The Hornets beat the Suns

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Published: January 6, 2008

So this past evening the Hornets rolled into Phoenix to play the Suns, who just so happened to have the best record in the Western Conference at 23-9. Add to that, the Hornets were coming off a fine but exhausting win in Golden State yesterday, and David West would not be available due to that nasty fall he took against the Warriors.

Not even Bob Licht, the most optimistic dude in the history of mankind, could have foreseen the Hornets winning this one.

But win it they did, in exhilarating fashion. Jim Eichenhofer just got done calling it the most impressive victory of the season for the Hornets, and that's a fact. The odds were stacked against us, but Chris Paul just refused to let us lose.

Let's get to some game notes…

Mo-Pete shoots over the Cap'n Barbosa

Pregame

Nice one, despite the game not being broadcast by Cox, there's no League Pass blackout, which makes me uber-happy. Unfortunately though, I'll have to make do with the Suns announcers calling the US Airways Arena the "Purple Palace," which sounds like a nightclub I'd never go into.

As expected, West will sit out tonight. Well, maybe not sit. He might lie on his front or something. In a surprising move, Jannero Pargo gets the start. Byron Scott would later tell nobody that a naked Indian visited him in a dream and told him to do it.

First Quarter

The Suns start with Steve Nash, Raja Bell, Shawn marion, Grant Hill and Amare Stoudemire. Marion starts out guarding CP.

Tyson and Amare go at each other early, and the latter is winning most of the battles. A Mo-Pete corner three gets us on the board 90 seconds in.

9:23 – Raja Bell leaves the game, replaced by Leandro Barbosa. Apparently Bell is suffering from the flu or diarrhea or something, and he's done for the night.

4:45 – Amare blocks Tyson for the second time already, but Peterson cleans up the mess. We're up 20-17, but Tyson ain't happy with the refs, and let's them know about it on the way back down the floor.

4:08 – Pargo has been going right at Nash, and now drops two on a 19-footer. At the other end, Barbosa is killing us. He has 8 points already.

3:45 – Mo-Pete hits a WIDE OPEN triple. I was going to mention how good the Suns were defending the pick and roll and rotating well on defense, but nevermind.

After that bucket, timeout Suns, and we lead 25-21. Our guys are playing well, but if this fast pace continues methinks we'll never make it to the fourth quarter.

3:06 – Tyson has been denied several times already by Stoudemire, but he's not giving up. He goes right at him in the post again and gets the foul this time. It's Amare's first foul, but he's replaced by Brian Skinner's beard anyway.

1:44 – Armstrong and Vinicius are in the game now for the Hornets. Marcus Banks is in for the Suns and guarding CP. Chris has only two points thus far, and Peja has yet to score, having missed three shots already.

1:09 – Peja nails one from close range, but Barbosa surrounds that play with two scores of his own. He has 14 points now. Peja has been trying to guard him, and that's just not gonna work.

Time windind down, Chris misses a runner, but gets his own board and barely squeezes up another shot before the buzzer. It counts, and the Hornets lead 34-31 after one.

Second Quarter

Suns: Barbosa, Hill, Diaw, Banks, Skinner.
Hornets: CP, Jackson, V, Peja, Armstrong.

11:13 – Peja, great find by CP on the wing, pump fakes, one dribble, steps to baseline and drops a high-arcer. Sweet.

10:18 – Bowen in. Barbosa to the line.

9:38 – Banks cans his third straight three of the game. He's stepping up defensively on Chris, too, playing tight and picking him up full court even. Suns lead it by one.

8:52 – V hits a three. Great pass cross court from Chris.

8:00 – Bowen dives after a loose ball and bangs his head on the floor. Ouch. He stays in for a minute before Peja takes his place.

5:26 – Nash goes coast to coast in about half a second and gets a layup. 51-45 Suns. Timeout Hornets.

Out of that, Pargo scores again goes right down the middle and hits a runner. He's got 10 points in the game, which might be his most in forever. Seriously, he's playing great right now, hitting a high percentage. He can't stop Nash though, who comes right back at him for two. Dude's got 17 points already.

4:37 – Tyson gets crowded again in the line, ball is slapped away, and we get a shot clock violation. Rough game for Tyson so far.

3:33 – Grant Hill corner three. 10-point Suns lead. They're scoring every damn trip.

1:47 – Suns up 11. Hornets Timeout. Tyson trying to take advantage of Hill in the post the last few trips.

1:16 – Nice D by Pargo, challenges the jumper by Diaw, Peja grabs the rebound and CP finds Tyson for the alley-oop at the other end. 64-57 Suns.

0:28 – Tyson dares Stoudemire to shoot the three, so Amare does and makes it. Balls.

The quarter ends with Phoenix leading 68-57. They outscored us 37-23 in the period. Ferocious offense. 57 points in a half would be damn fine work against any other team.

France vs. Serbia. Serbia win.

Halftime Thoughts

  • The Suns are on fire, shooting 59% FGs, 58% 3s and 90% FTs. It would be nice to have West in there to slow the game down a little. You know, feed it to him in the post and just let it simmer. Chris looks to be really missing the big guy on the pick and fade out high. Chandler can pick and roll, but he's not going to fade out every now and then to knock down jumpers like West can.
  • Led by Barbosa (16 points) and Banks (9 points), the Suns reserves are outscoring our bench 30-3. Our three did of course come from Marcus Vinicius though, so they're extra special. He's connected from downtown in conscutive games now, and if he can bring that shooting off the bench consistently, he'll find himself with a regular spot in the rotation.

    Of the other reserves to get some minutes in the first half, Jackson and Armstrong didn't contribute much. This might be a good game for Byron to bring Butler and JuJu out of the doghouse. Wright especially could help on defense, slow the Suns a bit.

  • Can we get Leandro Barbosa, please? Wishful thinking, I know, but if the Hornets had him coming off the bench, we'd be winning a championship in June.
  • All five starters have scored in double figures for the Hornets, led by Paul's 12. CP played all 24 minutes of that half, too.

Third Quarter

Suns start out missing open shots, while Pargo, Peja and Peterson all throw some in the onion bag for the Hornets.

8:46 – Marion, still on Tyson defensively, forces him into a tough shot. Nash rewards him at the other end with an alley-oop. That's the first score for Marion tonight. 6-0 Suns run, and they're up 76-65.

7:23 – Mo-Pete hits a quick-release three on the break. 8-point game. We need stops. Hey Byron, throw JuJu out there, see what happens.

6:58 – Nice ball movement around the arc results in Peja dropping a 3 from the top. 6-point game. The Hornets are hanging around. This is okay.

6:00 – Peja works to get the ball with Barbosa on his back. he finally gets the pass, turns and shoots over the Brazilian for two. Barbosa answers other end, slicing into the lane at warp speed. Neither guy can guard the other. Peja shoots over, Leandro flies by.

4:04 – Pargo gets fed by CP and finishes the break to bring the Hornets within five.

3:30 – Peja fouls Barbosa and receives an automatic technical for throwing the ball at stanchion. Stupid rule. Peja just frustrated with himself. Nash misses the technical free throw though. The Suns have misfired on a few freebies tonight.

0:57 – Peja gets us back within five, knocking down a trey of a pick and pop with Pargo. But the Suns just keep scoring at the other end. Relentless. The Hornets playing tough tho, man. I was not expecting them to hang around this long with the Suns, who had played just one game in the last six days.

0:37 – Paul gets fouled by Banks on the drive. Timeout Hornets. Pargo, CP, Mo-Pete, Tyson and Peja have all played this whole quarter so far. Byron swaps Chandler for Armstrong now, while Mike D'Antoni puts Stoudemire back in the game.

CP makes both free throws out of the timeout, bringing us within five once more. Back on defense, Pargo picks one from Grant Hill, gets it to Chris, and we milk the clock a little. After some bouncing and such, CP takes it into the lane and misses a tough shot. Hilton is there for the rebound though, and is so damn clever that he lets Amare block his first put-back attempt (just to let the clock run down, see?), then puts it home on the second try.

That effectively ends the third quarter, and somehow the Hornets are within three, 93-90. I'm thinking we can already chalk this up as a moral victory. I had no idea the Hornets would have this much fight in them tonight. It's almost too much to imagine us winning this one, but if we do, we better get a little attention over here.

Fourth Quarter

Suns: Banks, Diaw, Hill, Amare, Barbosa.
Hornets: Armstrong, Bowen, CP, Jackson, Mo-Pete.

10:07 – Hilton just got blocked by Amare last trip, and this time he can't hold on off the pick and roll with Bobby. Get the man some stickier fingers.

9:48 – Hilton makes amends with a mega-block on an Amare dunk, and CP goes and scores, steals and scores again. 1-point game.

8:39 – After an impressive lob finish by Stoudemire, Hilton mops up a Peja spillage and jams for two.

8:02 – CP goes right to work again, down the lane and a tough finish over a couple Suns. He's stepping up big time right now, carrying this team. It's a lot like last night, with him taking over after being out-shined by the opposing point guard in the first half.

Nash has just 2 points and 2 assists since halftime, by the way.

7:16 – Banks gets free for a layup. Make that a 42-7 advantage in bench points for the Suns, and they lead by five again.

6:24 – CP breaks off Banks, gets into the lane and finds Peja deep in the corner. Beautiful.

5:42 – Hornets get a scrappy bucket. Bowen picked up a fumble by CP, got blocked and Chris was there to clean it up. Tie frickin' ball game! Phoenix take a timeout to figure out what exactly is happening to their universe.

4:43 – Pargo drives at Nash, spins back and shoots a fadeaway. Tough shot but it goes. Hornets lead by two, but the Suns get pass-happy at the other end and get an easy bucket.

3:54 – Chandler slips down the lane after setting a pick for Pargo, and the latter delivers a perfect pass. Dunkage.

3:23 – The Suns get an offensive rebound, get it inside to Diaw, who fakes Mo-Pete into the air. Right about then, Peterson knew he'd made a mistake. Deja-vu as he comes down hard a lot like West yesterday. The Hornets call timeout as Peterson takes a moment to recover. Out of that, he stays in the game and we're all tied again after Diaw's FTs.

3:05 – Phoenix leaves Chris wide open up top, and he shrugs home a three. 110-107 Hornets. Barbosa comes down and answers with a crazy up and under. We need to crowd that guy, get right in front of him in the lane.

2:00 – Chandler gives us a second chance, tipping out a miss by Pargo. CP takes his time out high, before diving into the lane and creating a crazy finish: back to basket, left handed, with Amare Stoudemire draped all over him.

Back on defense, Chris and Tyson mess up the Suns plans and CP leads the break. He gets almost all the way to the hole before dropping it back to Pargo who finishes nice. We're up 5. Timeout Suns.

1:10 – Phoenix get an open jam out of the timout, but Mo-Pete comes up with a three-point play at the other end. He hit that off-balance from 16 feet with the shot clock dying. Some funky shit right there. He hits the free throw to put us ahead by 6.

0:22 – Suns still down 6, and Nash misses a three with a hand in his face. Great defense by the Hornets. Two guys there challenging the shot. The rebound is out of bounds off Peja though, and the Suns burn another timeout.

Out of it, Barbosa misses a triple, Peterson nabs the rebound, and this game's over. The Suns announcers give credit to the Hornets, and say they look like the real deal.

Final score: 118-113 to the visitors.

Chris Paul does the unstoppable

Postgame Thoughts

Screw the moral victory; this one counts for real. It puts us at 23-11 on the season, and just a half game behind the Suns and Spurs atop the Western Conference.

Linkage: box | recap | standings

More important than all that though, I think we got a nice look at what this team is made of tonight. They had absolutely no business winning this game. Phoenix came out and threw a million points at us before halftime, but our guys just kept playing ball and stayed within striking distance. And when it came to crunch time, Chris Paul grabbed the game by the balls and took us home, never showing any signs of weakness despite playing all 48 minutes on the second night of a back-to-back. Feel lucky, folks. We are watching a true legend in the making.

Kudos also to Peja and Mo-Pete, who have both come up big these past two games. Tyson didn't seem to have a great game, yet still ended up with 19 points and 11 rebounds. Excellent job by Pargo, too. He finished with 19 points and 5 dimes. Way to step up, JP.

Next game is back home in New Orleans on Wednesday, when Kobe and the Lakers make their lone trip to the Crescent City this season. I'm fully expecting it to be the best night of my life.

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