The Atlanta Hawks passed up their chance to take Chris Paul in the 2005 NBA Draft. They've had a difficult time containing the New Orleans Hornets point guard ever since.Looking to extend their season-high seven-game win streak, the Hornets also seek their fifth victory in six meetings with the Hawks on Monday night in Atlanta.
Instead of choosing Paul with the second pick in 2005, Atlanta took Marvin Williams. While Williams has averaged a pedestrian 12.5 points and 5.5 rebounds in his four seasons, Paul - who was taken No. 4 - has led the league in assists the past two seasons while scoring 21.2 points per game.
The All-Star guard has averaged 22.8 points and 11.6 assists against Atlanta, and the Hornets have won four of five meetings between the clubs with Paul in the lineup. The teams split two games when Paul was out with ankle injuries.
Since returning from a strained right groin Feb. 11, Paul has helped the Hornets (39-22) win nine of 12 games - including their last seven - to close in on Southwest Division leader San Antonio. He had 21 points, 13 assists and six steals in their latest victory, 108-90 at home over Oklahoma City on Saturday night.
Julian Wright added a career high-tying 20 points with swingman Peja Stojakovic out due to back spasms.
"Hopefully he just builds off the energy he brought tonight," Paul said of Wright. "He brings a different dimension to our team. ... When Peja and those guys are running the break, we're running for jump shots. When Ju-Ju's running, we're running for lobs and dunks, and I think the crowd feeds off it and so does out team."
New Orleans' win streak coincides precisely with getting Tyson Chandler back from a sprained left ankle and a rescinded trade with Oklahoma City. Chandler has averaged 10.9 rebounds in his seven games since returning to the Hornets.
Losses in seven of their last 11 games have the Hawks (35-28) struggling to maintain their hold on fourth place in the Eastern Conference, as their lead is down to 1 1/2 games over Miami.
One night after he was involved in a halftime altercation with Atlanta coach Mike Woodson, Josh Smith helped his team recover from consecutive losses with 19 points and 12 rebounds in an 87-83 win Saturday over Detroit.
"He was huge, and that's how he's got to play," Woodson said after his team improved to 21-7 at home. "He's got to play at the level every night the rest of the way through this. And he's capable of doing it. He's got to have support from everybody around him and everybody's just got to play as a team the rest of the way."
Atlanta snapped a four-game skid in this series Nov. 5 with an 87-79 win in New Orleans behind Joe Johnson's 24 points. Paul had 22 points and 11 assists to lead the Hornets.