NEW ORLEANS – Tyson Chandler keeps finding ways to put his 7-foot-1 body in the right spot – and now he’s putting the New Orleans Hornets back in the thick of the playoff race.
Even though the Hornets shot 37.1 percent, Chandler’s 19 rebounds – 10 on the offensive end – helped New Orleans hold on for a 98-97 victory over the Seattle SuperSonics on Friday night.
“The ones he couldn’t get he tipped out. He’s one of the best in the league in rebounding,” Seattle’s Nick Collison said. “I felt like a lot of times I was in good position between him and the basket, but he just went over my back. There’s not a lot you can do on those plays. Maybe yell and scream and hope the ref bails you out, but they didn’t do that tonight.”
David West had 23 points and 11 rebounds, and Chandler added 15 points as New Orleans (27-29) moved ahead of idle Golden State (26-29) by a half game for the eighth and final playoff spot in the Western Conference.
Chris Paul finished with 13 points and played a crucial role in the final minute. He rebounded Ray Allen’s missed jumper, then ran the shot clock down inside of 5 seconds before darting behind Chandler’s screen and hitting a jumper to give New Orleans a 98-94 lead with 38 seconds left.
Rashard Lewis’ 3-pointer with 30 seconds to go cut the lead to 98-97. Paul then ran down the clock, but he missed with 6.6 seconds to go, giving Seattle one more chance to win it.
Allen, who led the Sonics with 32 points, took a difficult shot from the left wing at the buzzer, which rimmed out.
“I got the shot I wanted. I’m disappointed obviously it didn’t go in,” Allen said. “We’re sitting here in the locker room in a different mood if it does go in. For any great shooter, great scorer, great athlete, you have to be willing to step up and make that great play down the stretch for your team and not worry about failing.”
Allen hit 11 of 20 shots, including five 3-pointers, so the blame could hardly fall on him.
The obvious difference was New Orleans’ 26 offensive rebounds, which yielded 25 second-chance points. The Hornets finished with a 56-42 advantage in rebounds overall.
“Coming in, we were really concerned about Chandler’s length … and we couldn’t get a rebound,” Sonics coach Bob Hill said. “I have to be happy about a lot of things that happened out there under the circumstances. Ray was great.”
As was Lewis, who finished with 18 points and 12 rebounds. Earl Watson scored 18 for Seattle, which saw its recent winning streak end at three games.
Bobby Jackson scored 17 and Desmond Mason 10 for the Hornets, who weathered early-season injuries and have won 11 of 15 games to get back into playoff contention with 26 games left in the regular season.
“The Sonics recalled rookie center Mouhamed Sene from Idaho of the NBA Developmental League. Sene will be in uniform for tonight’s game at San Antonio.
It’s the second time Sene has been called back up from the D-League. With Idaho, Sene has played in 15 games, averaging 9.9 points and 7.2 rebounds in 21 minutes per game.
With the Sonics, Sene has played in 18 games and averaged 1.4 points.