Phoenix 105 (43-35) | New Orleans 100 (48–30)
In the past 2 seasons, the Hornets have beaten the Suns in 7 of 7 opportunities. Tonight, they had the chance to complete the sweep for the second straight season AND knock them out of playoff contention. Neither of these things occurred. Instead, we had a painful night of "almosts" and eventually settled for a loss.
Actually, it didn't all suck; the first 12 minutes went really well. It was one of those quarters where you rarely look at the scoreboard, knowing full well that your team is comfortably ahead of their competition. You're making jokes with your buddies, casually observing the game, enjoying the ambiance and fist pumping on two of every three possessions. Ah... those were happier times.
CP took over early, taking full advantage of being guarded by Nash and flying through the paint for score after score. Even Shaq couldn't figure it out; it's like Chris was too short and too fast to be visible. The Bees finished the first with a 6 point margin that had actually been as high as 12.
But then the second quarter happened. I know this isn't news, but our bench really sucks. It only took them 5 minutes to erase the starters' work, partially due to their general ineptness and partially due to the fact that they could only muster 3 points.
The reality is that the Hornets were never really able to outplay the Suns after the first quarter. Maybe it was the fatigue of our starters playing 47 minutes the night before in Miami, maybe it was trying to play to the Sun's pace (pace was 92, about 7 possessions more than normal), or maybe it was some combination of the two.
At the end of the day, the Hornets weren't able to knock down the shots they needed and resorted to fouling instead of playing defense (more on that later). Credit the Suns for coming out and playing for their playoff lives despite a disappointing season. They pulled out the W and live to fight another day.
Bullets after the jump.
- Chris Paul. Despite having another off night in terms of shooting (13 for 29), CP took over when no one else was willing to. He finished with 29 points, 16 assists, and 7 rebounds.
- DX. He finished with 28 points, 12 boards 1 assist and 2 steals.
- The Hornets' ball-handling. We only had 9 turnovers. Lately it feels like CP could do that all by his lonesome. No one player had more than 3.
- Peja's steals. He 4 steals tonight to add last night's 4. Weird. He also had 18 points on 5 for 11 shooting (5 for 9 from deep) and 7 boards.
- The Sun's D. They were a little out of sync for the first--perhaps because we tried to beat them at their own game--but in the end, they shut us down by staying glued to our jump shooters and keeping a solid hold on the lane.
- The Sun's Vets. Nash, Shaq, and Hill all looked great tonight. I know the Suns were playing hard to stay alive in the playoff race, but I was shocked at how sprightly these three were. Nash went 24/13 and Shaq went 17/10 and neither one played more than 37 minutes.
- JuJu's putback dunk on Robin Lopez.
- Our defense. We looked confused for most of the game. And when we weren't confused, we were slow. They took so many open shots and their 51.4% from the field shows it. And when we did decide to play D, we just ended up fouling because they either outsmarted us or Shaq got a hold of the ball down low (again). We gave them 33 free throws. This leads to my next point...
- WE DON'T DRIVE! Why not? Why? Shaq didn't get his first foul until the beginning of the fourth. THE FOURTH! Why? Not because the refs were botching calls, but because we refused to drive into the paint. Driving leads to fouls and fouls lead to free throws. Their whole team finished with 13 personal fouls for the game, giving us a mere 12 shots from the charity stripe. This game was won at the stripe. Both teams shot 75%, but they took 21 more free throws than us. Done and done.
- Hilton. In 17 minutes he managed 4 points, 1 rebound, 2 turnovers, 0 boxing outs, and a gajillion bites on Nash's attempts to draw double teams in the paint (which left Shaq wide open). Man we need Tyson back.
- The Bench. They went 5 for 16 on a night when the Hornets as a team finished 47% from the field. Oof.
Composed to: Aztec Camera's High Land, Hard Rain
The opponent's take: Bright Side of the Sun