HOUSTON -- The Houston Rockets refused to let a big fourth-quarter lead slip away two nights in a row.
Paul, who came in averaging 22 points, went 2-of-10 from the field and made all eight free throws to score 12. He had 12 assists, but the Hornets shot 41 percent (31-for-76) and were outrebounded 41-35.
Luis Scola added 12 points and 10 rebounds for the Rockets, who led by 12 at the half and shot 53 percent (8-for-15) in the third quarter to take a 70-53 lead to the fourth. The Hornets couldn't crack Houston's double-digit lead until David West sank a 3-pointer with 14 seconds left.
The Rockets blew a 14-point, fourth-quarter lead in a 77-75 loss in San Antonio on Friday night. They all came out to atone against the Hornets -- most of all McGrady, who went 2-for-12 against the Spurs.
"I felt that in the first couple minutes, the guys had a bad taste in their mouths and we needed to come out and get this one," said McGrady, who went 5-for-12 from the field and 7-for-7 from the line. "This was a great win for us collectively."
The Rockets swarmed Paul whenever he tried to drive the lane and the frustrated point guard finished with three turnovers. He twisted his ankle with 3:14 left in the first half, but stayed in the game and played 35 minutes.
"Chris is a phenomenal point guard who likes to probe a lot," McGrady said. "Our guys really did a great job not getting caught up in picks, staying with him and either making him take tough shots or kicking it to his guys who were covered. We didn't give many wide-open looks."
Paul said all the Hornets played lethargically.
"We expect so much of ourselves," Paul said. "We have to reach down inside and bring more energy every night. Every time we step on the court, we have to fight and play hungry and not just go through the motions."
James Posey scored five points in the first three minutes of the fourth quarter, but McGrady was fouled putting back his own miss and sank the free throw to preserve Houston's comfortable lead.
The Hornets, who came in shooting 45.2 percent from the field for the season, missed eight of their first 12 shots in the final quarter and the Rockets led by 17 with 5 minutes left.
New Orleans twice pulled within 11 in the closing minutes, but Yao scored inside the first time and McGrady sank two free throws with 1:07 to go to put Houston up 88-75.
"At the start of the fourth quarter, it looked a little bit like last night," said Yao. "We kept saying, 'Remember yesterday.' We didn't want that to happen again."
Guarded mostly by Aaron Brooks early, Paul missed his first three shots and the Rockets built an eight-point lead in the first quarter. Brooks started for Rafer Alston, who was suspended for two games for an altercation with Matt Barnes in Phoenix on Wednesday.
McGrady hit three of four shots and scored nine points in the opening quarter. He acknowledged that he attacked the basket more than he did in San Antonio.
"I was disappointed in myself last night, not being aggressive," he said. "Tonight, I definitely wanted to make a statement and let the guys know, 'I'm here.' I wanted to get off to a good start."
The Rockets stretched the lead to 11 early in the second quarter as Paul rested on the bench. Paul returned with 5:22 left in the half, but Houston continued a 15-2 run and built a 48-31 cushion.
Morris Peterson sank a 3-pointer from the corner with 55 seconds left, the Hornets' first field goal in seven minutes.
"We didn't have any continuity or ball movement," West said. "We have to make teams defend us. Our offense was stagnant."
Paul went 0-for-5 in the first half, but also had five assists.
- Paul had one steal and has at least one in 94 consecutive games, the NBA's longest active streak.
- Paul has at least 10 assists in eight of nine games this season.
- Rockets G Brent Barry sat out for the second straight game with a sprained right thumb.
- The Rockets went 25-of-28 from the free throw line.