The Phoenix Suns didn’t catch any breaks with a road-heavy schedule to start the season, but they get a big opportunity Thursday night when they visit the New Orleans Hornets, who are without All-Star guard Chris Paul(notes).
Phoenix (10-2) plays 15 of its first 22 games on the road, but that hasn’t stopped it from building the best record in the Western Conference. The Suns are the first team to reach 10 wins, half of them coming after they trailed in the fourth quarter.
“We’ve been good in the fourth quarter so far this season,” coach Alvin Gentry said.
A comeback wasn’t needed when the Suns won 124-104 over the Hornets (4-8) last Wednesday. Phoenix shot a season-high 55.4 percent and posted its highest point total of the season.
That contest proved to be the last for Hornets coach Byron Scott, who was fired the next day with general manager Jeff Bower taking over.
Things went poorly in Bower’s first game Friday, when Paul went down with a left ankle injury in an 86-78 loss to Portland. Paul remains out indefinitely.
The superstar guard helped New Orleans win six of its last eight against Phoenix, averaging 26.8 points and 11.4 assists in those matchups - with Suns guard Steve Nash(notes) having trouble keeping up with a player 11 years younger then him. Nash, though, averaged 19.3 points and 10.7 assists in that span versus the Hornets.
Nash is the NBA assist leader with 11.9 per game and had 16 in a 111-105 victory at Houston on Tuesday. He had a season-low two baskets, but helped the Suns rally from another fourth-quarter deficit.
“We’ve got a little toughness,” Nash said. “We’re not physically the toughest group, but mentally we’re tough. We started to battle at the end of the game and we got a lot of stops.”
Bower earned his first win as Hornets coach Tuesday, 110-102 over the Clippers. David West(notes) scored 24 points and rookie Darren Collison(notes), making his second straight start in place of Paul, added 12 and six assists.
“It made me feel good,” Bower said. “They gave great effort and it was a pretty good night for us.”
“After everything that we put into it yesterday, it was great to come out and reward ourselves with a victory,” Brown said. “I think guys felt a lot better after that practice. I think it showed tonight because we were able to move the ball around and we were knocking shots down.”