NEW ORLEANS â€“ What appeared to be a competitive and very winnable basketball game through three quarters turned into a blowout loss for the New Orleans Hornets and their fans on Wednesday night at New Orleans Arena.
Steve Nash and the visiting Phoenix Suns poured it on in the fourth quarter to run away with a 120-103 victory over the slumping Hornets (4-18). Nash, a 15-year veteran, turned in a performance reminiscent of his younger days, recording a game-high 30 points along with 10 assists. Nash was nearly unstoppable, shooting 13-16 from the field for the game.
â€śObviously when Steve is going like that weâ€™re pretty good,â€ť Suns Coach Alvin Gentry said about his point guard. â€śHe was real aggressive offensively and shot the ball well. I thought we did a great job in our spin-and-roll offense of rolling and getting more easy baskets.â€ť
Marcin Gortat added 23 points and 11 rebounds for the Suns. Gortat made 11 of his 14 free throw attempts. Phoenix thrived at the free throw line, making 32-of 39 foul shots. Channing Frye chipped in with 16 points. Jared Dudley scored 15 points. Phoenix finished at 52 percent shooting from the field.
New Orleans trailed 87-88 heading into the fourth quarter, but fell apart courtesy of seven turnovers in the period. The Hornets mustered only 16 points in the fourth quarter, while Phoenix doubled that total with 32 points.
The loss was the third straight for the Hornets and their eleventh loss in their past 12 games.
The loss also spoiled the effort of Hornets backup point guard Greivis Vasquez. Vasquez set career-high marks with 20 points and 12 assists. He also grabbed a team-high six rebounds.
Surprisingly, there was balanced scoring for New Orleans with seven players reaching double figures. Jason Smith scored 16 points on 8-of-9 shooting from the floor. Jarrett Jack, Marco Belinelli and Gustavo Ayon each had 10 points. Trevor Ariza added 15 points, while Emeka Okafor scored 11 points.
New Orleans managed to shoot 51 percent from the field, including 9-of-16 from beyond the arc. Unfortunately, turnovers proved to be the stat that unraveled the Hornets. Phoenix feasted on the Hornets mistakes, converting 17 New Orleans turnovers into 27 points.
The Hornets seemed to be in control of the game late in the second quarter when they assumed a 57-44 lead following 3-pointer by Jack with 2:12 left in the half. However, New Orleans allowed Phoenix to close out the period with a 12-2 run, making their lead only 59-56 at the half.
â€śWe played badly down the stretch of that first half,â€ť Hornets Coach Monty Williams said. â€śYouâ€™re going to deal with runs in the NBA. We didnâ€™t deal with their run well tonight. It canâ€™t affect the way that you play the game or your attitude. It carried over into the second half.â€ť
The third quarter was the beginning of the end for New Orleans. Phoenix opened the period on a 10-3 run and never trailed for the rest of the game. Reserve point guard Sebastian Telfair sparked the Suns, scoring all nine of his points in the final 1:09 of the third quarter.
â€śWe had the game in hand and had a rhythm to the game that was in our favor,â€ť Jack said. â€śTo let them come back in that fashion in the quick manner that they did is just difficult.â€ť
The Suns continued their onslaught in the fourth quarter. Following a 3-pointer by Vasquez with 8:14 remaining in the game to trim the Suns lead to 95-94, the Hornets went nearly four minutes without scoring a point. During that span, Phoenix went on a 13-0 run to essentially put the game out of reach, sending the crowd of 13,598 towards the exits.
â€śI told our team that this is all about growing up individually and as a team,â€ť Williams said. â€śItâ€™s frustrating to lose games, but youâ€™re never out until the last horn goes off. Down the stretch, I thought we just got frustrated and let the game go.â€ť
The Hornets have little time to dwell on their latest loss, as they hit the road to take on the San Antonio Spurs Thursday night.
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