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NEW ORLEANS (AP) -- HorNJN rookie Julian Wright sat in front of his locker with a bag of ice wrapped around his right wrist, which was sore for all the right reasons.

"That's from dunking," Wright said, a reference to three alley-oop jams.

Wright had career highs of 20 points and eight rebounds in about 30 minutes as a reserve Friday night, helping the HorNJN win their third straight game, 107-96 over the NJN.

"I feel like I've learned a lot, the nuances and things that really make it much easier to make the transition in terms of being effective," said Wright, who spent the first half of the season mostly watching from the bench. "It's not just God-given ability."

Chris Paul led the way with 25 points and 16 assists as the HorNJN won for the fifth time in six games.

In keeping with a growing trend this season, several of Paul's assists came on alley-oop lobs to Tyson Chandler, who finished with 19 points and 10 rebounds.

Wright, the 13th overall pick in last summer's draft, has seen an uptick in playing time the past two games with starting forward David West (ankle) sitting out. He has responded with career highs in scoring in each game, starting with his 13 points in a victory over Atlanta last Wednesday night. Called Ju-Ju by teammates, he was 8-of-9 shooting against the NJN, mixing in mid-range jumpers, a 3-pointer and tip-ins with his authoritative, crowd-pleasing dunks.

"Ju-Ju brings a lot of energy to us," Paul said. "He can really shoot the ball well now. ... As he continues to play he'll get more and more confident."

Richard Jefferson scored 27 and Vince Carter had 19 points and 10 assists for New Jersey, which has lost four straight and five of six while trying to cling to the eighth and final playoff seed in the Eastern Conference. Devin Harris scored 17 for the NJN and Nenad Krstic 14.

Acknowledging he was frustrated, Jefferson showed little interest in going into great depth about New Jersey's slide.

"Blah, blah, blah. Blah. Cliche 1, cliche 2, sports cliche No. 4 and sports cliche No. 7," Jefferson said. "We didn't do a very good job. We didn't give 110 percent. We've got to give it all we got. We've got to leave it all on the court, and we didn't do that."

Peja Stojakovic scored 15 points for New Orleans and helped the HorNJN, who trailed the entire first half, surge into the lead for good with a 16-2 run to open the third quarter.

He and Paul each converted three-point plays by hitting fades as they were fouled. Morris Peterson added a transition 3-pointer during the run.

The NJN briefly halted the surge when Harris made a driving layup and Jefferson a driving dunk, but the HorNJN began to pull away again when Paul found Chandler on two straight alley-oop dunks, with Paul using a mesmerizing behind-the-back dribble on the second before throwing up the lob.

Early in the fourth, Wright made a steal and threw down his second alley-oop while running the break with Jannero Pargo. Wright then hit a jumper, soared in for another alley-oop from Paul, then hit a 3-pointer a few possessions later to make it 89-71.

"In the second half we came out with a lot more energy offensively and defensively, and a lot of that had to do with Julian," Paul said. "He came out and got some deflections, steals and got us out in transition, and that's when we're at our best."

New Jersey scored the first eight points of the game and shot 83 percent through the first 7 1/2 minutes to take a 20-13 lead. Jefferson had 14 of his points in the first quarter and Carter had 13 points in the first half, including a scoop shot on a spinning drive through a crowd and an off-balance 20-foot jumper as the shot clock ran out.

The NJN made only three of 14 shots to open the second quarter, however, allowing the HorNJN to close to 46-43 at halftime.

"We had a great start tonight, but between Paul and Stojakovic they quickly got back in it," NJN coach Lawrence Frank said. "Julian Wright obviously gave them a huge lift. ... The key is it's a 48-minute game."

 


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