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Hornets 109, Suns 97: The Mean Green Machine

The Hornets continued their charge towards the playoffs (and potentially the sixth seed, Portland's win notwithstanding) with an ultimately comfortable win over the Phoenix Suns. While the defense performed competently - Phoenix with Steve Nash scores 110 points/100 possessions; they scored 108 without him - the story was once again the offense. Willie Green's amazing night obviously stands out, but plenty of other players put in solid performances as well.

- Let's start with Trevor Ariza because this is the huge one. For a third consecutive game, Ariza exceeded 19 points scored; tonight he scored 21, made 9 of 17 shots, made three thefts, collected 8 rebounds, and assisted on four shots. That's... outstanding. It's even better than the Ariza we all hoped for when Dell Demps moved Darren Collison to acquire him. But is this a mirage? In April (4 games), Ariza is shooting 53% and averaging 18 points and 2.5 assists a night. I'm still erring on the side of "fortuitous results in a small sample," but there are definitely aspects of Ariza's game that have improved. If this is the Ariza we get for the playoffs, the equation definitely changes a little bit.

- Willie Green was in a zone. Unlike Ariza, I don't think we can say Green has turned a corner. 13 of his 17 shots came from 15 feet or further, something which has caused us much annoyance all year. This was simply a case of a guy shooting the ball very, very well, something Green should certainly be commended for, but also something that shouldn't be extrapolated out (but likely will be unfortunately).

- Jarrett Jack outscored Chris Paul despite taking two fewer field goal attempts and also chipped in 4 assists. Jason Smith also had himself a nice game, putting up a beautiful pump fake in the second quarter to get a lay in. It's not often that we Smith score off of non-set jump shots, so his performance was cool to see.

- Carl Landry continues to do a very decent job of filling in for David West. In general, he doesn't account for nearly as many possessions per game as West did, but Landry definitely made his shots count tonight. 

- A bit of trivia: Green's 31 point outburst ties for 5th in Hornets' franchise history for points scored by a reserve with Dell Curry's 31 on April 18th, 1989. 4th goes to Ricky Davis for his 32 point game on May 5th, 1999, 3rd to Brad Miller for his 32 point game during that exact same game (box score here), 2nd to Dell Curry for his 33 point game on January 30th, 1993, and 1st to, of course, Marcus Thornton for scoring 37 points on February 23rd, 2010.