LOS ANGELES -- If Byron Scott has taught the New Orleans Hornets anything, it's that offense starts with defense.
The Hornets executed his philosophy Saturday night in a 98-89 victory over the Clippers. Peja Stojakovic scored nine of his 22 points in the fourth quarter, David West added 18 and New Orleans held Los Angeles to 40-percent shooting to snap a three-game losing streak.
"Defensively, we communicated really well," point guard Chris Paul said. "The past few games we haven't gotten any defensive stops, so we didn't have the opportunity to run. So it was nice to get out and run, because that's how we're supposed to play. I listen to everything Coach says, because he played with maybe the best point guard who every played (Magic Johnson)."
The Hornets made their first visit to Staples Center since Nov. 6, when Paul set a club record with 21 assists and Stojakovic established another club mark with a career-high 10 3-pointers in a 118-104 win over the Lakers. They didn't have quite as much success against the building's other tenant, but they were good enough.
Paul had 10 assists and 11 points, including a clutch 10-footer with 41 seconds left to help thwart a Clippers rally.
"He's tremendous on dribble penetration. He's an excellent decision maker, good defender and he can score. I don't really know what else you'd want in a prototype point guard," Clippers coach Mike Dunleavy said. "He's an All-Star and he's got all the tools. The only thing he probably doesn't have is size or a killer 3-point shot. But he's got too much as it is."
Stojakovic missed his first four shots, finally connecting on an 18-footer that gave New Orleans a 45-40 lead with 3:41 left in the first half. He finished 7-for-12 from the field, while the rest of the Hornets' starters also scored in double digits.
"We played as a team at both ends of the floor." Stojakovic said. "We knew we were coming in with a three-game losing streak and we knew we just had to play better basketball. And that's what we did. Defensively, we kept helping each other and communicating, which was our problem the past couple of games."
Stojakovic started to find his stroke early in the fourth quarter, hitting a 21-footer from the right of the key, a 16-footer from the left and then a 3-pointer from the left sideline to help the Hornets build an 87-72 cushion with 9:35 to play.
The Clippers rallied back with 10 straight points, including 3-pointers by Dan Dickau and rookie Al Thornton and a layup by Ruben Patterson with 6½ minutes remaining. But they never got closer than that five-point differential.
"You can't get down by 15 points like we did in the second half," Sam Cassell said. "You have to play mistake-free basketball when you get down by that many points, and we didn't do it. They made some mistakes that allowed us an opportunity to get back in the game, but we just came up short."
The Clippers committed 15 turnovers. The ugliest came with 2:36 left in the first half, when Thomas made a wild hook pass that went over his shoulder and out of bounds from the other side of the key -- nearly hitting TV writer-producer David Lloyd (The Mary Tyler Moore Show, Cheers, Frazier) in the head.
Missing Corey Maggette, Elton Brand, Brevin Knight and Shaun Livingston because of injuries, the Clippers lost for the sixth time in eight games after a 4-0 start. On top of that, Mobley has been gutting his way through a groin injury that won't heal without rest.
"I was always a guy who never quit," Mobley said. "You play with injuries. It's as simple as that. Some guys don't, and that's testing their manhood. But some people have higher pain tolerance, and I'm one of those guys. So if I can get out there and help our guys by being a decoy or the guy who closes it out, I'm going to try my best to do it."
Neither team led by more than six points until Stojakovic's 3-pointer with 1.6 seconds left in the first half gave New Orleans a 55-48 lead. West hit another 3-pointer with 1.7 seconds left in the third quarter, restoring the Hornets double-digit lead to 80-70, after Los Angeles sliced a 15-point deficit to seven with a 10-2 spurt fueled by six points from Mobley.
- The Hornets have a ritual where all the reserves stand at the bench until the team makes its first field goal. This time they didn't sit down until West hit a 12-footer 10:15 with left in the first quarter -- the first points by either team.
- New Orleans is 8-0 when leading after three quarters.