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Hornets nip Grizzlies for sixth straight win

NEW ORLEANS -- Hornets coach Monty Williams stopped trying to break down his team's performance in basketball terms after late-game heroics by Chris Paul and Marcus Thornton produced New Orleans' latest dramatic comeback.

"Sometimes you just have to say, 'Thank you, Lord,' and move on," Williams said. "This is one of those games."

Thornton broke up an inbounds pass with 14 seconds left in overtime and then finished a fast break with a reverse layup, lifting New Orleans to a 103-102 victory over the Memphis Grizzlies on Wednesday night that extended the Hornets' winning streak to six.

Paul's 20-point, 12-assist outing included 3-pointers at the end of both regulation and overtime to keep the Hornets' hopes alive. He punctuated the performance by corralling the critical loose ball that was tipped by both Thornton and Trevor Ariza in the last seconds of overtime. He then raced up court and passed to Emeka Okafor, who bounced a pass to Thornton under the hoop.

"We just don't get rattled," Paul said. "We've been in those situations before and we know what we need to do to win. This one right here was a combination of hard play and luck too. You've got to be honest."

Rudy Gay, who had 22 points, had one last shot to win it for Memphis, but his jumper near the top of the key bounced off the back rim. As the ball fell to the court, Gay grimaced and clenched his fist in disgust, while David West, who had defended the shot, celebrated with teammates a few feet away.

West had 19 points, 11 rebounds and three blocked shots for the Hornets, while Okafor added 11 points and 11 rebounds. Thornton finished with 17 points in only 22 minutes. The popular former LSU star did not even get in the game until 5:20 remained in the third quarter, at which point the crowd let out a roar as if to say, "What took so long?"

When Thornton started making hustle plays, it fired up his teammates.

"I was like one of the Honeybees, cheering my tail off for him," veteran guard Willie Green said, making a reference to the Hornets' dance team. "To not play the whole game and come in and play the way he did, that's big-time."

Thornton entered the game right about the time New Orleans began to erase a 15-point third-quarter hole, marking the third time in four games that the Hornets won after trailing by 12 or more in the second half.

"It's like we wait until we get down 15 to turn it on sometimes," Paul said. "I looked up at the clock and it said 62-47. I think at that time we realized it was getting embarrassing and we picked it up."

Ariza added 11 points for New Orleans and turned in a disruptive defensive performance that produced two steals and two blocked shots.

The Hornets were down by four in the final half-minute of overtime, but Paul hit a 3-pointer with 20 seconds left to pull them to 102-101, setting up the wild finish in which Thornton deflected Mike Conley's inbounds.

"I just made a poor decision," Conley said. "That's on me. I threw the ball away. ... I should have just held it and called timeout."

It was a cruel ending for Conley, who had scored 22 points and bounced in a desperation floater as the shot clock wound down with less than a minute to go in the extra session, giving Memphis a 100-98 lead. O.J. Mayo added a fast-break layup that made it 102-98 to put the Hornets' winning streak on the brink.

Instead, Memphis dropped its second straight.

"It was definitely one we should have had," said Grizzlies forward Zach Randolph, who had 17 points and 10 rebounds. "Won don't know how to win games at the end. I guess, you know, lesson learned. It's just a tough game. This game hurt."

Marc Gasol had 12 points and 10 rebounds for Mephis, which held its largest lead when Randolph's jumper made it 64-49 with a little less than seven minutes to go in the third quarter.

In the fourth, the Hornets scored nine straight -- with Thornton hitting a 3 and then converting his steal into a fast-break dunk to give New Orleans an 82-81 lead with 5:35 left.

The game remained tight from there, with Memphis going up 92-88 on Gay's 3 with 1:33 to go, only to have the Hornets tie it after Paul hit a 3 and Okafor made 1-of-2 free throws with 23.6 seconds to go. Memphis' last chance to win in regulation vanished when Conley, having recovered the ball after being stripped by West, was stripped again by Ariza as time ran out.

Game notes
Memphis guard Tony Allen missed his fifth straight game with a sore left knee. ... Three of the last five Hornets games have gone into overtime. ... Announced attendance was 15,951, meaning that if attendance averages 14,891 during the Hornets' next two home games, that will void a provision in the team's lease that would allow it to relocate after this season.