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Peja matches season high to lead streaking Hornets over Nuggets

NEW ORLEANS -- Devin Brown hadn't played much lately. He had been taking extra shots after practice, trying to be ready to come through when called upon.

Moving up in the rotation after a first-half injury to Morris Peterson, Brown hit 6-of-7 shots, including all three 3 pointers he attempted, and finished with a season high 18 points to help the New Orleans Hornets defeat the Denver Nuggets 94-81 on Wednesday night.

"It's funny. I've been getting some extra shots up before practice and staying late, just working on different things and it showed up tonight," Brown said, a satisfied smile on his face. "That just goes to show that extra work helps out."

Brown led a needed effort by the Hornets' reserves, who combined to outscored Denver's reserves 42-13. Peja Stojakovic matched a season high with 26 points, but beyond that, New Orleans didn't get a lot of scoring from a starting unit missing center Tyson Chandler and David West for a fifth straight game. Chris Paul had 12 points and 10 assists, but had an off night shooting for him, going 3-of-12. James Posey, normally the Hornets most productive reserve, was 1-of-13 for six points.

"Sometimes there's nights like that and we had to do other things," Posey said. "Chris was still creating for other guys. Peja and then Devin came in and played big for us as well. We worked a little harder on the defensive end and were able to get stops and rebounds and push the ball a little bit.

"That's one thing about this team, the opportunity right now for guys to come in and contribute," Posey added. "That's what guys did tonight and that's what we're going to need until we get David and Tyson back."

Kenyon Martin scored 22 points, and J.R. Smith had 20 for Denver, which was 7-of-20 from the field in the final quarter as a slim lead turned into a double-digit deficit.

Trailing 68-65 after three quarters, Denver surged to a 70-68 lead on Smith's 3 and his floater in the lane.

That would be the Nuggets' last lead, as Posey got his only field goal on a dunk after an offensive rebound. That ignited a 14-0 run that included a pair of jumpers by Stojakovic and ended with Paul's running floater in the lane.

Chauncey Billups finally snapped the run with a fast-break layup, but Brown hit back with his third 3 to make it 85-72 with 4:18 to go. Soon after, Brown used a fake to convert an inside basket as he was fouled, putting New Orleans up 88-74 with 3:14 left. Denver coach George Karl started subbing in his reserves soon after.

"Our frustration is that our offense kind of falls apart from the standpoint of shot selection and turnovers," Karl said. "One habit that is kind of scaring me is our turnovers. It just seems like we're too risky with the ball."

The Hornets made a point of getting back on defense against a squad averaging nearly 18 fast-break points. Denver was credited with only four points on the break. The Hornets blocked Denver center Chris Andersen twice inside in the fourth quarter, with Sean Marks slapping away a short floater and Hilton Armstrong stuffing a dunk attempt.

Denver, having beaten Memphis 100-85 a night earlier, came in averaging 104.5 points, but finished more than 20 points below that while committing 19 turnovers.

"We were throwing the ball all over the place," Martin said. "We've got to get it under control."

Billups, who scored 29 points against Memphis, finished with 12 against New Orleans. Nene had 11 points.

In the first half, Denver led 39-34 after Nene's dunk and Smith's jumper. New Orleans responded with 10 straight points, including back-to-back 3s by Stojakovic and Brown, and held a 46-44 lead at halftime.

Game notes
Peterson's injury was sprained left foot. ... Martin was called for a technical foul late in the second quarter for arguing with official Mark Ayotte, who called him for a foul on Paul in the backcourt. ... Ayotte also whistled Karl and Anthony Carter for arguing a backcourt violation called against the Nuggets. Officials went to video review and determined the call was correct. ... Opening tip-off was delayed about 15 minutes by the collapse of an elderly male fan in court-side seats. Hornets officials said he was conscious and alert while being wheeled away on a stretcher. ... The Hornets wore white-and-red throwback uniforms of the ABA's New Orleans Buccaneers.