Hornets point guard Chris Paul looks to pass after running into the double-team… (Wally Skalij / Los Angeles…)
Reporting from New Orleans
Chris Paul gathered his New Orleans Hornets teammates together at center court, all of them surrounding the 6-foot point guard, their leader, the man of the night.
Paul had just directed an attack for the Hornets that helped them defeat the Lakers, 93-88, Sunday night in Game 4 of the Western Conference first-round playoff series. Because of Paul's play, the Hornets had tied the best-of-seven series at 2-2 and been assured of a Game 6 here Thursday night.
Paul produced a triple-double with 27 points, 15 assists and a career-high 13 rebounds. It was the second triple-double of his playoff career and his 14th overall.
"Chris Paul, that was one of the better performances I've ever seen in the playoffs," New Orleans Coach Monty Williams said. "A lot of guys have performances where they score. He scored. He dished it out. He rebounded. He made tough, tenacious plays.
"A lot of times that ball goes up and the rebounds are a 50-50 ball and you see a 6-foot guy go up and get it, that just describes his heart. He makes me look better as a coach than I probably should."
Lakers-Hornets Game 4 box score
Paul made seven of 14 shots from the field and all 11 of his free throws.
He had two offensive rebounds, one on which he outhustled the Lakers' 7-foot Pau Gasol late in the fourth quarter.
"He made a lot happen out there," Lakers Coach Phil Jackson said about Paul. "A triple-double is nothing to sneeze at in a playoff game."
Paul made the key play with the Hornets leading by two. Paul had the ball in his hands with Derek Fisher defending him, but he waved for Trevor Ariza to set a screen on him, seemingly wanting Kobe Bryant to make the switch — which Bryant did.
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Bryant had tweaked his left ankle with 1:32 left and was limping.
Paul crossed over Bryant with his dribble, getting some space in the lane.
Just as Paul went up for his shot, Bryant closed in, getting his hand up.
Recognizing that, Paul passed off to Jarrett Jack, who scored on a shot in the lane for 90-86 Hornets lead with 9.3 seconds left.
"Kobe played good 'D' and was on my right side and I didn't have a shot," Paul said. "I thank the Lord I [saw] J. Jack out of the corner of my eye."
Nothing, it seemed, was going to stop Paul.
He had jammed his thumb in Game 3. His right eye was black from a collision with Ron Artest on a jump ball, and he has sore hips from getting bumped on all the pick-and-rolls the Hornets run.
But that didn't stop Paul.
"It was cool," Paul said about his performance. "It was enough for us to win. It was fun."