ATLANTA -- Hornets Coach Byron Scott said he likes that backup point guard Bobby Brown challenges and is unwilling to back down against Chris Paul, who reigns as the NBA's best. Apparently, that's going to apply to everyone else in the NBA, too.
Brown scored a game-high 23 points on Monday night in the Hornets' preseason opener, a 108-102 loss to Atlanta at Philips Arena.
Brown, acquired from Minnesota along with Darius Songaila in a trade for Antonio Daniels this offseason, scored 16 in the second half, when he was 5-of-7 from the field.
"(Scott) wants me to come in and bring energy," Brown said. "If I have an open look, take the shot."
Brown had a game-high 16 field-goal attempts in 31 minutes, and the Hornets used his aggression to slice into an Atlanta lead that was 62-36 at halftime. The Hawks outscored New Orleans 30-12 in the second quarter.
"Our energy in the first half," Paul quickly cited as his main dislike.
Atlanta, which also was playing its preseason opener, shot 53.5 percent (23-of-43) in the first half. Worse for New Orleans, the Hawks outrebounded the Hornets 30-18 in the first half, including eight offensive rebounds that produced nine second-chance points.
That prevented the Hornets from pushing the pace, one of the points of emphasis this offseason and preseason. The Hornets had four fastbreak points in the first half, the Hawks 15.
"We jumped on them early, and that helped us to get that big lead," Hawks forward Josh Smith said. "I think going so hard during camp has helped us to execute well this early."
Those advantages didn't cease in the second half. Atlanta finished with a 31-12 advantage in fastbreak points, a 14-7 edge in second-chance points and a 56-30 lead on points in the lane.
"We got killed on the boards in the first half," Brown said.
But with a third-quarter backcourt featuring Paul and Brown, the Hornets outscored the Hawks 37-23 to cut the deficit to 85-73. Paul, who finished with 20 points and seven assists, had 10 points and four assists in the third. Brown only had three points in the quarter -- he made his only field-goal attempt, a 3-pointer -- but the pace quickened noticeably with him and Paul applying the fuel.
"I was going to wait three games or so into the preseason for that combination," Scott said.
The combination, apparently, decided it couldn't wait. Paul played the entire third quarter, accounting for more than half of his 22 minutes.
"I liked our pace in the second half," Paul said. "We picked up the tempo. We showed that style that we want to play with. We started getting stops. It's tough to run when you're always getting the ball out of the net."
Said Scott: "Most of the good stuff was in the second half. The second half was much more of the tempo we wanted. For the first preseason game, I'm not giddy about the way we played. The effort was much better in the second half."
Brown definitely was a plus.
After making three of nine shots in the first half and not having an assist, he produced 16 points and three assists in the second half, and didn't have a turnover.
"That's big for us," Paul said of Brown. "It's something we're going to need all year long."
Said Scott: "We saw some good things in Bobby two years ago (when he was a Hornet during summer league). He fits exactly what we want to do.
"He can go. He can play. He's explosive. He makes good decisions. He can shoot it, put it on the floor, he's got a lot of heart. We were very happy to get that deal done."
Everyone else might have a chance to find out why before the season is over.
NOT SO FAST: Center Hilton Armstrong worked out before the game and appeared ready to make his preseason debut despite reports of an injured thigh. Armstrong, though, obviously had different ideas than his coaches and trainer.
He didn't play in the game, but he was in uniform. And there was a reason for that.
"He had kind of planned on playing, so he didn't bring a jacket to wear behind the bench, or on the bench," Scott said. "So he doesn't want to be fined. I just told him, 'Wear your uniform. Don't warm up. When we're about to start, walk out there and sit down. You'll be all right.' "
ROOKIE DEBUTS: Rookie guards Darren Collison and Marcus Thornton will debut tonight against Charlotte. Brown played the backup minutes at point guard Wednesday; Collison will play them tonight. And the combination of Peja Stojakovic and Devin Brown took the backup minutes at shooting guard behind Mo Peterson.
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John DeShazier can be reached at email@example.com or 504.826.3410.