Suns 99, Hornets 94
NEW ORLEANS (AP)—Being eliminated from playoff contention earlier in the week had no effect on the Phoenix Suns’ desire to fight to the final seconds.
The Suns shot 51 percent, while Stoudemire and Marion made critical free throws in the last three minutes and Joe Johnson hit a perimeter jumper that gave the Suns 97-94 lead with 13 seconds left.
“We knew they were going to make a run, but we just kept our composure, executing at the end of the game,” Marion said. “Joe hit a big shot … We’re learning how to close games out.”
New Orleans lost its second straight game without leading scorer Baron Davis, who’s expected to be out up to two weeks while the Hornets embark on a five-game West Coast trip.
“We’ve just got to believe,” said Darrell Armstrong, who scored 22 points, shooting 4-of-5 from 3-point range. “I believe in these guys. I believe in this team and I believe in our effort. We just came up short.”
New Orleans shot 9-of-18 in the final period, including 4-of-6 3-pointers— three by reserve Steve Smith. Jamaal Magloire’s jump hook had the Hornets as close as 95-94 with 35 seconds left, but Johnson ended his 17-point performance by hitting his late jumper over David Wesley.
The Hornets needed a 3-pointer to tie, but Wesley went for a leaner from near the foul line. It bounced off the rim toward the sideline, and Marion got the rebound, then made a pair of free throws after getting fouled with 1.9 seconds left.
“The idea was for Wesley to come off high and look for a 3,” Hornets coach Tim Floyd said. “I guess he felt it was closed out and tried to draw a 3 the old fashioned way by getting fouled. But anyhow things didn’t work out. We felt we played inspired, but we are short-handed right now.”
Johnson was 7-of-8 for 15 points in the second half. Antonio McDyess had 13 points and 11 rebounds for Phoenix and caused the fourth of New Orleans’ five fourth-quarter turnovers when he slapped Wesley’s pass away from Magloire with just over two minutes left.
The Suns outscored the Hornets 52-36 in the paint, where Stoudemire generated nearly all of his points.
“We’ve got some long, athletic guys. They can break people down and, if we move the basketball and do the right thing, we can get those layups on a lot of teams,” coach Mike D’Antoni said. “They’re figuring it out a little bit better.”
Magloire had 22 points and 14 rebounds for his eighth double-double in 10 games.
Smith finished with 18 points on 6-of-8 shooting, hitting all four 3s he attempted.
The Suns shot 13-of-17 in the third period, but only briefly got their lead into double digits because New Orleans shot 5-of-6 from 3-point range.
Armstrong hit all three he took from long range as part of 15 points in the period to offset nine points each by Johnson, Marion and Stoudemire. Johnson finished off the third by hitting a 3 to put the Suns ahead 80-71 heading into the final period.
Most of the first half was close, with seven lead changes in the second quarter. Wesley’s fast-break layup gave New Orleans a 37-36 lead, but Phoenix responded with a 10-4 run to close the half, going up 46-41 when Casey Jacobsen drove hard from halfcourt in the final seconds and scored off the glass at thebuzzer.
Davis was not with the team. Floyd said he went to Los Angeles to be with his sick grandmother. … Johnson has scored in double figures in 63 of 73 games this season, including 35 straight. … The loss was the Hornets’ firstto Phoenix since moving to New Orleans before last season.