New Orleans 97, Phoenix 92

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PHOENIX (TICKER) Jamal Mashburn caught fire in the fourth quarter, but he almost cost the New Orleans Hornets a win.

Mashburn scored 13 of his 23 points in the final quarter to lead the Hornets to their sixth straight win, 97-92 over the Phoenix Suns.

“He’s on a mission,” Hornets coach Paul Silas said. “It just seems that when we need it, he provides it.”

With 29 seconds left and New Orleans nursing a 93-90 lead, Mashburn lost control of the ball at the top of the key as the Hornets tried to run down the clock. Shawn Marion hit a pair of free throws at the other end to get the Suns within a point.

Courtney Alexander iced the victory with four points in the closing seconds. Off a pass from Mashburn with 9.8 seconds left, Alexander hit a 19-foot jumper from the left wing that bounced high off the front of the rim before falling. He sank a pair of free throws with 2.2 seconds remaining.

“I found him and he hit the shot,” Mashburn said. “He was really big tonight.”

Joe Johnson had a chance to put Phoenix up before Alexander’s clinching free throws but missed a 3-pointer from the corner.

“It looked good and felt good. It just didn’t go in,” Johnson said. “Maybe I was too excited.”

Marion led the Suns with 23 points and nine rebounds, but Phoenix was dominated on the glass, 56-33.

“We knew that it would be one of those games where we would have to stick our nose in there and get it knocked off,” Suns coach Frank Johnson said. “They were willing to do it. (With) 33 rebounds, there’s no way you can win.”

P.J. Brown had a season-high 19 rebounds and Robert Traylor grabbed a career-high 12 as the Hornets outrebounded their 14th straight opponent.

“When I went to the big lineup, that’s when it really changed things around,” Silas said. “Guys are just relentless on the boards. That’s one of the reasons things have happened for us. We’ve been able to turn things around.”

Alexander scored six of his 10 points in the fourth quarter and was one of six Hornets in double figures.

“I had been struggling with my shot,” Alexander said. “But it went down when it counted.”

The Hornets have won four straight games against the Suns, who got 14 points and 13 assists from Stephon Marbury.

Phoenix loosened its grip on the final Western Conference playoff spot. Its lead over ninth-place Houston is down to one-half game.

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Top Performers

 Top Performers
 New Orleans
P. Brown P. Brown
5-15,  12 Pts
19 Rebs, 6 Assists
 Phoenix
S. Marbury S. Marbury
5-18,  14 Pts
3 Rebs, 13 Assists

Team Stat Leaders

Points
Rebounds
Assists