The Hornets beat the Suns

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Published: December 17, 2007

Beer: $1
Water: $3

That was the price list at the pregame BuzzFest yesterday, and the evening only got crazier from there.

The BuzzFest delivered that same party atmosphere outside the Arena, something methinks I could never tire of. There was a dude on stilts dancing with random people, dozens of kids descending on a toppled trolley of cotton candy, and some group called Soul Revival churning out soulful goodness from the stage. As good as all that was, I was headed to my seat as soon as the Arena doors opened.

Pregame

I watch Steve Nash tossing up threes, making twelve in a row at one point. Amare Stoudemire has less success from the same distance. I start getting more than a little anxious about this game. The Suns come into this one with a 17-6 record, having beaten the Utah Jazz on Wednesday. The Hornets, of course, sport a very respectable 14-9 record, but we just got beat by the Mavs and Nuggets on the road. Oh, and both Peja Stojakovic and Melvin Ely are out with injuries, while the Suns are at full strength. I'm fearing a blowout here.

CP owned Nash this time

First Quarter

Rasual Butler starts in place of Peja. Morris Peterson comes away with the jumpball and gets right to the line. He looked a little tender a night earlier in Dallas, having just returned from that back injury. Tonight, he's looking as good as he has all season. He scores 9 points in the first five minutes.

Phoenix are smart enough not to have Nash guarding Chris Paul. Instead, Grant Hill gets the assignment, with Nash picking up Mo-Pete. That might have something to do with Peterson's fast start.

5:01 – It's a three point frenzy, as Rasual answers Raja Bell who answered CP. We're up 22-17 and I'm pleasantly surprised with our guys so far. They Hornets have come out aggressive, the ball is moving on offense, and they're actually running some plays. Mostly, they're freeing up either Peterson or Butler with picks along the baseline.

1:20 – Hilton Armstrong checked in for Tyson Chandler a couple minutes back, and he's doing a great job so far. Matched up with Boris Diaw, he's been a massive ball of positive energy. He just dropped in his second bucket to put us up 31-24.

Last play of the quarter, and CP zigzags into the lane. He gets in deep, pump fakes two Suns into the air, then gets clobbered by them on the way back down as he rises to shoot. Somehow, there's no call on the play.

31-26 at the end of one.

Second Quarter

Byron Scott starts out with Rasual, Hilton, Bobby Jackson, Jannero Pargo and Julian Wright. Mike D'Antoni has Diaw, Hill, Shawn Marion, Leandro Barbosa and Brian Skinner's facial hair.

8:53 and it's hard to keep notes with the pace of this game. The Hornets just called time after two fastbreak buckets by the Suns. Already, they've scored 11 points in the quarter, and narrowed the gap to 39-37. The Hornets have thrown up four threes in the last two minutes, but they're good looks for the most part, and a pair of them found the bottom of the net.

6:50 – Chandler, Mo-Pete and David West have all re-entered the game, and a three by Peterson makes it 44-39 Hornets. After a Grant Hill turnover, D'Antoni gets some of his own starters back in the game.

5:54 – Julian Wright gets it done on both ends of the floor. First he has a great close out on Barbosa in the corner. Leandro tries to go by the rookie but Wright keeps up and Mo-Pete gets the steal off help. At the other end, Wright takes it real strong to the hoop, past a couple of defenders and dishes to Chandler at the last second for the slam. That might be the best move I've seen the kid make. Another basket by Chandler on the next trip and it's 48-39 Hornets.

3:55 – Mo-Pete makes a tough catch off a cross-court pass from Wright, and drops another three over Nash. He's got 16 points already, we're up 54-42, and the back of Jeff Bower's head looks happy.

1:08 – Wright gets unlucky, missing one in the lane after working hard to get a shot off. Chandler is there for the clean-up though, slamming home the put-back. Phoenix being Phoenix, they inbound like lightening and get the ball downcourt to Amare, who puts down a nasty jam on the head of Julian Wright. Ouch.

End of the half and we're up 59-46. Excellent.

Halftime Thoughts

  • Great energy from the reserves so far. Armstrong and Wright have been great, Bobby Jackson has been solid, and Jannero Pargo has more assists (3) than shots (2).
  • The Suns look way off their game. The much-heralded showdown between Nash and Paul isn't living up to the hype, especially with them matching up on only one end of the floor. Nash is really struggling, which causes Phoenix to struggle. He's 1-of-6 from the field with only 2 assists thus far.
  • Halftime show is two half-naked dudes balancing on each other's baldy bits. Their act is impressive and they get a big applause, but their choice of dress is a little disturbing. Doubt you'll seem them halftime at the Super Bowl.
  • Offensively, the Hornets look great compared to the previous night. CP isn't dominating the ball, dribbling the shot clock to single digits before looking to make something happen. This time the ball is moving, guys are cutting and setting picks, and the turnovers are few and far between (just 6 so far).
  • Defensively, we're not doing a bad job considering it's the Suns we're playing here. Guys are getting their hand in the passing lanes, coming up with some steals and rebounding well defensively. Tyson has 10 boards already. Meanwhile, the Suns are missing a lot of their shots, even wide open looks. That helps.
  • There's apparently 13,705 fans in attendance, which is about 1,500 more than the Dallas game two weeks ago. The atmosphere is fantastic; everyone is really getting into the game and they're being rewarded with great play so far.

Third Quarter

10:55 – The Suns come out looking serious, and an 8-0 run makes it just a five-point Hornets advantage, 59-54. Byron has seen enough and calls timeout. He's been criticized for not calling timeouts in a timely fashion before, but that one was right on schedule. The timeout is strange though, as the coaches huddle on the floor and the players stand around the bench looking at Peja's "60 second timeout" on the jumbotron. Shouldn't everyone be discussing how to stop the run?

10:18 – Tyson works to come up with an offensive rebound, and kicks it out to CP on the sideline. Chris gets absolutely mugged by a pair of defenders, but there's no call. Somehow, he keeps it together and finds Rasual for three. 62-54 Hornets.

9:29 and Tyson catches his second lob from CP in as many trips. Both of them end with emphatic jams, and the Hornets look like they're gonna play all four quarters in this one. The lead is back to double digits, 66-56.

6:42 – Chandler wins a jumpball after tying up Amare. A few minutes ago, Tyson drew an offensive foul on Stoudemire. So far he's been dominating that match-up.

4:39 – The pace has picked up again, and the Suns make the most of it with a 7-0 run that cuts the Hornets lead to four, 72-68. Chris starts walking the ball up the floor, realizing that we can't get into a running game with Phoenix.

3:18 – West hits a fadeaway from the low block. That gives him 13 points. A three-point play by Amare on the other end makes it a two-point game. Hornets up 76-74.

0:44 – 79-77 Hornets and Tyson gets hit by Skinner underneath. He needs cotton up his nose to stop the bleeding, and splits the freebies before sitting for Armstrong. 

0:05 – West gives the Suns a second chance, tapping the rebound outside when he could have grabbed it instead. Barbosa makes the most of it, dropping an open three from the corner, and we're tied at 80 at the end of the third. Phoenix out-scored us 34-21 in that quarter.

Fourth Quarter

11:23 – Raja Bell ducks in the lane and hits a short J to give the Suns their first lead since the first quarter, 82-80. I begin to get that sinking feeling.

10:01 – After three blank trips by the Hornets, Hilton Armstrong takes Brian Skinner right down the middle to the rack, jumps, hangs, gets hit, and tosses it in the hole. Nice move, but he bricks the free throw. Tied at 82.

9:50 – Barbosa blurs to the basket to score off the give and go. Sick speed.

8:31 – After Shawn Marion throws home an oop from Barbosa, Hilton gets the ball inside with good position on Skinner, but gets his shot blocked. Somehow, he comes up with the rebound, but instead of going right back up, he takes a dribble and has it stripped. Off his leg, out of bounds, Suns ball.

8:00 – Out of a timeout, the Hornets get a stop, and a nice drive by Pargo sets up Hilton for the power slam. And 1. Spine chills. Hilton gets the extra point to put us back in front, 87-86.

Hilton happy, Skinner sad

6:39 – Hilton learns fast. Still aggressive inside, he misses but again comes up with the rebound. This time, he goes right back up with it, flipping it in reverse. We're up, 92-88. Phoenix calls time, and this place is rocking. I'm talking goosebump-type shit. It's the loudest I've heard the Arena, everyone's on their feet, and I wouldn't want to be anywhere else right now.

6:01 – Nash continues to struggle, missing a triple out of the timeout. Chris Paul comes down and goes back and forth across the lane before settling on a 16-footer. That's good, and it only gets louder.

4:11 – A minute after an easy two by Shawn Marion gets the Suns back within four, CP finds Mo-Pete for a three-ball, corner pocket. The Arena explodes. 97-90 Hornets.

3:21 – Peterson tries one from the other corner, but comes up short. Tyson, having himself a GAME, comes up with another offensive rebound, and lets Chris go to work. He knifes through the defense for the layup. 99-92 Hornets.

2:24 – The Suns refuse to go quietly. After CP crosses up Grant Hill and rims out a baseline fadeaway, Marionfinishes a lob from Nash. 99-96 Hornets, and Byron burns another timeout. Que the dance cam, and once again it gets x-rated very quickly. Awesome.

0:35 – After a flurry of misses from both teams, CP sets up West for a wide-open look, right down the middle. West doesn't have it tonight though, and leaves it well short. Amare goes strong to the hoop on the other end and draws one on West. Despite the best efforts of the crowd, he sinks both and it's a 1-point game, 99-98. Byron calls a 20.

0:14 – Chris works the clock up top, then calls West up from the baseline to run the pick and roll. West pops free, fakes the shot (as he's known to do), and  takes it left to the basket. Unfortunately, he runs into a bunch of Suns and gets called for a travel. Not a nice sight.

The Suns come right down and it ends up in Marion's hands on the left side of the floor. He drives to the middle and tries a half-hook/half-floater thingy, which falls about a foot short of the rim. Rebound Rasual, foul on CP, and this one's over.

Chris sinks both free throws to make it a final score of 101-98. The fans are loving it, and I can't believe we actually won that game.

Hilton basks in it

Postgame Thoughts

I think we did get lucky with Phoenix coming out flat, but the Hornets deserve a ton of credit for getting this one done. Second night of a back-to-back, without Peja, and we get a win I did not see happening. Screw me and my negativity.

Pretty much everyone but West played really well, and West didn't even play that bad, just struggled with his shot a bit and messed up with that final drive. Hilton Armstrong gave us a huge spark with his play in the fourth. Hopefully he can build off this game. Mo-Pete really got us off to a great start, and hit some big shots. He finished with 21 points, knocking down 4-of-6 from deep.

As for the epic CP vs. Nash match-up, Chris won hands down. He had 21 points and 10 assists, while Nash finished with 12 and 7. Barbosa led the Suns with 19 points on 8-of-12 shooting.

So that win puts us at 15-9 on the season, and we've won three straight at home. It was great to have an exciting game and get a good win with a decent number of people in the building. Hopefully they'll be back for more.

The After Party

I'm not sure how much I can say about what went down after the game, but trust me; it was nuts. They say the people of New Orleans invented a good time, and I can't help but agree. The drinks were flowing, spirits were high, folks were dancing on the bar. Crazy shit. I can't really remember getting home, but there's an empty box of rice krispie treats in my kitchen so I guess I got hungry along the way.

Here I am late the next evening, still feeling the effects of too much whiskey and I've got this mad craving for ice cream. Can't wait to do it all again.

Looking Ahead

We've got four of our next five on the road, but the opponents ain't fantastic. The Hornets are in Portland tomorrow, then at Seattle on Wednesday. The T-Wolves will be here in New Orleans next Saturday, then it's trips to Memphis and Charlotte after Christmas, before LeBron comes to town.

Methinks we could make it to the new year in good shape. 

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