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Paul takes heated PG matchup with Kidd; Hornets snip Nets

EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. (AP) -- The New Orleans Hornets still aren't quite sure how they won this one.

Chris Paul made sure they couldn't lose it.

Paul made the tiebreaking layup with 2.6 seconds left and finished with a season-high 27 points, leading the Hornets to an 84-82 victory over the New Jersey Nets on Monday night.

Paul added seven assists and six rebounds in his marquee point guard matchup with Jason Kidd. He had another huge play shortly before his basket, coming up with a steal after his own miss and finding Morris Peterson, who converted a four-point play to tie it with a minute left.

"I don't know how we won the game," Hornets coach Byron Scott said. "These are the type of games last year we probably would have lost. It tells a lot about the resiliency we have on this team. Chris Paul wasn't having one of his best nights in terms of taking care of the ball but man, did he come up with a big steal after turning it over."

Tyson Chandler had 14 points and 12 rebounds for the Hornets (6-2), who made up a late 11-point deficit and won on back-to-back nights following their first two losses of the season.

"There were a few times down the stretch where I felt it might be over, we might not get back into it," Paul said. "We showed a lot of fight. The starters got us into that situation. Thankfully, we were able to get us out of that situation."

Richard Jefferson scored a season-high 32 points for the Nets, but he was shut out in the fourth quarter after a huge third. Kidd finished with 14 points, 10 assists and nine rebounds.

"We had an eight-, nine-point lead without me scoring in the fourth quarter. So obviously we were doing something right," Jefferson said. "My job is to get my teammates open. In the third quarter I had a bunch of shots, in the fourth quarter we had great looks. We just made a couple of bonehead plays down the stretch that didn't allow us to finish it out."

New Jersey played without Vince Carter, who sprained his ankle Saturday in a loss to Boston and is out indefinitely. Antoine Wright, who started for Carter, was just short with a potential tying jumper before the buzzer.

Nenad Krstic had season highs of 12 points and 10 rebounds in his best game of the season after he missed the final 56 games of last season with a knee injury. He had been averaging just 6.5 points and 4.2 rebounds.

However, Krstic missed two free throws with the game tied with 42 seconds to play, then missed a jumper that gave the Hornets a chance to win it.

"This one hurts probably more than anything right now because it's a game where we should have won, but just made some bad plays," Wright said.

New Orleans controlled the first two quarters, but Jefferson scored 16 points -- equaling the Hornets' total -- as the Nets turned around the game in the third.

New Jersey eventually went ahead by 11 on Wright's bucket with under 5 minutes to play. But Paul made a 3-pointer to trigger a 10-1 spurt that pulled the Hornets to 80-78 on David West's basket with 2:11 left.

The Nets still seemed safe after Wright knocked down a jumper, then Paul turned it over and missed a shot. But he followed that miss by swiping the ball from Jason Collins, who then added to his mistake by fouling Peterson.

"I felt a lot of responsibility because the previous two or three possessions, I either turned it over or missed a shot," Paul said. "When I was able to get that steal, Mo P hit the biggest shot of the game. The four-point play changed the game around."

Paul entered the game averaging a league-high 11.1 assists, with Kidd just behind at 10.5. Kidd claimed the starting point guard spot on the U.S. national team last summer that the injured Paul manned for most of the 2006 world championships.

Paul got off to a quick start, scoring 13 points in the first quarter to help New Orleans open a 26-21 lead. Peja Stojakovic hit all three 3-point attempts in the period, then nailed another one with 5:01 remaining in the half to give the Hornets their largest lead, 42-29.

New Orleans led 49-37 at the half, but the Nets quickly got back into it as Jefferson asserted himself in the third. He had eight points in a 12-4 spurt that brought New Jersey within one, then hit a 3-pointer and converted a three-point play to give the Nets a 64-61 lead, their first since it was 2-0.

Kidd drilled a 3 with 56 seconds left and the Nets brought a 67-65 lead to the final period.

Game notes
This was the fourth game Carter has missed since Nets acquired him from Toronto on Dec. 17, 2004. The Nets lost the previous three. ... Scott improved to 2-5 vs. the Nets, the team he led to consecutive NBA finals appearances in 2002-03. ... Jefferson entered the night sixth in the league in scoring with 26 points per game. He has led the Nets in scoring in all seven games this season.

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