on Brandon Bass' jumper with 2:01 to play. Cedric Simmons,

one of New Orleans' two first-round draft picks this year, then hit

a jumper in the key to stretch the lead to three.

Bass blocked Maurice Ager's layup in the final minute, and Jose

Juan Barea missed a desperation shot from just beyond halfcourt

that would have sent the game to overtime.

The defending Western Conference champions left most of their

starting lineup at home and bore little resemblance to the team

that lost to Miami in the NBA finals in June.

Dirk Nowitzki, Jason Terry, Jerry Stackhouse and Devin Harris

didn't make the trip, leaving Josh Howard as the only returning

starter in the Mavs' lineup at tipoff.

"It means something, but when we get all of our guys back it'll

mean even more," Mavericks coach Avery Johnson said.

Howard led Dallas with 16 points and rookie free agent Pops

Mensah-Bonsu scored 11.

"We just wanted to get out there and see where we're at," said

Erick Dampier, who had 10 of his 11 rebounds in the first half.

The Hornets went with all of their starters except offseason

pickup Peja Stojakovic, who sat out with a strained right quad.

West had 11 points by halftime but New Orleans trailed 43-42.

Paul scored eight points during a 12-0 run that put New Orleans

up 61-54 midway through the third quarter. He had four free throws

in that span and hit a nifty jumper near the basket after looking

away and faking a pass. He capped the run by slicing through the

lane for a layup.

"I know in the preseason Coach is not going to play us that

much. At the same time, we're trying to get ready for the regular

season and we have to take advantage of the minutes that we're out

there," Paul said.

The Mavericks came back to take the lead at 70-66 after

consecutive jumpers by D.J. Mbenga and Devean George to start the

fourth quarter and the teams were tied five times after that.

Ager's free throw gave Dallas its last lead, 81-80.