NEW ORLEANS - Somebody tell AT & T, Verizon, Sprint. Tell 'em all. Nobody in the land was dialing long-distance better last night than Peja Stojakovic.
He was on speed dial.
The New Orleans Hornets' veteran wing man hit one . . . two . . . three . . . four . . . five three-pointers to start the fourth quarter against the 76ers.
The sign in the New Orleans Arena stands directly across from the Hornets' bench could not have been more appropriate:
Each three was from a different spot. Each one looked eerily the same. Were there defenders anywhere nearby? If there were, Stojakovic didn't seem to notice. He didn't seem to see anything but the rim. It was almost as if he were shooting them off a rack.
"Sometimes it looks like that," Stojakovic said after scoring 26 points on 10-for-18 shooting, including 6-for-11 on triples. "Sometimes it doesn't."
And the Sixers, who thought they had seen a chance to knock down a victory on the road, instead got knocked out.
The Sixers, who led by as many as 10 points in the second quarter and by seven at halftime, spent the rest of the night on their heels in what became a 101-86 loss.
It was only their second loss in their last 10 games, but it was a stunner. It was one thing to try to devise defensive schemes to try to cope with Chris Paul, the Hornets' All-Star point guard, but it was quite another to try to retreat to the three-point line to even catch Stojakovic's attention.
The Sixers, who had used the three-point shot to their advantage in most of their recent games, were shot down in this one. The Hornets finished an overwhelming 14-for-31 from beyond the arc; the Sixers were only 2-for-14.
As it turned out, a combination of Stojakovic's sharpshooting and the Sixers committing way too many turnovers (they gave up 10 points on five errors in the third quarter alone) was too much to overcome.
They did get 22 points from Thaddeus Young, 19 from Andre Miller, 17 from Andre Iguodala and 11 from Lou Williams, but once the Stojakovic/Paul avalanche gained momentum, they had no answers.
It is truly amazing that fans could stream out of the building and a near-historic performance by Paul wasn't necessarily the first thing on their minds. All Paul did was come within three steals of the very rare quadruple-double, finishing his performance with 27 points, 15 assists, 10 rebounds and seven steals.
He had to settle for his fifth triple-double of the season. He also moved into second place on the Hornets' all-time assists list, ahead of Baron Davis and behind Muggsy Bogues.
"Stojakovic was great," Sixers coach Tony DiLeo said. "Chris Paul probably had a normal game, for him."
As much as the Sixers were steamrolled by Stojakovic and Paul, they contributed mightily to their own demise, giving up 28 points on 22 turnovers. They also hurt themselves with their inability to control the glass at the most inopportune times. On at least two occasions, journeyman backup big man Ryan Bowen kept the ball alive for the Hornets, somehow helping direct an offensive rebound back to Stojakovic.
"Second-chance points," Stojakovic said. "The way things were going, [the Sixers] didn't leave [our] shooters, but at the beginning of the fourth we were able to spread the floor."
Stojakovic did his damage in a stretch of the fourth quarter from 11:15 to 8:34. Five treys in the quarter were a personal best and matched the franchise record. He never changed expressions, but did put up three fingers after one.
"I knew Philadelphia was an explosive team, and there were still 8 minutes to go," he said.
The Hornets have seen Stojakovic shoot like this before, including during practices; he had averaged 17.3 points in the previous six games. Miller has seen it before, too.
"Nothing new to me," Miller said. "Everybody in the arena knew he could shoot threes. He kind of leaned into a couple, and that got him going."
But there were other factors, and that seemed to bother Miller even more.
"We beat ourselves," he said. "We played a good game the first half, held them to a low percentage [41.0], but they started the third with a 10-0 run. That run was big. You can't have turnovers against a team like that, and you can't have them on the road in general."
So many other things were going on that Elton Brand's second game back from his dislocated right shoulder wasn't anywhere close to the top of the list. After playing 13 minutes against the New York Knicks Saturday night, he went 18:26 last night; he missed all three of his shots from the floor and was scoreless, with three rebounds. *
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