Paul had 26 points and 10 assists, and New Orleans snapped a two-game skid with an 88-79 victory over Houston on Friday night.
"Yesterday was just embarrassing," Paul said. "I don't know if it was a wake-up call. We just knew we needed to come back and give a better effort, and this is something that's been a roller coaster for us and needs to become a constant."
The Hornets credited center Tyson Chandler for playing tough on both ends against Yao in an effort to wear him out.
Chandler had 14 points and 12 rebounds, including a crucial tip-in with 2:32 left and a late offensive rebound on a tip-out to Paul that helped seal the victory. The Hornets left Chandler to guard Yao one-one-on for much of the fourth quarter, when Yao had only a single point on a free throw.
"I knew I needed to be aggressive because if you allow him to rest on one end, he's a tough matchup offensively," Chandler said. "So I wanted to keep him working on both ends and see if I can get him winded a little bit."
Yao wasn't the only Rocket who struggle to make shots in crunch time.
The Rockets were only 2-of-14 shooting in the fourth quarter and did not hit a field goal in the last 8:47 of the game, stayed within striking distance only because they hit 11 of 13 free throws in the period.
Asked what happened to the Rockets' offense, McGrady said, "I think we left it back in Houston."
"We had some great looks, even down the stretch. The offense just wasn't there for us," McGrady said, adding that he is still in the process of recovering from offseason arthroscopic surgery on his left knee.
"I'm not 100 percent," McGrady said. "I'm gutting it out. ... Some nights I feel like I could go 30 to 35 minutes, some night I feel like I can't do anything at all."
McGrady's free throws pulled Houston as close as 79-76 with 2:09 to go. Paul then found West for a baseline jumper, and after Yao missed a 15-footer, Paul ran down the shot clock before hitting 20-footer to make it 83-76 with 55 seconds left.
McGrady's three free throws after he was fouled on a 3-point attempt made it 83-79, but Paul added two more free throws and Houston did not threaten again.
In the end, poor shooting doomed Houston, which finished at 36.1 percent (26-of-72) from the floor.
The Hornets shot 44.6 percent, and while Houston was 22-of-27 on free throws, New Orleans nearly matched that by going 19-of-24. New Orleans also outrebounded Houston 47-39.
The Hornets past two losses both were by double digits, starting with a 100-87 loss to the Los Angeles Lakers last Wednesday.
Paul and West led the Hornets to a solid start against Houston, combining for 31 points in the first half, after which the Hornets led 46-44.
Yao kept Houston close with strong play inside, scoring 11 points.
New Orleans showed signs of pulling away in the third quarter when Paul converted Butler's steal into a fast-break layup, Chandler tipped in an alley-oop pass from Paul and Butler tipped in Paul's miss to put the Hornets up 58-49.
Yao's hook shot then started a 7-0 Houston run capped by Shane Battier's 3 from the corner. When New Orleans went up 62-56 on Chandler's jump hook, Yao responded with a three-point play. Brent Barry then hit his second 3 of the game to tie it at 62. The teams exchanged baskets before Chandler scored inside to give the Hornets a 66-64 lead heading into the fourth quarter.
His club's minislump over, Hornets coach Byron Scott said he was proud of his team's response, but also declared, "Right now we are not one of the elite teams in the league.
"We've got a ways to go," Scott continued. "You look at the elite teams, they bring it every night and that's what we've got to get to."
- Houston F Ron Artest (right ankle) sat out for Houston, while Peja Stojakovic (back) and Hilton Armstrong (right thumb) were unable to play for New Orleans.
- Paul has double-digit assists in 20 games this season
- Houston is 4-4 in the Southwest Division.
- The Hornets have held 10 of their past 11 opponents to 95 or fewer points.