NEW ORLEANS — Chris Paul chose an opportune time for his first triple-double of the season.
Paul had 27 points, 15 assists and 13 rebounds, and the New Orleans Hornets held on for a 93-88 victory over the Los Angeles Lakers on Sunday night to even their first-round playoff series at 2-2.
Wearing a black wrap on his left hand and a small bandage over his right eye, Paul scored 14 of New Orleans’ 24 points in the fourth quarter. The All-Star guard then capped his brilliant performance by running down the clock and setting up Jarrett Jack’s short jumper, which made it 90-86 with 9.3 seconds left.
Kobe Bryant had 17 points for the Lakers, but did not score in the first half and finished 5 of 18 shooting. He also came up lame late in the fourth quarter, favoring his left ankle after a collision with Willie Green. Bryant’s last miss came on a 3-point attempt in the final seconds.
That forced Los Angeles to foul Jarrett Jack, and while the Hornets walked up the court, Paul triumphantly cupped his hand around his ear to soak in the roar of approval from the packed and delirious New Orleans Arena.
Trevor Ariza scored 19 for New Orleans, while Carl Landry added 16 before fouling out in the final minute.
The Hornets’ victory ensured the series, which resumes with Game 5 in Los Angeles on Tuesday night, would return to New Orleans for Game 6 on Thursday.
Pau Gasol and Ron Artest each scored 16 for Los Angeles, with all of Artest’s points coming in the first half. Andrew Bynum added 11 points, and Derek Fisher had 10.
The Hornets never trailed in the second half and led by as many as nine points, at 57-48, early in the third quarter when Marco Belinelli’s 3 capped a 20-3 spurt that had started in the second quarter.
Bryant still hadn’t scored at that point, but that was about to change dramatically. He scored the next eight points to cut New Orleans’ lead to a point. He wound up with 14 in the quarter, but with Paul driving New Orleans’ offense and helping out on the defensive end with a key steal and five rebounds, the Hornets held a 69-67 lead heading into the fourth quarter.
New Orleans opened the fourth with a flourish. After setting up Green’s 3, Paul added a tough floater from the baseline as he was fouled and a step-back jumper on the baseline capping a 12-3 run that made it 81-72 with 6:13 left.
Steve Blake turned the momentum with a 3, then Bryant added a pull-up in the lane and a free throw to cut it to 81-78 with 4:24 left.
Bryant had a chance to tie it at 83 with a little over 2 minutes left, but his shot was short and Paul scrambled for the long rebound, drawing a foul on Gasol and hitting crucial free throws to make it 85-80.