OKLAHOMA CITY -- Byron Scott got to eat at his favorite restaurant, visit with his daughter and take a trip down Memory Lane in the city where his team started heading back in the right direction.
David West scored 19 points, Chris Paul added 17 in the city where his NBA career began and the Hornets had a triumphant return to Oklahoma City on Friday night with a 105-80 victory over the Thunder.
The Hornets' starters received a warm welcome from a sellout crowd, then got to take the fourth quarter off in a dominating defensive performance that stopped a two-game losing skid.
"This is the topping. This is the icing on the cake is to come out and to play as well as we played tonight," Scott said. "It's always good to see my daughter, but to come out here and play the way we did tonight was great.
"It makes the flight back home a little less tedious."
After getting into town a night early, Scott ate at his favorite restaurant and stopped by to see his daughter, who decided to stay in the Oklahoma City area to go to school after the team's two-year stay ended.
He overshot the visitors' locker room on his way into the arena and had to backtrack after catching himself heading toward his old office.
That's about the extent of the problems the team had in its first regular-season game in the Ford Center in 19 months.
"Early in the season like this, you're just trying to build your identity. You're just trying to make sure defense is a constant every night, and that's what we're trying to do," Paul said.
"It's such a long season, but right now is when you start to put your imprint on the season and your team understands what everything's all about."
The Hornets spent two seasons playing at the Ford Center after Hurricane Katrina displaced them in August 2005, and Oklahoma City fans fell in love with the team as it rebuilt from an 18-win season to be in contention for the playoffs.
It hasn't been such a fairy tale for the Thunder so far coming off their own franchise-worst 20-win season. The loss gives them 10 in a row for only the fifth time in franchise history, and it's only the third time they've had that many consecutive defeats in a single season.
Having the Hornets in town only provided a reminder of how a team can go from the bottom to the top in practically no time. The Hornets went from being dreadful the year before they arrived in Oklahoma City to being a playoff team the year after they left.
"I think we have a really good team, a really special team. A few of the guys from when we were here, but we're a championship-caliber team when we put our mind to it," Paul said.
The Thunder had less than 24 hours to find solutions to what Collison called a "very long" list of issues before facing the Hornets again Saturday night in New Orleans. He suggested the team should stay positive by taking a step back and realizing they can't complain when other people are losing their jobs in a fading economy.
"No one should feel sorry for us," Collison said. "We're in a good situation. We've just got to try to play the best we can. That's all we can really do. We can't control much else."
With his team way ahead, Paul took the opportunity to remind the Oklahoma City fans what they'd been missing the past 17 months since his last game in the city. He won the Rookie of the Year award his first season in Oklahoma City, and he's picked up some new moves since then.
He had a dazzling move along the side of the lane, dribbling between his legs with his right hand and keeping it on his right side before scooping it in for a layup. He followed that with a behind-the-back pass that helped set up a 3-pointer by Peja Stojakovic in the corner.
Paul beat the shot clock buzzer with a 3-pointer and added a jumper in the lane during another 14-2 spurt that stretched the lead to 80-51 in the third quarter, but then made an early exit in the third quarter after picking up his fifth foul.
The rest of the starters soon joined him on the bench.
"One game doesn't solve all our problems, but we're trying to get on a roll here," Scott said. "We can only do it on the defensive end if we start playing the way we played tonight on a consistent basis."
The win put New Orleans back above .500 at 6-5 and maybe provided a needed shot in the arm.
"We know we still have fans here and we still love this city and the way that they treated us while we were here," Scott said. "It was good to come back and play against their team now, but it was also good to see a bunch of the people that we saw when we were here the last couple of years."
|Chris Paul scores 17 points in only 29 minutes in the Hornets' blowout win over the Thunder. (AP)|
|New Orleans (6-5) «||26||34||23||22||105|
|Oklahoma City (1-12)||17||22||18||23||80|
|NO:D. West 19 Pts
NO:D. West 8 Reb
NO:C. Paul 6 Ast
|OKC:K. Durant 17 Pts
OKC:N. Collison 13 Reb
OKC:E. Watson 4 Ast
|Players of the Game|
|Oklahoma City||New Orleans|
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|R. Butler, SG||29||3-12||0-0||3||0||2||8|
|D. West, PF||29||6-11||7-7||8||2||3||19|
|C. Paul, PG||27||6-9||4-4||6||6||5||17|
|P. Stojakovic, SG||25||5-14||0-0||1||2||1||13|
|T. Chandler, C||22||0-0||0-0||6||0||3||0|
|D. Brown, SG||26||6-10||3-4||2||4||4||16|
|J. Posey, SF||22||3-8||1-1||1||2||2||8|
|H. Armstrong, PF||20||6-7||1-4||2||0||4||13|
|J. Wright, SF||19||3-6||0-0||3||3||0||6|
|R. Bowen, SF||8||2-3||0-0||3||0||1||4|
|M. James, PG||7||0-0||0-0||0||1||0||0|
|M. Ely, C||6||0-1||1-2||0||1||1||1|
|S. Marks, C||Did Not Play|
|M. Peterson, SG||Did Not Play|
|Complete Box Score|
|K. Durant, SF||34||5-13||6-6||2||0||3||17|
|J. Green, SF||29||0-6||3-4||5||2||1||3|
|N. Collison, C||25||5-9||6-6||13||0||3||16|
|J. Petro, C||24||2-7||0-0||7||1||2||4|
|E. Watson, PG||19||1-3||0-0||2||4||3||2|
|R. Westbrook, PG||29||5-14||5-6||3||3||3||15|
|D. Wilkins, SG||26||2-5||2-3||2||1||2||7|
|C. Wilcox, PF||23||3-6||1-1||8||1||3||7|
|J. Smith, PF||18||1-4||0-0||2||0||0||2|
|K. Weaver, SG||7||1-2||0-0||0||2||1||3|
|M. Sene, C||6||1-2||2-3||4||0||1||4|
|D. Mason, SF||Did Not Play|
|R. Swift, C||Did Not Play|
|D. White, PF||Did Not Play|
|S. Hill, C||Did Not Play|
|Complete Box Score|