With 33 points, 11 assists, 10 rebounds and seven steals, Paul narrowly missed a rare quadruple-double, but it was still enough to pull the New Orleans Hornets to a 104-97 victory over the slumping Dallas Mavericks on Wednesday night.
"It seemed like he was everywhere," said Dallas' Antoine Wright, Paul's primary defender much of the night instead of Kidd. "He made all the right plays, all the big shots."
The Mavericks dared Paul to beat them, and he did, taking advantage of single coverage by hitting open jumper after open jumper -- when he wasn't turning steals into layups, or dishing to open teammates. For instance, he set up James Posey for a 3-pointer early in the fourth quarter that put New Orleans ahead for good. A rebound the last half-minute clinched his fourth triple-double of the season.
"Every night I just try to take what the defense gives me and tonight, they were going under ball screens and forcing me to shoot, so that's what I had to do," Paul said.
Hornets coach Byron Scott was surprised the Mavericks relied on a bigger guy like Wright to try staying with Paul. He wasn't surprised that Paul exploited it, especially with New Orleans coming off an ugly home loss and a 2-3 rut that cost it first place in the strong Southwest Division.
"You don't expect a triple-double every night and you don't expect him to have seven steals, either, but it was one of those games where he was all over the place," Scott said. "He's a very special player."
But, wait -- there's more.
Paul also guarded Jason Terry in the second half. Terry had 18 points before Paul took over, 10 after.
"I wanted to defend Jason Terry to slow him down a little bit," Paul said. "Because he's so quick, it has to be another quick guy to defend him, so we did a great job playing team defense and we slowed the team down."
Peja Stojakovic and David West each scored 16 points for New Orleans, and Devin Brown had 12. It was the Hornets' first regular-season victory in Dallas since Jan. 24, 1998. The skid was 13 straight, although they won a playoff game here last spring.
"We really didn't want to double-team (Paul) that much and leave all the shooters open and he used that freedom and killed us," said Mavs star Dirk Nowitzki, who had 20 points and 13 rebounds. "Either you get the ball out of his hands and leave the shooters around him open or you let him beat you and that's what he did."
Antoine Wright was the only other Dallas player in double figures, scoring 15.
Kidd had a triple-seven, hitting that figure in points, rebounds and assists. He was 2-of-9 shooting, a slight improvement over the 1-for-9 he shot the previous two games.
Dallas was coming off a hard-fought, last-second loss in Denver the night before, and it showed. After controlling the game for most of the first half, the Mavs came out of a back-and-forth third quarter tied at 79. They were only 3-of-12 with five turnovers in the final period when fans started heading for the exits.
"I won't fault our effort," Dallas coach Rick Carlisle said. "We just didn't play as good as a game that we needed to play."
Because the star point guards rarely went head-to-head, there weren't many eye-popping battles between them.
But there was still one real good one in the opening minutes of the second half, when Paul stole the ball from Nowitzki, then used a behind-the-back dribble to get free from Kidd on his way to scooping in a layup.
Perhaps the Mavericks should've been more aware of Paul's quick hands. His career high of nine steals came against them.
"We were careless with the ball," Terry said. "He leads the league in steals for a reason. You've got to be careful. Give him credit, they got steals and turned the game in their favor."
- Paul came in hitting 87 percent of his free throws, but missed 3 of 6 in the first half.
- Dallas' Josh Howard missed his third straight game with a shoulder injury. Coach Rick Carlisle said there's no update on his status.
- During the second quarter, Dallas led 16-4 in points in the paint. New Orleans won that category 38-28.