The Phoenix Suns have won eight of their last nine games, but their normally efficient offense has struggled lately.
The Suns look to return to form as they go for their fifth straight home win Friday when they meet the New Orleans Hornets.
Phoenix (47-14) is leading the league in scoring at 110.6 points per game and field-goal shooting at 49.4 percent. The Suns, though, have averaged only 101.8 points in regulation over their last five games, getting held below 48 percent shooting in four of them.
They were coming off a lackluster 99-94 win over the Los Angeles Lakers on Sunday before needing overtime to beat a slumping Charlotte team on Wednesday, 115-106.
“I’m getting kind of tired of coming up here and making excuses,” coach Mike D’Antoni said. “We’re not focused. We’re not playing hard enough.”
The Suns look to boost their intensity Friday against a New Orleans team they have beaten in nine of the teams’ last 10 meetings.
Recapturing that trademark Phoenix offense, though, might not be so easy against the Hornets (28-33), who hold opponents to 95.5 points per game and 44.7 percent shooting to rank among the Western Conference leaders in both categories. It was a low-scoring affair in the only meeting this season, with the Suns winning 92-83 on Nov. 22 behind Steve Nash’s 24 points.
The Suns hope to build on their impressive overtime performance in Wednesday’s win. After being limited to 98 points in regulation, Phoenix went 6-for-8 from the field, including 3-for-4 from 3-point range, to pull away in the extra period.
Overtime wouldn’t have been necessary, however, if the Suns could have protected their 16-point first-half lead. Phoenix’s eight-minute field-goal drought in the fourth quarter allowed Charlotte back into the game.
“How long does it take to learn a lesson? We’ve got to learn a lesson and be more committed to our goals, and take more pride in that,” said Nash, who had 24 points and 11 assists.
Phoenix went 1-3 with Nash sidelined by a shoulder injury leading into All-Star weekend, but his return sparked the team’s 8-1 run since the break. He is averaging 23.6 points and 9.6 assists while shooting 58.4 percent from the field in his last five games.
The Hornets, meanwhile, have had some struggles of their own. After going 9-4 in February, the Hornets are 0-3 in March.
New Orleans trailed by as many as 23 points in its 106-91 loss to Denver on Tuesday. The Hornets shot just 39.1 percent from the field while their normally stingy defense gave up at least 100 points for the fourth straight game.
Tyson Chandler had 15 points and 18 rebounds, his 13th straight double-double and 20th in a row with double-digit rebounds.
The Hornets, the league’s top rebounding team, had outrebounded opponents in 13 straight games before their current three-game skid. During the losing streak, they have been outrebounded twice and matched on the boards once.
“We aren’t competing for 48 minutes,” coach Byron Scott said.
New Orleans is one of six teams within three games of each other for the final two playoff spots in the West, and should have its hands full with a Phoenix squad which is second-best in the conference.
While the Hornets have dropped three in a row on the road, the Suns have won four straight at home and are 24-6 there this season.