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Paul, Hornets close out Bulls with 33-13 fourth quarter

NEW ORLEANS (AP) -- Hornets coach Byron Scott called point guard Chris Paul a Hall of Famer in the making Monday night.

Paul said he wasn't ready for those credentials, but his teammate Tyson Chandler was quick to put him in the race for MVP.

Paul had game highs of 37 points and 13 assists in New Orleans' 108-97 win over the Chicago Bulls.

He made an open 3-pointer with 2:47 left in the fourth quarter to tie it 96-all. After a steal by Jannero Pargo on the next possession, Paul found Chandler for a thundering alley-oop dunk to give the Hornets their first lead since halftime.

"It was all Chris Paul," said Chandler, who finished with eight points. "The little man was all over the floor. It was incredible. It's one of the best performances I've seen from him yet. He, at least to me, made his bid [Monday night] to consider him the MVP."

Paul's shooting touch kept the Hornets in the game as they trailed throughout almost the entire second half. He finished the game 15-for-21 from the floor. Paul also had three steals and only two turnovers.

Bonzi Wells, who scored 19 points, added two free throws and a dunk in the next two possessions to seal the Hornets' victory.

New Orleans outscored Chicago 33-13 in the fourth quarter.

Peja Stojakovic added 21 points for the Hornets, but made only three of 11 3-point attempts. Rookie Julian Wright added 14 points for New Orleans.

Ben Gordon came off the bench to score 31 points for Chicago, but he knew Paul deserved the kudos.

"He took the game over single-handedly," Gordon said. "Every basket he made, they needed it to win."

While Gordon sank shots from around the perimeter, Drew Gooden did so from near the paint. He had 23 points and 12 rebounds.

Larry Hughes and Luol Deng each ended up with 16 points for Chicago.

The Bulls opened the second half on a 14-4 run capped by Hughes' 3-pointer from the corner to put Chicago up 64-55 with 7:37 remaining in the third quarter. The Bulls ended the quarter up 84-75.

"The third quarter we started out with a couple of turnovers and coach really got on us about that," Paul said. "We gave up 34 points. We knew if we were going to have a chance we'd have to be aggressive in the fourth."

New Orleans ended the game on a 24-4 run in the final 7:01.

"That's two games in a row where we controlled the game for pretty much three quarters, and then somehow, something happens and again we get outscored by 20 points in the fourth quarter," Bulls interim coach Jim Boylan said. "It's tough."

Paul's layup through traffic with 5.6 seconds left in the first half gave New Orleans a 51-50 lead. A tip-in by Gooden was at first allowed as time expired, but was overturned after video review.

It was the last time the Hornets held a lead until Paul's dominance in the final 12 minutes.

"I usually never start the fourth quarter, but I went up to coach and said, 'Coach, let me stay,'" Paul said. "Some games he does it and some games he doesn't. Being down nine or 11 going into the fourth, that for our team to have a chance that I needed to be out there."

Game notes
Hornets Forward David West missed his third consecutive game with a sprained right ankle. ... Bulls G Chris Duhon didn't make the trip to New Orleans because of flulike symptoms, but could return to the team for a shootaround Tuesday when the Bulls return to Chicago. Duhon has been in some hot water recently after his comments concerning his sleeping through the Bulls' shootaround Sunday. This coming after Duhon never played in the Bulls' last three games. ... Chicago wore green jerseys in honor of St. Patrick's Day. ... LSU football coach Les Miles and Saints running back Reggie Bush attended Monday's game. Miles sat next to Hornets owner George Shinn. Bush attended the game with girlfriend Kim Kardashian. ... Referee Bennett Salvatore worked his 1,500th the game of his career Monday night. Only three other current referees (Dick Bavetta, Joey Crawford and Jack Nies) have more tenure than Salvatore.