New Orleans (35-40) could be without shooting guard Desmond Mason, who is averaging 13.7 points, for the rest of the season after breaking his nose and cheek bone in a 102-93 overtime win against Seattle on Wednesday.
Mason, the only Hornets player to start every game this season, took an elbow to the face from Seattle’s Chris Wilcox and a CT scan taken at a hospital revealed the breaks.
“These injuries to his face will force him out of action for at least the next few games and possibly the remainder of the season,” Hornets general manager Jeff Bower said Thursday.
Chandler, second in the NBA with 12.4 rebounds per game, was wearing a walking boot after re-aggravating the injury Wednesday. Paul, the squad’s leader with 17.3 points and 8.7 assists, has been playing through a stress reaction in the foot that may need surgery this offseason.
“When guys get the opportunity, they have got to be ready to step in and perform,” Hornets coach Byron Scott said.
Scott’s players did just that against Seattle, as top reserve Bobby Jackson scored seven of his 18 points in the extra period to help the club remain 2 1/2 games back of the Los Angeles Clippers for the eighth and final playoff spot in the Western Conference.
The Hornets have seven games remaining, one more than Los Angeles, and have crept back into the playoff chase with three consecutive wins after going 4-10 in the previous 14 contests. They have won four games in a row twice this season, starting 2006-07 with a 4-0 mark and matching it from Nov. 14-21. The latter run was halted by a 92-83 loss at Phoenix on Nov. 22.
New Orleans came short of upsetting the Suns (56-19), holders of the second-best record in the NBA, in the following matchup on March 9, but its 104-103 defeat was its fifth straight loss to Phoenix.
The Hornets have dropped five consecutive home games to the Suns and have only managed to beat them once in the last 11 overall meetings, a 91-87 road victory on Dec. 12, 2005.
Phoenix will try to continue the trend and rebound from its worst shooting performance of the season in a 92-85 loss at San Antonio on Thursday.
The Suns shot a season-low 38.6 percent from the field, including 2-of-11 from beyond the arc to tie their season low in 3s made. They also set a season low in assists (14) and matched a season low in field goals (32).
“We have to stand strong at the end of the season. We have seven games left,” said Suns forward Amare Stoudemire, who had 15 points and eight rebounds. “We have to step it up a notch.”
The loss was also the Suns’ second-lowest scoring output of the season and reduced their lead over the Spurs for second place in the West to two games with seven left.
Steve Nash, who had 20 points and seven assists, has averaged 16.2 points and 7.8 assists in the last five games with New Orleans.