Paul leads Hornets to upset of Lakers
With their tumultuous regular season finally a memory, Paul said the Hornets were almost unbearably eager for the playoffs to start.
Maybe that’s why New Orleans got the drop on the defending champs in a stunning series opener.
Paul had 33 points, 14 assists and seven rebounds, flawlessly leading the Hornets down the stretch of a 109-100 victory Sunday.
Carl Landry scored 17 points and Jarrett Jack added 15 for the seventh-seeded Hornets, who overcame Los Angeles’ major size advantage with cagey defense and a disciplined offensive approach that led to just three turnovers, tying an NBA playoff record.
New Orleans also got a phenomenal game from Paul, who scored 17 points in the fourth quarter and led a decisive 8-0 run after the Lakers trimmed their lead to four points. Repeatedly shredding Los Angeles’ defense on pick-and-roll plays, the four-time All-Star was at his playmaking apex.
“I’ve struggled all season long, trying to figure out where to pick my spots,” said Paul, who inscribed his sneakers with the No. 30 of injured teammate David West, New Orleans’ leading scorer. “It’s the playoffs. It’s a whole other energy.”
Game 2 is Wednesday at Staples Center.
A few hours after eighth-seeded Memphis produced a series-opening surprise in San Antonio, Paul and his Hornets put another intriguing wrinkle in the NBA postseason.
Kobe Bryant scored 34 points for the Lakers, who opened the postseason with the same halfhearted effort that comprised much of their regular season after three straight exhausting trips to the NBA finals.
Los Angeles’ 7-foot starters, Pau Gasol and Andrew Bynum, were widely expected to be an awful matchup for smallish New Orleans, but Hornets rookie coach Monty Williams concocted an impressive game plan to minimize the big men’s impact.
“Our defense, I thought, was late,” Lakers coach Phil Jackson said. “I think we were late on everything. They were the aggressors, and they stayed aggressive.”
The Lakers, who swept the four-game regular-season series with New Orleans, had won their last six playoff series openers.
-- Grizzlies 101, Spurs 98— Zach Randolph had 25 points and 14 rebounds, Shane Battier hit the go-ahead three-pointer with 23.9 seconds left, and visiting Memphis earned the first playoff victory in franchise history.
Randolph, who scored nine in the fourth quarter and punished San Antonio under the basket, might have saved his hardest contact for a chest bump with Mike Conley after the final buzzer.
San Antonio had a chance to force overtime, but Richard Jefferson missed an open three-pointer as time expired. Tony Parker led the Spurs with 20 points, but they sorely missed All-Star Manu Ginobili, who continued to rest his sprained right elbow.
-- Celtics 87, Knicks 85—Ray Allen hit a go-ahead three-pointer with 12 seconds left, Paul Pierce shut down Carmelo Anthony and the host Boston Celtics rallied to win their playoff opener.
New York led 85-84 before Anthony was called for an offensive foul for pushing Pierce with 21 seconds remaining. Allen, who led the Celtics with 24 points, sank the decisive basket from beyond the left arc.
Anthony missed a long three-point attempt with 2 seconds left. Amare Stoudemire had 28 points and 11 rebounds for New York. Anthony finished with 15.
Game 2 is Tuesday night in Boston.
Pierce scored 18 points and Kevin Garnett added 15 points and 13 rebounds for Boston.
-- Thunder 107, Nuggets 103—At Oklahoma City, Kevin Durant scored 41 points, Russell Westbrook had two crucial late baskets among his 31 points and the Thunder took Game 1 against Denver.
Raymond Felton missed a potential tying three-pointer with 12 seconds left, and Oklahoma City closed it out at the foul line.
Nene led Denver with 22 points and eight rebounds.
, and Danilo Gallinari