Many wondered last season if trading for Emeka Okafor was a huge mistake for the New Orleans Hornets because of how unproductive he ended up being. We're learning this season that he simply plays better when Chris Paul is in the lineup.
Okafor finished the night with 26 points and 13 rebounds as the Hornets (5-0) stayed unbeaten by defeating the Miami Heat (4-2) 96-93 in New Orleans. Paul ended up with 13 points and 19 assists (nine in the first quarter alone).
It was another big-time defensive showing by the Hornets, as they defeated a Heat team that had beaten their last four opponents by an average of 22 points. Miami didn't even take their first lead of the game until under a minute left to go when LeBron James hit two free throws. James had a good game with 20 points and 10 assists.
Dwyane Wade led all scorers with 28 points and he added 10 rebounds. 12 of his 28 points came in the final quarter, and he went 13-of-13 from the free throw stripe. Chris Bosh and Zydrunas Ilgauskas were the only other Heat players in double-figures with 15 and 10 points respectively.
Three other Hornets scored in double-figures with Paul and Okafor. David West had 15 points, Trevor Ariza finished with 13 and Jason Smith scored 12 points coming off the bench.
West added some important free throws near the end of the game to put the Hornets back up by three after Chris Bosh hit a wide-open three-point jumper on the possession before to bring the Heat within one.
On Miami's last trip down the floor, Wade passed on an open three-point attempt and fed Eddie House whose shot missed, and the Hornets grabbed the rebound to run out the clock.
New Orleans appeared to control the game throughout as they built an early nine-point lead, which quickly grew to 14 before coming back down a little for another nine-point lead at halftime.
Miami kept getting back into the game with runs of 7-0 and later of 10-2. It wasn't enough though, as the Hornets would regroup and take control back to build another comfortable advantage.
The 5-0 start is a franchise-best for the Hornets, who had only started off a season 4-0 twice before this year. They are one of three undefeated teams left in the NBA, as the Atlanta Hawks beat the Minnesota Timberwolves tonight, and the Los Angeles Lakers are still playing the Toronto Raptors.
Both teams struggled from the three-point line as Miami shot a mere 5-of-21 for 24 percent and New Orleans only 4-of-14 for 29 percent. The rest of the stats were fairly even with the Hornets leading in rebounds (42-36) and the Heat having the advantage in blocks (five to one).
Some New Orleans Saints players were in attendance with the sellout crowd of 17,988 in the New Orleans Arena. Drew Brees, Tracy Porter and Darren Sharper all took the game in before heading out to Carolina tomorrow for their Sunday test against the Panthers.
The Hornets will travel to Milwaukee tonight to face the Bucks on Saturday. New Orleans beat the Bucks 95-51 in the opening game of the season.
Read more from Danny Cox at Examiner.com.