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Jazz's Williams, Hornets' Paul eating competition alive
By Mike McGraw | Daily Herald Staff
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Published: 2/9/2008 12:09 AM

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SALT LAKE CITY -- Maybe the point-guard rivalry between Utah's Deron Williams and New Orleans' Chris Paul is manufactured by the media, as the participants claim.

But it seemed to gain intensity in the past week. A few days after Paul was selected as a Western Conference reserve for the All-Star Game, Williams dominated a 1-on-1 matchup.

The former Illinois star piled up 29 points and 11 assists and hit 11 of 13 shots in Utah's 110-88 win over the Hornets on Monday. Paul picked up 2 quick fouls and ended up with just 6 points and 6 assists while hitting 3 of 11 shots.

"The (Utah) fans make this one of the hardest places to play," Paul said after the game. "You never know what you are going to hear from them."

Williams still has hopes of making his first all-star appearance as an injury replacement. For now, he's slated to take part in the skills challenge during all-star weekend against Paul, Dwyane Wade and Jason Kidd.

"C.P. definitely deserves to be there," Williams said in the Desert News. "His team has a great record and he's putting up crazy numbers. I'll just keep playing, keep getting more wins and get my team back to the top of the West."

Utah built a 10-game winning streak heading into Friday's matchup at Sacramento. In the previous five games, Williams averaged 21.4 points, 11.4 assists and shot 58 percent from the field.

In the 2005 draft, Williams was the No. 3 pick and Paul went No. 4, so it's natural to compare the two. They are also two of the NBA's brightest young stars and their teams are challenging for the top of the Western Conference.

Tonight in Salt Lake City, it will be Williams' job to cool off Bulls guard Chris Duhon, who scored a career-high 34 points at Golden State on Thursday. Then the Bulls will see Paul and the Hornets on Tuesday at the United Center.

Bulls best of the worst: After Thursday's game, both the Bulls and Golden State found themselves tied for eighth place in their respective conference races.

The difference, however, is that their records were completely opposite: The Bulls are 20-29 and Warriors 29-20.

Here's a good illustration of the sorry state of Eastern Conference basketball. Since Jan. 1, the Bulls have gone 9-11 but gained ground on every competitor at the lower end of the standings. The list includes New Jersey (6-13), Indiana (5-13), Atlanta (7-11), Charlotte (7-13), Milwaukee (8-12) and Philadelphia (6-13).

Bulls horns: Jazz shooting guard Ronnie Brewer (11.9 ppg), who had started all 50 games this season, was doubtful for Friday's contest in Sacramento with a bruised tailbone. … The Bulls have beaten two teams (Golden State and Detroit) this season that sported a winning record through Thursday's games. The Bulls have beaten the Pistons three times.