Chris Paul had 25 points, 15 assists and three steals to help the Hornets end a three-game losing streak with a 120-103 victory over Phoenix on Wednesday night.
“Enough is enough,” Paul said. “We were on a losing streak and we came out with a different mentality, but we’ve got to come out with that mentality every night.”
It was the second time this season the Hornets snapped a three-game skid with a victory over Phoenix, which New Orleans has beaten in all four meetings this season.
“We match up with them pretty well,” said Hornets forward David West, who scored 27 points. “C.P. and our guards have an advantage over their guards with their speed and ability to get up and down the floor. … It just happens that Phoenix is one of those teams that we feel confident against.”
The Suns continued to struggle since trading Shawn Marion for Shaquille O’Neal, but they couldn’t blame their third loss in five games solely on the veteran 7-foot-1 center, who had 15 points and seven rebounds.
“We are still learning what we have to do to win games. We’ll be fine,” O’Neal said. “We just caught a team that was called out by their coach and they played very well.”
Phoenix fell apart defensively in the second half in the face of the Hornets’ combination of up-tempo offense and good perimeter shooting. The Hornets were 8-of-15 from 3-point range while outscoring Phoenix 16-12 on the fastbreak and 40-36 inside.
“In the third quarter they just didn’t miss or we couldn’t guard, one of the other,” Suns coach Mike D’Antoni said. “I don’t think anybody has an answer for (Paul), but it was the other guys who killed us. … Chris is going to get his and there’s nothing anyone is going to do about it. It’s the other guys … like David West and Stojakovic.”
Or Hornets center Tyson Chandler, who hadn’t notched a double-double in his previous four outings. He awoke from that slump with 12 points and 15 rebounds. Even when matched with the bigger, stronger O’Neal, Chandler willed his way inside for follow-up dunks on teammates’ misses and threw down several alley-oop jams.
“I don’t feel like I took a beating at all. I feel like I was dishing out the punishment,” Chandler said, only half-joking. “It was great win for us. I felt like we had great team defense tonight. We played with great chemistry out there.”
New Orleans shot nearly 70 percent in the third quarter and opened a 20-point lead. West hit a jump hook to start it off, then Paul hit a jumper and a 3 before feeding Chandler on the first of two alley-oop dunks in the period.
Morris Peterson, who finished with 11 points, hit all four of his shots in the quarter, including a 3-pointer. Stojakovic closed out the period with a leaner off the glass as he was fouled, putting New Orleans ahead 97-77 heading into the final period.
Stoudemire hit a pair of straightaway jumpers to open the fourth quarter, but Pargo responded with his third 3-pointer, and New Orleans maintained a comfortable lead the rest of the way.
Superb 3-point shooting helped the Suns take an early eight-point lead as Barbosa’s first three shots were 3s. Bell, Stoudemire and Linton Johnson all made one as well, as Phoenix started 6-of-7 from long distance.
The Hornets came back when Pargo, who had 16 points in the half, and Stojakovic each hit a pair of 3s in the second quarter. The last by Stojakovic gave the Hornets a 53-51 lead.
Paul later fed Chandler on a fast break for a soaring tomahawk jam that energized the sellout crowd, and the Hornets led 59-55 at halftime.
Bonzi Wells sat out with a bruised Achilles’ tendon. He has played twice since the Hornets acquired him in a trade last week. … Attendance was 17,931, the Hornets’ second sellout in four home games since the All-Star break. … O’Neal, a former LSU star, was cheered during introductions and said he was happy to see a big crowd. “It’s coming along,” O’Neal said of New Orleans’ recovery from Hurricane Katrina. “Business is picking back up, downtown is nice, All-Star (weekend) was a success and in a couple more years New Orleans will be right back on top, where it used to be.”