TORONTO - The NBA's best point guard was no match for the Toronto Raptors' third-stringer.
Chris Bosh led a balanced attack with 25 points and 11 rebounds, and the Raptors neutralized Chris Paul on the way to a 98-92 victory over the New Orleans Hornets on Sunday afternoon.
All five starters scored in double figures for the Raptors (13-17), who have won two straight following a two-game losing streak. Jarrett Jack had 15 points and seven assists, while Hedo Turkoglu added 14, Bargnani 13 and DeMar DeRozan 10. Amir Johnson pulled down a season-best 12 rebounds off the bench.
Paul, who came into the game averaging 21.4 points per game, was held to just 10 points on 3-of-13 shooting. Though he contributed in other areas - adding eight rebounds and seven assists - Paul spent most of the afternoon blanketed by Jack and seldom-used Marcus Banks, who was given high praise for his airtight defence on the two-time all-star.
"The one thing that Marcus can do is defend," said Raptors head coach Jay Triano. "Marcus can guard point guards. Chris Paul tried to post him up a couple of times, and Marcus is very strong, and did a good job holding his ground.
"He's been taking advantages of the chances he's had to play right now."
With Jose Calderon nursing a sore hip that has forced him to miss seven of the last eight games, Banks has been relied upon as a defensive stopper behind Jack. Sunday may have been his strongest effort yet - a frustrated Paul pleaded with refs repeatedly, even shouting "He's fouling me!" late in the fourth quarter after Banks made contact with him.
"It's really tough guarding a guy like Chris Paul," said Banks. "He can do anything he wants, he can go anywhere on the court he wants.
"Defence comes from the heart. You have to want to play defence. That's my job. Coach told me to come in and frustrate (Paul)."
Paul was still irked after the game.
"This was a winnable game for us," said Paul, who finished with his lowest output since scoring just two points in a loss to Portland on Nov. 13. "We didn't come out with any type of intensity. Same story, different night."
David West led the way with 21 points and 12 rebounds for the Hornets (12-14), who saw their two-game winning streak come to an end. Emeka Okafor added 16 points and 11 rebounds in defeat, while Peja Stojakovic had 12. New Orleans shot just 38.9 per cent from the field.
"It was a difficult afternoon for us offensively, all day," said Hornets coach Jeff Bower. "Toronto made us work for every shot we got and played a strong defensive game. So give Toronto all the credit."
The Raptors saw a four-point halftime lead erased when Stojakovic, who went just 1-for-7 in the first half, scored seven straight points midway through the third quarter. Paul followed with a nifty bounce pass to Okafor, who laid it in and drew the foul to give New Orleans the lead.
The Air Canada Centre crowd of 15,790 came alive after Sonny Weems tossed a lob to DeRozan for a thunderous dunk. The Raptors rode that momentum to a quarter-ending 12-2 run, and a 76-69 advantage entering the fourth.
Toronto stretched the lead to nine on a short Bosh jumper with 7:31 remaining, but the Hornets countered with a 6-0 run capped by an Okafor layup. New Orleans closed to within two on a pair of Paul free throws with 1:05 left before Bosh shut the door on the Hornets, grabbing a rebound of a Bargnani missed three and hitting a reverse layup.
Paul was called for travelling on New Orleans' next possession, and the Raptors made a pair of free throws down the stretch to ice it.
Toronto shot 47.1 per cent for the game and finished with a 52-50 rebounding advantage.
Jack was solid in the early going, scoring five points during a 10-0 run that put the Raptors up 14-6. A Brown three-pointer trimmed the deficit to three, but Bosh helped Toronto hang onto the lead with a long jumper from the right elbow. His 10 first-quarter points propelled the Raptors to a 26-22 advantage after one.
Paul left the game for the first time early in the second quarter, favouring the same left ankle that forced him to miss eight games. The Raptors failed to take advantage - James Posey hit a three to put New Orleans up by two, and by the time Paul re-entered the game, the Hornets had a 41-38 lead.
Bosh and Bargnani answered with short jumpers, and Bosh made a 15-foot fadeaway jumper while being fouled as Toronto went back ahead. Bosh led all scorers with 15 first-half points as the Raptors enjoyed a 51-47 lead at the break.
Notes: The Raptors are a league-best 10-0 when holding opponents under 100 points. ... Hornets G Morris Peterson was given a rousing ovation late in the first quarter. Peterson spent his first seven seasons in Toronto, and remains the franchise's all-time leader in games played (542) and three-pointers made (801). ... Paul came into the game averaging 17.9 points, 14.4 assists, 5.3 rebounds and 2.7 steals in seven games since returning from injury. ... Toronto plays a home-and-home series against the Detroit Pistons on Wednesday and Sunday before hosting the Charlotte Bobcats, who handed the Raptors a 116-81 drubbing last month.
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