Tyson Chandler wanted to keep up with Chris Paul on a fast break, but could only stop and watch in amazement when he saw Paul dribbled the ball through Jason Terry’s legs at full speed before tossing a pass back to Rasual Butler for a dunk.
“Incredible. He made one of the best moves I’ve ever seen in my life—on an NBA player,” Chandler said. “I was at halfcourt and I just stopped. I couldn’t even finish the break because I had never seen anything like that.”
It was perhaps the best of numerous highlights in the latest dominant performance by Paul, whose 27 points and 15 assists helped the Hornets increase their season-best winning streak to six with a 104-88 victory over the Dallas Mavericks on Thursday night.
Paul’s exploits also included a behind-the-back dribble on a fast-break before setting up James Posey for a layup. Paul hit 10 of 18 shots from the field, scoring on everything from driving floaters over crowds inside to perimeter jumpers before leaving the game to a standing ovation with 3:59 remaining and the game well in hand.
“He just controlled the game from halftime on,” Dallas guard Jason Kidd said. “He made the jump shots and made all the right plays.”
Paul said he had little choice but to try to pull off his razzle-dazzle dribble between Terry’s legs because he was bolting for the basket at full speed and running out of room.
“It was quick thinking. It was either run through him or throw the ball through his legs and pick it up on the other side,” Paul said. “I’ve done it before in practice. … It was the quickest thing I could come up with.”
David West scored 19 and Rasual Butler 18 for the Hornets, who haven’t lost since center Chandler returned to the lineup from a left ankle injury—and rescinded trade—last week. Chandler’s minutes were limited by foul trouble, but he still finished with 11 rebounds and 10 points, slamming down several alley-oop feeds from Paul.
Dirk Nowitzki led Dallas with 27 points and Jason Kidd added 13 and Terry 10, but the Mavericks faded during the last 10 minutes as the game turned into a blowout.
The game was tied at 56 when Paul began to take over, scoring on a drive into a crowd and on a soft midrange jumper during consecutive possessions. That ignited a 15-3 run during which Paul scored eight points before Butler capped the surge with a 3-pointer, putting the Hornets up 71-59.
Nowitzki single-handedly helped Dallas pull back to single digits, scoring the Mavs’ last eight points of the period on a jumper and six free throws. Nowitzki had all 27 of his points through the first three quarters, after which Dallas trailed 75-67.
The Mavs, who’d pulled out a hard-fought 107-102 victory over San Antonio a night earlier, seemed to lack the energy needed to come back in the fourth quarter—or do anything to stop New Orleans’ All-Star point guard.
“We just ran out of juice,” Terry said. “It wasn’t a lack of effort. There just wasn’t enough juice left in the tank.”
Paul hit a driving layup, a midrange jumper and a 3 before making a steal to start a fast break that ended with Butler’s dunk. While the crowd chanted “M-V-P,” Paul added a couple more free throws, giving the Hornets a 95-76 lead with 5:03 to play, and New Orleans’ lead got as big as 22.
Thanks to Paul’s ability to penetrate and Chandler’s finishing, New Orleans dominated the inside, outscoring Dallas 52-24 and outrebounding the Mavs 41-35.
“We’re clicking pretty well at this point,” West said. “We talked about having a run where we can put together consecutive wins. We’re just feeling good about what we’re trying to do. I think this is a good time of the year to be doing that.”