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Paul-led Hornets climb to No. 4; Mavs finding groove

Posted: Monday January 7, 2008 12:20PM; Updated: Monday January 7, 2008 12:57PM
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Next month's All-Star Game isn't the only reason for New Orleans hoops fans to be excited. The Hornets also are becoming a story -- even if their attendance doesn't show it. Back in the Big Easy this season after two years spent mostly in Oklahoma City in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina, New Orleans is off to a franchise-best start.

Chris Paul has led the way in the Hornets' resurgence, but the third-year point guard hasn't done it by himself. David West, Tyson Chandler, Peja Stojakovic and Morris Peterson have been big contributors as well. It remains to be seen whether the Hornets can stay healthy -- they were ravaged by injuries a year ago -- but their return to New Orleans has been a huge success so far -- on the court at least.

This week's high riser: Cavs (No. 15 from 19)
This week's big drop: Bobcats (No. 28 from 24)

NBA Power Rankings
Rank LW Team
1 1 Take that, Baby! Behind Glen (Big Baby) Davis' career-high 20 points, they won at Detroit on Saturday night to make it nine straight victories and avenge that two-point loss to the Pistons on Dec. 19. With six of their next nine games at home, they're going to stay atop the East for a while, too.
2 3 They welcomed back Manu Ginobili (sprained finger) for Sunday's win at the Clippers, putting their Big Three back together for the first time in weeks. "He's a great guy to make things happen and find open shots," Tim Duncan said of Ginobili. "We missed that the last few games."
3 2 As if having their 11-game winning streak snapped by the Celtics wasn't bad enough, now they face a back-to-back at the Mavs (Wednesday) and Spurs (Thursday). They're going to need their bench corps of Jason Maxiell, Jarvis Hayes, Arron Afflalo and Rodney Stuckey (a.k.a. The Zoo Crew) to be animals in those contests.
4 5 The Chris Paul All-Star Showcase continues. They won at Phoenix on Saturday (without West, sore hip) to give them three straight victories and eight in their last nine games. Paul had 28 points and 10 assists as they improved their road record to 14-5, best in the West.
5 4 Triumph of the triangle: Kobe Bryant isn't their only scoring option anymore. They had five scorers in double figures in Sunday's 112-96 win over the Pacers, their 12th victory in 15 games. As a team, they rank third in the NBA in both scoring (107.2) and field goal percentage (47.4).
6 9 Four straight victories through Sunday, including last week's soul-cleansing 121-99 pounding of those hated Warriors, has them feeling better about themselves. Dirk Nowitzki has picked it up, too, averaging 25.8 points, 10.3 boards, 3.3 assists and 1.5 blocks over a recent eight-game span.
7 6 Saturday's home loss to the Hornets snapped their four-game winning streak and left them with a 1-6 mark against teams in playoff position in the West. It also marked the first time in 20 games that they lost a game in which they led entering the fourth quarter.
8 8 They downed the Jazz (for the third time in five weeks) on Saturday night for their 16th victory in 17 games as they continue to shock the world. Their bench, led by Travis Outlaw, James Jones, Jarrett Jack and Channing Frye, has outscored its counterparts in 15 of the last 17 games.
9 7 With Troy Hudson shutting it down for the rest of the season to undergo hip surgery, they need a backup point guard for Baron Davis. Earl Boykins? Darius Washington? A trade for Carlos Arroyo or Keyon Dooling? At least Austin Croshere (back) should be back soon to help shore up the bench.
10 12 Allen Iverson said he had no extra motivation in Sunday's meeting against his former Sixers team. Yeah, right. Led by AI's 38 points, the Nuggets pounded Philly for their third straight victory and sixth in seven games. Iverson will get his first chance to play at Philly when the teams meet March 19.

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