New Orleans, LA (Sports Network) - Chris Paul posted game-highs with 32 points and 12 assists as the New Orleans Hornets escaped with a 95-93 win over the Denver Nuggets in Game 3 of a Western Conference quarterfinal series.
James Posey connected for 13 points and nine rebounds, including a key free throw in the final seconds for the Hornets, who picked up their first win of the series after dropping the first two on the road.
David West racked up 19 points and nine boards before fouling out late, while Rasual Butler contributed 17 points, including 3-of-4 from beyond the arc for the victors.
"We just haven't shot the ball well, but we made some good plays today," West said of the contest. "Defensively, we were able to make their life a little more difficult than it has been for the first couple of games. I think we played a more complete game from start to finish."
Carmelo Anthony recorded 25 points, eight rebounds and five assists for the Nuggets, who almost rallied from an 11-point fourth-quarter deficit but connected on just 40.5 percent from the floor and missed 11-of-35 free throws in the setback.
Chauncey Billups had 16 points, while J.R. Smith added 14 with five boards and Linas Kleiza poured in 13 points in a reserve role.
Game 4 takes place in the Big Easy on Monday.
Denver began fouling inside of four minutes to play, and the Hornets' lead stretched as high as 90-79 on a Paul free throw with 3:13 to go.
The visitors began chipping away, and a long three from Anthony with 1:23 left in regulation brought the Nuggets within 94-89. Kenyon Martin's free throws made it a three-point contest with 48.6 on the clock, and then Billups made a pair at the line for a 94-93 game with 25.6 to play.
Anthony then grabbed the ball off a bad pass from Posey, and from a time out, his turn-around jumper hit the back of the rim.
Posey came down with the rebound and was fouled 3.2 ticks remaining, hitting the first but missing the back end. Anthony grabbed the rebound, but his desperation heave from mid-court clanked off the front of the rim.
"We're still up two to one. We got off to a good start but they're home and they got their home crowd into it," Martin admitted. "We were still there in the game and we had a shot to win it at the end. We thought we could win it the whole game."
Denver began the game with 10 straight points, then increased its edge to 22-6 with 4:14 left in the first period after a Martin jumper.
New Orleans got within three late in the quarter, thanks to a 15-2 run. Posey kicked things off with a pair of free throws, then added a trey and made two- of-three after being fouled beyond the arc to finish it. The Nuggets, though, still led, 26-21, after one.
Peja Stojakovic hit a runner in the lane with 5:39 minutes to play in the first half, and the Hornets took their first lead of the contest, 40-38, but Kleiza responded with a three to give the visitors a one-point edge.
A Smith triple put Denver up, 46-42, but Paul and West hit back-to-back layups for another tie, this time with 2:35 left before the half. Butler's deuce again put the Hornets ahead by a point with under a minute to play, and following an Anthony miss, Posey hit two from the line for a 50-47 lead at the break.
The Hornets poured in the first six points of the third quarter, assuming a nine-point lead inside of two minutes. From there, the Nuggets reeled off an 20-8 burst for a 67-64 advantage with 3:22 remaining after Smith hit from long distance.
However, the home team finished the quarter on a 13-5 run for a 77-72 lead, completed when Butler nailed a three-pointer from the left corner.
Butler sank a triple with a little more than eight minutes to play in the contest and the Hornets went up, 82-74. The Nuggets' poor shooting from there cost them, and two Paul free throws pushed New Orleans' edge to 85-76 with 5:43 remaining.
The Nuggets have never lost a series in their NBA tenure (1976-present) after winning the first two games, and the Hornets have never won a series when trailing 0-2...Martin posted 12 points with a game-best 10 rebounds for Denver...Posey sprained his right knee early in the second quarter, but came back to the court after receiving treatment in the locker room...The Hornets hit 28-of-35 from the charity stripe.