Paul set an NBA record with a steal in his 106th consecutive regular-season game and had 19 points and 12 assists to lead New Orleans to a 90-83 comeback victory Wednesday night.
Paul broke Alvin Robertson's NBA mark -- which stood since 1986 -- when he deflected and quickly corralled an attempted pass by Tony Parker late in the second quarter.
"It's an unbelievable achievement. Hopefully nobody else will come break it," said Paul, who often preaches the importance of getting turnovers in order to ignite the transition offense he leads so creatively. "I figure since I set the record, why not smash it? Let's see how long it can go."
David West scored 21 points for New Orleans, hitting a pair of late 3s to help erase a seven-point deficit in the last five minutes.
"Luckily, they went down," West said. "I just let them go. That's what you've got to do. You can't be thinking. Obviously, knowing we were down, we just needed some plays. We needed something good to happen for us and it didn't stop there. Other guys made some big plays down the stretch and were able to really push us forward."
With the victory, the Hornets (15-7) narrowly held on to first place in the rugged Southwest Division, moving ahead of idle Houston (16-9) by a half-game and the Spurs (15-9) by a full game.
Parker led San Antonio with 20 points, and Tim Duncan had 16 points and 11 rebounds.
Paul received a brief rest to start the fourth quarter before checking back in with 8:50 to go and New Orleans trailing 74-67. Soon after, he converted a layup while getting fouled on a ball fake as he hung in the air. He then used a crafty bounce pass to set up West for an open jumper that pulled New Orleans to 75-72 with 6:25 to go.
Those plays sparked a 23-8 Hornets run to close out the game.
"I know when coach calls on me in the fourth quarter, that's my time to do what I do," Paul said. "I knew I had to be aggressive. We didn't have another quarter left. Don't hold anything back."
The Spurs, who led 74-65 after Manu Ginobili's driving layup early in the fourth quarter, did little else to help themselves offensively the rest of the period, when they shot 19 percent (4-for-21).
"New Orleans did a great job down the stretch," Spurs coach Gregg Popovich said. "They had mental and physical toughness. ... They just outplayed us in the last four minutes. They made a couple of shots, we didn't, and that was the game."
Tyson Chandler had 10 points and 11 rebounds and gave the Hornets the lead for good with a pair of free throws with 2:13 to go. On the Spurs' next possession, the Hornets got a stop and took off on the fast break, which Rasual Butler converted when he put back James Posey's miss. Posey then hit a 3 to make it 85-79 with 1:06 to go and San Antonio did not threaten again.
Butler finished with 13 points for the Hornets, who needed him to produce with Peja Stojakovic sidelined by back spasms.
Ginobili was 3-for-4 from 3-point range and had 17 points and nine rebounds for San Antonio, but was neutralized for the last 10 minutes of the game.
San Antonio hit nine of 26 3-pointers (34.6 percent), but the Hornets responded with 7-of-17 shooting (41.2 percent) from long range. New Orleans outshot San Antonio overall, 43.2 percent to 38.8 percent.
The Hornets, who've won three in a row and 10 of their last 12 games, also appeared to be the hungrier team inside, outrebounding the Spurs 48-39.
Defense defined much of the game from the outset. The first quarter ended with the Spurs leading 15-14 after George Hill's 3 from the corner.
Parker's fast-break layup as he was fouled by Paul capped a 7-0 run that gave San Antonio a 30-26 lead, but the Hornets rallied back to take a 33-32 lead on Paul's 16-foot jumper, which he hit two possessions after victimizing Parker for his record-breaking steal.
The crowd was still buzzing from Paul's exploits when Parker got his revenge, bottling up Paul and stripping him near midcourt before setting up Ginobili for a fast-break 3. Parker then added a jumper and banked in a 3, giving San Antonio its largest lead of the half at 42-35 before Paul hit a driving layup moments before time expired in the second quarter.
- Duncan surpassed 10,000 rebounds for his career during the game, making him the 33rd player in NBA history to do so. "It just means I'm getting older," Duncan quipped. Now in his 12th season, he has 10,006 rebounds in his career. Last month, he became only the 14th player in league history to surpass 2,000 blocks. He blocked one shot against New Orleans.
- Michael Finley appeared in his 1,000th career NBA game.
- Paul finished with three steals. Now in his fourth year in the NBA, Paul has 62 steals this season and 572 in his career.
- The Hornets have held nine of their past 12 opponents to 95 or fewer points.