NEW ORLEANS — Carl Landry joined the Hornets with the goal of being a rugged role player.
Thrust into the starting lineup because of David West’s season-ending injury last week, he’s quickly transformed himself into a top scoring starter.
Landry tallied 21 points, Willie Green highlighted a 10-point fourth-quarter outburst with an energizing one-handed jam, and New Orleans jumped ahead of Portland for sixth place in the Western Conference with a 95-91 victory over the Trail Blazers on Wednesday night.
“We made some money off of Carl tonight for sure, going to him down the stretch,” Hornets coach Monty Williams said. “Willie was phenomenal, the dunk he had. … If we can finish like this the rest of the year, I’ll be pleased.”
Chris Paul had 11 points and 12 assists, and Emeka Okafor had 15 points and 10 rebounds before fouling out with 1:38 left.
Marco Belinelli hit four of five 3-point attempts and finished with 16 points for the Hornets, who have won three of four, the lone loss coming on the road against the surging Los Angeles Lakers. Green finished with 12 points.
Williams, meanwhile, was animated on the sideline, knowing that a third win in four meetings with the team for which he used to serve as an assistant would give the Hornets an important tiebreaker in the standings. He coached as if it were the playoffs, keeeping starters on the court as long as needed to stay close in a game Portland led most of the way.
Paul played 45:11, his second most minutes in regulation this season.
“We showed a lot of grit,” Paul said. “I think we showed coach’s personality tonight. Coach is over there fighting for us, screaming. Coach is one of those guys that would put on a jersey if he could. For us to go out there and get this win tonight, knowing that that was his old home, it was a special win for us.”
LaMarcus Aldridge had 24 points and 15 rebounds for Portland (43-32), which is tied with New Orleans in terms of wins and losses, but has lost the season tiebreaker.
Andre Miller added 19 points for Portland, but committed a costly turnover while driving to the hoop with the Blazers trailing 91-88 and 13 seconds left. Landry came up with the ball, was fouled and made both free throws, then added two more foul shots to seal it.
Miller’s turnover was Portland’s ninth of the second half.
“It was turnovers. They were huge,” Portland coach Nate McMillan said. “You can’t have those mistakes going down the stretch.”
Gerald Wallace had 14 points and 10 rebounds for the Blazers, while Patrick Mills added 13 points, hitting all three attempts from long range.
“This one hurts, especially a game that we feel like we controlled for the first quarter-and-a-half,” Wallace said. “In the second half, they kind of took control and forced us to play back on our heels.”
After trailing much of the game, but still as close as 70-68 after three quarters, the Hornets surged ahead in the final period thanks in large part to Green’s 10-point scoring surge during a 16-4 run.
Green’s highlights included a 3, a tough running floater as he swept across the lane and a soaring one-handed jam on a putback of Jarrett Jack’s missed jumper — the last play sending the crowd into a frenzy.
“It was good to get up there and dunk. I’m going to laugh and talk with my teammates about it,” Green said. “They were a little caught off guard. I was a little caught off guard. I don’t dunk that much.”
Jack then made a jumper that gave the Hornets their largest lead at 84-75.
Portland didn’t fold, though, and tensions rose soon after when Jack and Rudy Fernandez got into a brief tussle for which they each received technical fouls with a little under 5 minutes remaining.
The Trail Blazers trimmed their deficit to five before Paul put New Orleans back up 90-83 with a driving floater off the glass with 1:40 left.
Wallace then drew Okafor’s sixth foul and hit both free throws, and Miller added a driving layup to make it 90-87, setting up a tense final minute.
The Hornets improved to 2-1 since West tore the anterior cruciate ligament in his left knee. Landry has averaged 21.3 points and 7.3 rebounds in those three games.
“Those are some big shoes to fill and we got to just do it collectively,” Landry said of West’s absence. “Right now, I’m just doing what I can do. Hopefully it’ll be better than what it is now. … We’ve got keep helping one another because we’re not in the playoffs yet.”
No, but they’re closing in. Ninth-place Houston, which lost to Philadelphia Wednesday, fell four games behind both New Orleans and Portland, with all three teams having only seven games left.
The Hornets are 25-11 at home, where they play their next four games, starting on Friday night against Memphis. … Portland dropped to 30-3 when shooting a higher percentage from the field than its opponent. The Blazers shot 50 percent, while the Hornets shot 46.6 percent. … Patrick Ewing Jr. made his Hornets debut in the second quarter but played only 1:37. … Wallace had his career-best streak of 24 straight games with at least one steal snapped.