NEW ORLEANS -- Marcus Thornton's shooting touch returned at the right time for the New Orleans Hornets.
Thornton had a season-high 22 points and nine rebounds, complementing Emeka Okafor's 18-point, 14-rebound performance, and New Orleans outlasted Orlando 92-89 in overtime on Wednesday night, snapping the Magic's nine-game winning streak.
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Hornets coach Monty Williams said he wasn't planning to use Thornton, a former LSU star who was 6 for 33 shooting in his previous seven games. Then starting shooting guard Marco Belinelli sprained his right ankle in the first quarter and plans changed.
"Marcus came in and did phenomenal," Okafor said. "[He] came in off the bench and did what he does best, which is score."
Thornton has been known to score in bunches but his shooting slump was costing him playing time lately. When Belinelli went out, he said his goal was "just to step up and try to fill the void."
He did, particularly in overtime, when he hit a 3 early in the period, then nailed a jumper from the top of the key with 37 seconds left to put the Hornets up 90-89.
Dwight Howard, whose 29 points and 20 rebounds kept the Magic in the game, missed a pair of free throws that could have given Orlando a one-point lead with 11 seconds to go. Then Thornton made two more free throws for the final margin.
"You can't just look at it as the [missed] free throws lost the game," Howard said. "There were a lot of plays down the stretch that we didn't make. We didn't play as hard as we're supposed to play and they got easy buckets. ... There was a lot of mistakes that we made to put us in that position."
"I guess we play slow," Paul said. "But it's a combo of that and our defense. We got stops. They really like to push the tempo and shoot 3s in transition, but we tried to be up and be aggressive and make them take tough shots."
The Magic averaged 107.7 points during their winning streak, but couldn't even get to 90 with an extra five minutes.
Orlando coach Stan Van Gundy was in little mood to discuss the performance of the Hornets defense under lead assistant coach Michael Malone, whose father, Brendan, is an assistant with Orlando.
"Who was he guarding?" Van Gundy said, not cracking a smile, then shrugging his shoulders. "I mean, Mike's a great coach."
Richardson scored 21 points, hitting five 3-pointers, including a pair that helped Orlando erase a seven-point deficit in the final minute of regulation. Anderson hit four 3s and had 14 points.
New Orleans led throughout the second half, going up by as much as 10 points in the third quarter.
The Hornets appeared to have the game in their grasp when Paul's driving floater made it 79-72 with 1:36 left in regulation and Orlando followed with a turnover on a failed alley-oop pass intended for Howard.
Then Richardson started the comeback with his fourth and fifth 3s of the game to pull Orlando to 80-78 with 43.3 seconds to go. After Paul missed one of two free throws, Hedo Turkoglu hit an open 3 with 6.9 seconds left and West's 16-foot jumper rimmed out at the buzzer, forcing overtime.
Orlando players came skipping off the bench after West's miss, their smiles a sign they were confident the extra period would be all they needed to extend their winning streak to what would have been a franchise-record 10 games.
"We know how to win games, so instead of losing our composure and allowing a team to get in our heads and get us frustrated ... we did a good job of getting back into the game," Howard said. "I never thought we were going to lose this game at all."
Thornton credited Williams for saying the right things to keep the Hornets playing with confidence.
"He kept saying, 'Keep your head up. We're going to win this game,' " Thornton said. "With the guys we have, we all believe in our defense and that's what enabled us to win."
When overtime started, Howard dunked a missed shot, then converted a difficult tip-in to put Orlando up 87-84.
The Hornets came back to take an 88-87 lead on Ariza's layup, but Richardson's fast-break layup gave the Magic another slim lead.
After the Hornets regained the lead on Thornton's jumper from the top of the key, the Hornets forced two straight Orlando misses, but Howard got the offensive rebound both times and was fouled. The second foul put Howard on the line, but he missed both foul shots with 11.6 seconds to go.
Orlando had one more chance to tie it after Thornton's last free throws, but J.J. Redick capped an uncharacteristically poor 2-of-11 shooting night with a missed 3 and Paul got the rebound, running out the clock.
|Magic coach Stan Van Gundy doesn't seem comfortable with the sight of Jameer Nelson trying to guard Chris Paul in a close game. (AP)|
|New Orleans (23-16) «||17||23||27||14||11||92|
|ORL:D. Howard 29 Pts
ORL:D. Howard 20 Reb
ORL:J. Nelson 10 Ast
|NO:M. Thornton 22 Pts
NO:E. Okafor 14 Reb
NO:C. Paul 13 Ast
|Players of the Game|
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|D. Howard, C||48||13-19||3-7||20||0||2||29|
|J. Richardson, SG||43||8-16||0-0||7||1||5||21|
|J. Nelson, PG||39||1-9||0-0||1||10||1||2|
|H. Turkoglu, SF||34||2-10||2-3||3||4||2||8|
|B. Bass, PF||32||3-13||0-0||9||0||3||6|
|J. Redick, SG||34||2-11||0-0||0||2||1||5|
|R. Anderson, PF||21||5-9||0-0||8||0||1||14|
|G. Arenas, PG||14||2-5||0-0||2||2||1||4|
|J. Williams, PG||Did Not Play|
|Q. Richardson, SG||Did Not Play|
|M. Allen, PF||Did Not Play|
|C. Duhon, PG||Did Not Play|
|E. Clark, SF||Did Not Play|
|D. Orton, C||Did Not Play|
|Complete Box Score|
|T. Ariza, SG||46||7-12||0-0||4||2||3||16|
|E. Okafor, C||46||8-11||2-8||14||0||3||18|
|C. Paul, PG||41||5-12||2-3||5||13||0||12|
|D. West, PF||37||6-18||1-2||10||4||3||13|
|M. Belinelli, SG||1||0-0||0-0||1||0||0||0|
|M. Thornton, SG||32||7-18||6-6||9||1||1||22|
|W. Green, SG||18||3-6||0-0||2||1||0||7|
|Q. Pondexter, SF||16||0-2||0-0||1||0||1||0|
|J. Jack, PG||14||1-6||0-0||2||1||0||2|
|A. Gray, C||7||1-1||0-0||1||0||0||2|
|J. Smith, PF||7||0-1||0-0||1||1||0||0|
|D. Andersen, C||Did Not Play|
|M. Banks, PG||Did Not Play|
|D. Mbenga, C||Did Not Play|
|Complete Box Score|