NEW ORLEANS — Paul Millsap has decided to be more assertive about shooting, and the Utah Jazz aren’t about to argue with the results.
Millsap hit 11 of 13 shots in a 24-point performance that led Utah past the New Orleans Hornets, 98-90 on Wednesday night for the Jazz’s 15th victory in 17 games.
“I’m trying to attack a little bit more. I think I was a little timid earlier in the season,” Millsap said. “I just felt comfortable out there and when you get that type of confidence, the rim looks real big.”
Millsap, a reserve, came in averaging 11.4 points but had scored 20 in his previous outing, a victory at Houston in the last game before the All-star break. Against the Hornets, he was opportunistic inside, hitting a couple putbacks and three layups. There was more to his game than that, though; he hit six jumpers from between 13 and 17 feet, earning 33:30 in playing time off the bench.
“When Paul is given a lot of minutes, he’s always produced,” said Jazz point guard Deron Williams, who had 16 points and 10 assists. “It’s on coach to find him some time to get him out there. If it’s Paul’s night, you’ve got to ride with him.”
Carlos Boozer scored six of his 16 points in the last 3:06, helping Utah pull away after a 3-pointer by New Orleans’ James Posey had tied it at 85. Boozer also had 15 rebounds, and Mehmet Okur added 10 points for the Jazz, who shot 54 percent (38 of 70).
“They are difficult to defend, but we need to work on our ability to defend and rebound,” said Hornets coach Jeff Bower, whose club dropped three games behind Portland for the eighth and final playoff spot in the Western Conference.
Rookie Darren Collison had 24 points and nine assists for New Orleans. Peja Stojakovic added 24 points, hitting 4 of 5 from 3-point range. Yet New Orleans struggled with its shooting overall, finishing at 38.6 percent (34 of 88).
Utah, which never led by more than nine points, saw a seven-point lead quickly evaporate late in the game when Posey hit a fast-break layup and later added his 3 to tie it.
As quickly at the Jazz lost the lead, they built it back, starting with Boozer’s inside basket on a feed from Williams. Boozer added a key offensive rebound which led to his two late free throws and then hit a tough fall-away over two defenders on the baseline with a little over a minute to go. Andrei Kirilenko’s driving dunk made it 94-87 with 45 seconds left, and the Hornets were unable to recover.
The Hornets trailed for much of the second half, with several usual contributors having an off shooting night. Second-leading scorer David West, averaging 18.1 points coming in, sat for much of the first half with foul trouble, was 2 of 9 from the field and finished with only five points. Darius Songaila, who has shot about 50 percent this season, was 1 of 6, and left the game in the fourth quarter with a sprained right ankle. Morris Peterson, who started at shooting guard, also was 1 of 6.
Marcus Thornton scored 14 points for New Orleans, but missed 10 of his 16 shots.
Emeka Okafor had 10 rebounds, eight points and three blocks for the Hornets.
Starting at point guard for the 16th time this season, Collison got the Hornets rolling early, leading a 17-2 first-quarter run that produced an 11-point lead.
The rookie scored seven points during the surge and assisted on two other baskets, but the lead didn’t last long.
Utah chipped away and pulled ahead 29-28 on Millsap’s dunk in the middle of the second quarter.
With Hornets leading scorer Chris Paul missing his eighth-straight game with his left knee injury, West struggled to pick up the slack. He sat out the last 8:28 of the second quarter after committing his third foul before he’d scored a point.
Utah led 41-38 on Kirilenko’s free throw late in the half, but New Orleans was still able to pull back into the lead, 43-41 at halftime after Stojakovic tied it with a 3 and Collison added a pullup jumper.
NOTES: The Jazz wore green throwback uniforms they wore as an alternate road jersey in 1979-80, the club’s first season in Utah. The jersey also had the music note logo that originated when the club called New Orleans home. … Utah is 12-12 on the road this season. … New Orleans is 3-5 since Paul went out with his latest injury. Paul is expected to be out at least another three weeks.