Suns 103, Hornets 95
OKLAHOMA CITY (AP)—For the second straight night, the Phoenix Suns weren’t able to run and gun in the way that’s led them to the No. 2 seed in the Western Conference. Then again, the postseason is still two weeks away.
Leandro Barbosa scored 26 points, Steve Nash matched his career best with his 49th double-double of the season, and the Phoenix Suns wore down the injury-depleted New Orleans Hornets for a 103-95 win Friday night.
“I think we’re all waiting for the playoffs,” said Nash, who had 15 points and 12 assists. “The chemistry’s dropped off a little bit.”
Phoenix built a 14-point lead after the first quarter, but struggled to put away the Hornets, who were without injured starters Chris Paul (left foot), Tyson Chandler (left big toe) and Desmond Mason (nose).
David West twice got New Orleans within six points in the third quarter, and the deficit was only 10 entering the final period.
Three Suns reserves teamed up for a 9-0 run that clinched it midway through the fourth quarter. Kurt Thomas sparked the surge with a layup, and James Jones added consecutive jumpers before Barbosa’s 3-pointer from the top of the key stretched the lead to 91-71 with 7:05 to play.
New Orleans got to 95-86 when Jannero Pargo capped an 8-0 run with a 3-pointer with 2:13 remaining. Nash answered with a driving layup at the other end, and he set up a dunk by Shawn Marion and a 3-pointer by Barbosa to prevent a Hornets comeback.
A night earlier, the NBA’s top scoring offense was held to its second-lowest total of the season—but that time the Suns were playing the San Antonio Spurs. This effort came against a Hornets team missing four of their opening day starters that’s trying to get out of 10th place in the West.
“They’re definitely chasing a playoff spot, so they came out and played hard and strong,” said Suns center Amare Stoudemire, who was held to 11 points and two rebounds. He averages a team-high 20.6 points and 9.7 rebounds.
Marion said: “We got a good win.”
Marion added 20 points and 11 rebounds, Raja Bell scored 12 and Jones had 11. Nash matched his double-double total from 2004-05, his first of back-to-back MVP seasons, and was two rebounds shy of his first triple-double of the season.
“We have another level to take it to,” Nash said.
West scored 17 points and Marc Jackson added 16 as the Hornets played in front of their 11th sellout of the season in Oklahoma City. Pargo and Devin Brown each scored 13, Rasual Butler had 12 and Bobby Jackson 11.
“I thought our guys played hard,” Hornets coach Byron Scott said. “That’s all you can ask for is to go out and compete, and I thought we did that.”
Phoenix was 8-for-30 (26.7 percent) from 3-point range, well below its NBA-leading 40.3 percent average. The Suns, who bounced back from a loss at San Antonio a night earlier, moved 2 1/2 games ahead of the Spurs for the No. 2 seed in the Western Conference.
The Hornets fell three games behind the Los Angeles Clippers for the eighth and final playoff spot in the West with six games left. Scott said Paul and Chandler would be game-time decisions Saturday night at Minnesota.
“We know we’re going to have to make up for whatever we may lack in actual talent with effort,” West said. “Guys have got a lot of pride.”
Marion had eight points, including a pair of two-handed jams, during a 14-2 run as the Suns pulled away to close the first quarter. He beat the buzzer with a runner in the lane to put Phoenix up 37-23 after one.
“I think that first quarter really bit us,” West said. “We outscored them the rest of the game, every quarter, but spotting a team like Phoenix 14 points is just too much to overcome.”
The Hornets got to 44-37 on a 3-pointer by rookie Marcus Vinicius, who was called up from the NBDL a day earlier. Boris Diaw and Raja Bell hit back-to-back jumpers to push the Suns’ lead to 60-48 at the half.
The Hornets announced Friday that the fan giveaway for Tuesday night’s game against the Los Angeles Clippers would be bobbleheads of Mason, who will miss the rest of the season after breaking his nose in a game Wednesday against Seattle. … All four of Stoudemire’s fouls were offensive, including two in a 23-second span in the first quarter.