With the playoffs approaching and the Phoenix Suns possibly more concerned about getting healthy than winning games, the New Orleans Hornets hope to be the latest team to beat up on the Pacific Division champions.
This is the regular-season home finale for the Suns, who have two games remaining before opening the playoffs at the U.S. Airways Center as the second seed in the Western Conference.
Likely in order to rest up for the playoffs, Phoenix went without both members of its starting backcourt for a second straight game on Sunday. Steve Nash sat out with a right thigh contusion and Raja Bell was sidelined by a left thigh strain in a 109-89 loss to the Los Angeles Lakers.
“To get smacked like that is not easy,” Suns forward Brian Grant said. “We need Steve and Raja to get healthy. Even Shawn (Marion) needs a rest before the playoffs start.”
It was the fifth loss in eight games for Phoenix, which will not get Amare Stoudemire back for the playoffs but could see Kurt Thomas return at some point after missing the last 27 games with a stress fracture in his right foot. It’s uncertain if Nash or Bell will play Monday, though both should be at or near full strength by the postseason.
With those two sidelined Sunday, that left Marion, Leandro Barbosa and Boris Diaw to carry the Suns against a team they could face in the first round. Marion scored a team-high 29 points, Barbosa finished with 16 and Diaw posted his second straight triple-double with 11 points, 12 assists and 10 rebounds.
“We were trying to work on some stuff out there,” Marion said. “We lost, but at the same time, we were trying to see about certain matchups out there … I think we got some stuff accomplished that we wanted to work on.”
Phoenix failed to score at least 100 points Sunday for the first time in 11 games since March 27.
The Hornets were eliminated from playoff contention on Saturday when eighth-place Sacramento defeated Denver. The following night, New Orleans lost 96-79 to the Kings in a game which it never led after the opening minute.
Chris Paul had 12 points and seven assists for the Hornets, who have lost four of five.
The Hornets won 91-87 on Dec. 12 in their only trip to Phoenix this season behind a 26-point, 10-rebound effort from J.R. Smith.