Hornets focus in, get win over Suns

NEW ORLEANS — To the New Orleans Hornets, home was a good place to be as they sought to end a four-game losing streak and return to their manner of play after a tough five-game Western Conference road trip.

That was evident Wednesday night at New Orleans Arena, as the Hornets took a 93-84 victory over the Phoenix Suns in a game in which featured the grit they said they needed to get back.

And leading the way was point guard Greivis Vasquez, who scored 19 points on 8-of-9 shooting and played an excellent floor game, with 12 assists and no turnovers. It was the most assists without a turnover in his career.

“I was trying to do my job,” Vasquez said. “I was just trying to be the point guard, create shots for my teammates, do the right things on the court. It was a night in which we played with a lot of energy. This was a good turnaround for us.”

Coach Monty Williams said: “I thought Greivis had big-time command of the game. He was pretty special as far as finding guys and attacking the basket.”

Behind the play of Vasquez, the Hornets shot 52 percent from the field and had just 11 turnovers, offsetting a 40-33 rebounding edge by Phoenix.

Small forward Al-Farouq Aminu had 16 points on 7-of-9 shooting and 11 rebounds. Forward Ryan Anderson scored 14 off the bench and center Robin Lopez 11.

Coming off a win at Memphis, Phoenix was led by center Marcin Gortat and guard Jared Dudley, each with 14.

For the Hornets, it was perhaps an important win, coming after a listless performance in Minnesota and with them set to return to the road for three games beginning Friday.

However, the game appeared to be slipping away. The Hornets clung to a precarious 80-78 lead halfway through the fourth quarter after a 5-2 Suns burst. However, Anderson sank a 3-pointer and passed to Lopez rolling to the basket for a score, igniting a 10-0 run, with Aminu scoring six in a row as the lead grew to 93-80 with 1:24 left.

The Hornets hit the Suns with a flurry at the halfway point of the third quarter and went on to a 78-71 lead by the end of it. It happened just when it appeared New Orleans had lost control, and Phoenix took a 61-60 lead with 7:09 showing.

However, the Hornets then went on a 13-2 run for a 73-63 lead with 4:13 left. Key in the run were two tip-ins by Lopez, a 3-pointer by Anderson and a dunk by Aminu on the break off a half-court lob from Vasquez that resulted in a Suns timeout.

New Orleans had led 60-55 three minutes into the third when things got lackadaisical, resulting in the Suns taking the lead. However, Vasquez righted the ship, driving for a basket that sent New Orleans on its way and ultimately regaining control.

Dudley said that despite the Hornets’ hot shooting, defense won the game for New Orleans.

“I thought the game slowed down in the second half,” Dudley said. “Defensively, they took us out of what we wanted to do.”

The Hornets ended the first half with a 54-53 lead, as the teams went back and forth like a good boxing match. After 19 lead changes and 11 ties, guard Eric Gordon gave New Orleans the lead with two free throws with six seconds left after he drove and was fouled by Gortat.

The second quarter saw neither team getting more than a three-point advantage, with Phoenix leading 48-45 on a jump shot by Dudley. However, Aminu scored back-to-back baskets, including one on beautiful baseline drive, and New Orleans led 49-48 at 2:25.

Matching the Suns’ offensive pace and intensity, New Orleans shot 54.8 percent and committed only four turnovers in the first half. It was needed, as the Suns outrebounded the Hornets 24-14.

The Suns had begun the game shooting 50 percent from the field, but by the end of the first quarter, they were cooled off to 36.8.