Before Wednesday night's game against the Philadelphia 76ers, Hornets coach Byron Scott pulled Tyson Chandler into his office for a brief meeting with his 7-foot-1 center. "I wanted to pull out his stats since he's been here from November to now,” Scott said. "I showed him in the month of January how he played. He played great, averaging a double-double. He blocked everything that went up. "I told him to have better stats in February.” Chandler couldn't have gotten off to a better start than he did in Friday night's 90-83 Hornets win over the Minnesota Timberwolves. Chandler scored 16 points with a game- and season-high-tying 18 rebounds in 38 minutes. He made eight of nine shots and added four blocked shots to his 12th double-double. He also held Wolves forward Kevin Garnett to 17 points. "He has a lot of confidence right now, and he is really comfortable knowing that he is going to play,” Scott said. "We have a lot of faith in him, and he is becoming a better and better basketball player.” Chandler is now averaging 10.1 points, 12.1 rebounds and 2.4 blocks since January. "This may be the most comfortable I've felt (since) the second or third year of my career,” Chandler said. "From Day One, Coach has made me very comfortable and he told me what he wanted of me, and I told him my expectations. It was all about grinding it out until I got to a comfort level. "I told (coach Scott) early in the year that I feel like I'm just a hair away from being comfortable and breaking out of my shell, and he felt the same way. So it's starting to come out now. And now it's just a matter of doing that consistently.” Chandler will get plenty of chances over the next five days, as the Hornets (20-26) begin a three-game road trip tonight against the Houston Rockets. He'll likely be assigned to 7-foot-2 Rockets center Dikembe Mutombo tonight, Sacramento Kings center Brad Miller on Monday night and Denver Nuggets center Marcus Camby on Wednesday night. So far, Chandler has welcomed the challenges. "He's being a force in the paint,” said forward David West. "He's bothering the other guys' best player when it's a big. He's dealing with KG and Zach Randolph, all the major guys, but he's stepped up and been big for us. "He's just growing. He's playing with a lot of confidence and he's working, I think that's the biggest thing. He's trying to get better and working to get better, and it's paid off for him.” Chris Paul played better in his second game back from a sprained ankle that forced him to miss 17 consecutive games. The Hornets' point guard finished with 24 points, eight assists and four steals in 32 minutes. On Wednesday night, he scored just nine points with two assists in 28 minutes. "I just felt a lot more comfortable tonight than I did the last game,” Paul said. "I think getting that game under my belt gave me a little bit more confidence in my ankle.” Said Scott: "Tonight he was Chris Paul. The last game, he was just trying to find his way around. He looked completely comfortable out there tonight. "I thought that it was going to take him a few games (to get back to normal) and it took him just one. Hopefully he will stay like this through the rest of the season.” Meanwhile, the Hornets have to find a way to win on the road — and soon. They are just 1-11 in their past 12 road games. "Obviously it's hard to go into somebody else's gym and win, but we've got to,” said West. "We're almost in a situation where we don't have a choice.”
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Hornets at Rockets•When: 7:30 p.m. •Where: Toyota Center •Television: Cox 7 •Radio: KHBZ-FM 94.7 Probable starters
Player of the gameHornets center Tyson Chandler scored 16 points with a game-high 18 rebounds in 38 minutes. Chandler made eight of nine shots and also blocked four shots while holding Minnesota forward Kevin Garnett to 17 points.
Play of the gameChris Paul led a fastbreak and converted a three-point play to give the Hornets an 85-75 lead with 2:19 to play. By Darnell Mayberry