On a night Kobe Bryant and LeBron James faced off, Chris Paul and Danny Granger put on a better show.
Hours before the Cavaliers and Lakers tipped off in Los Angeles, Paul and Granger both made clutch shots with time winding down.
Only Paul's stood as a winner.
Paul capped a 27-point performance with a fadeaway three-pointer as time expired - after Granger hit a three with 2.5 seconds left - and the hobbled New Orleans Hornets escaped with a 103-100 victory over the Indiana Pacers on Monday night.
"As we walked out on the court, I saw Danny was guarding me and I told him, 'Tough shot'," Paul said. "The shot he hit was just as good. I wanted to try to get to the basket but they sort of cut that off, so I threw up a fadeaway and it went in."
It was the second time in a week that Granger had a sterling performance trumped by a late 3. On January 12 at Golden State, he scored 15 of his career high-tying 42 points in a wild fourth quarter, including a 3-pointer that put the Pacers up 117-116 with 23.8 seconds left. But Jamal Crawford hit the go-ahead 3-pointer with 11.3 seconds left to help lift the Warriors.
Bryant and James tussled to a draw in Los Angeles, but Bryant's supporting cast helped lift the Lakers to a 105-88 win.
"It's always great when you go against the best," James said. "It brings out the best in you. He's (Bryant) one of the ultimate competitors that we have in our game today, and I enjoy going against him.
In other National Basketball Association games on Monday, it was: Rockets 115, Nuggets 113; Pistons 87, Grizzlies 79; Celtics 104, Suns 87; Trail Blazers 102, Bucks 85; Knicks 102, Bulls 98; Mavericks 95, 76ers 93; Hawks 87, Raptors 84; Spurs 86, Bobcats 84; Timberwolves 94, Clippers 86; and Warriors 119, Wizards 98.
Granger scored 30 points in his homecoming to his native New Orleans. His game-tying 3 set off a brief celebration by the Pacers, but moments later Granger was slumped over, hands on his knees, head hanging, as the Hornets mobbed Paul.
"I wanted no part of overtime," Paul said. "That's a great team we played over there. I don't care what their record says. They gave us two tough games and we hit two big shots to beat them."
In Los Angeles, Bryant had 20 points and 12 assists and Pau Gasol had 22 points and 12 rebounds for the Lakers, whose 32-8 record leads the Western Conference.
James had 23 points and nine rebounds, but shot just 9-of-25. Mo Williams added 16 points, six rebounds and five assists and Sasha Pavlovic scored 12 for the Cavaliers (31-8), who absorbed their most one-sided loss of the season.
In Houston, Yao Ming scored 31 points and Rafer Alston added 18 points and 11 assists as Houston edged Denver.
Denver's Kenyon Martin missed two foul shots with 2.6 seconds left, and Yao rebounded to clinch the win.
Von Wafer had 18 and Luis Scola 16 for the Rockets.
(Agencies via Shanghai Daily January 21, 2009)