NEW ORLEANS -- Chris Paul sees himself as a pass-first, shoot-second point guard, but that doesn't mean opponents can get away with giving him open shots.
Paul converted a driving layup through a crowd of defenders with 1.8 seconds left in overtime, capping a game of career highs and lifting the New Orleans Hornets to a 118-116 victory over the Memphis Grizzlies on Friday night.
With long-range shooters Morris Peterson and Peja Stojakovic leaving the court with nagging muscle strains, Paul hit five 3-pointers on his way to 43 points, both career highs, to go with nine assists and four steals.
"I think going into a lot of games, teams say, just let him shoot, he really can't shoot," Paul said of the way opponents guard him. "Tonight it burned them. I try to tell people I can shoot a little bit if you let me, if I'm open. ... A lot of teams let me shoot 3s, so if you look at the stats and think I can't shoot, then that's on you."
Paul also made a pair of crucial free throws that tied the game at 107 with 33.1 seconds left, a score that held until overtime, when New Orleans never seems to lose anymore.
The Hornets won their 12th straight overtime game, a streak going back to the 2005-06 season. It was also their third overtime victory this season, the second against the Grizzlies.
New Orleans made eight 3-pointers in all, a key to their fourth victory in sixth games.
David West scored 27 for New Orleans. Tyson Chandler had 13 points and 19 rebounds, and his alley-oop reverse jam from Paul helped the Hornets open the extra period with a 5-0 run that began when Paul hit a driving floater as he was fouled.
Rudy Gay tied the game at 116 when he made a rainbow 3-pointer with 23.8 seconds left in OT. After Paul's winner, Memphis had one more chance to set up a quick shot, but Pau Gasol lost the inbounds pass out of bounds as he tried to make a touch-pass to guard Kyle Lowry in the corner.
"It's a play that could have gone both ways," Gasol said. "I wasn't able to control the ball and I was kind of trying to catch it, but at the same time trying to tip it to Kyle because I thought he was open for the 3 and it didn't come out right."
It was a bitter end to an otherwise strong performance by Gasol, who had 26 points and 10 rebounds. Gay led Memphis with 31 points, including several soaring dunks and an array of mid-range jumpers.
Peterson, who strained his lower back in the second half of New Orleans' loss to Detroit on Wednesday night, started against Memphis but left about six minutes into the first quarter with the same injury nagging him. Stojakovic played most of the first half, scoring nine points, before going out with a strained left groin. Both players are questionable for the Hornets' home game Sunday against Seattle.
"It's tough when you lose two starters, especially Peja, who I thought was playing well," Hornets coach Byron Scott said. "All of a sudden you have Julian Wright and Jannero Pargo who have to step into those roles. I thought they both played well."
Even with the lineup shuffling, the Hornets led most of the game and were up 105-100 with just over two minutes remaining.
Then Memphis, which came in on a two-game losing streak, scored seven straight points, starting with Gasol's tough fallaway in the lane. Lowry then hit a pair of free throws and a driving layup to give Memphis a 106-105 lead before Paul was called for a potentially costly technical foul and Miller hit the free throw.
Paul ended up being fouled on the same possession, however, then made the game-tying free throws.
"He is going to be a great player," Memphis coach Marc Iavaroni said. "He is already a top player in the league. (The Hornets) have got a real prize there."
- Lowry finished with 14 points, nine rebounds and nine assists for Memphis.
- New Orleans won the only other meeting between these divisional foes so far this season, a 120-118 overtime triumph in Memphis on Nov. 16. New Orleans also has won eight of its last nine games against the Grizzlies.
- Attendance was 10,386.
- Memphis (6-13) has lost six games by three points or less.
- The Hornets (13-7) evened their home record at 5-5.