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NEW ORLEANS - It didnâ€™t take long for first-year New Orleans Hornets head coach Monty Williams to earn his first regular season victory. Chris Paul made sure of it.
Paul scored 17 points and handed out 16 assists in an All-Star performance to lead the Hornets to a 95-91 win over the Milwaukee Bucks in front of 15,039 at New Orleans Arena on Wednesday night.
Williams admitted he was a little nervous heading into his coaching debut. â€œIâ€™ll calm down in July when weâ€™re not playing anymore,â€ Williams said. â€œItâ€™s natural for me. Itâ€™s the same way I was when I played. You want to do well. You want the guys to perform well. But at the end of the day itâ€™s just basketball.â€
David West led all scorers with 22 points despite playing only 27 minutes due to foul trouble. Marco Belinelli added 18 points in his first game as a Hornet. The Hornets were efficient on the offensive end, committing only nine turnovers. Newcomer Trevor Ariza also reached double figures with 11 points. Ariza was active on defense, recording four steals.
Milwaukee was nearly able to spoil the Hornetsâ€™ home opener behind Carlos Delfinoâ€™s 19 point effort. Delfino made five three pointers, including one late in the game to cut the Hornetsâ€™ lead to 92-91 with 1:23 left in the fourth quarter. Paul was able to keep the Hornets ahead with two free throws on New Orleansâ€™ next possession.
Andrew Bogut turned in a double-double for the Bucks with 15 points and 15 rebounds. Brandon Jennings and Drew Gooden each scored 15 points, while Corey Maggette scored 16 points off the bench.
The Hornets were solid on the defensive end, holding Milwaukee to 42.9% shooting for the game. However, Paul believes that his team can improve on defense.
â€œDefensively we have to get better. Towards the end of the game we did a good job of helping and recovering,â€ Paul said. â€œThe thing that I love most about our team right now is weâ€™re angry and upset when teams score on us. We know what weâ€™re capable of on the defensive end. If we keep that mindset it could be a great season for us.â€
Jason Smith and Marcus Thornton provided a boost off New Orleansâ€™ bench, each scoring eight points. Willie Green added four points for the Hornets. Center Emeka Okafor struggled through a scoreless night, but grabbed nine rebounds.
The remodeled Hornets were not perfect against Milwaukee, but for a club with several new pieces, there is reason for optimism this season.â€œItâ€™s going to take time for us to continue to grow, get our chemistry and our rhythm,â€ West said. â€œWeâ€™re glad to get this win. We just have to fight. Every game we just have to be prepared and grow. There are some things we did that we have to shore up, but there are also some areas that we can be proud of, if only for one night.â€
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