CHARLOTTE, NC, March 16 (Ticker) --
The Charlotte Hornets are tightening their grasp on the final playoff spot in the Eastern Conference, while the Phoenix Suns keep letting games slip away.
nailed two clutch jumpers and Baron Davis
banked in a 3-pointer during a key run in the closing minutes as the Hornets posted an 87-76 victory over the struggling Suns, who have lost six straight road games.
Charlotte won just two of eight games from February 22-March 8 but has rebounded to win three of its last four contests. It remained 1 1/2 games ahead of the Miami Heat for the eighth spot in the Eastern Conference by taking advantage of Phoenix's road struggles.
"We're coming together right now," Charlotte coach Paul Silas said. "If we keep winning, we'll be in it. I like our chances
as long as we keep playing like tonight. Phoenix came to play tonight; they wanted this game."
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Elden Campbell scored eight of his 17 points in the decisive fourth quarter.
Garrett W. Ellwood
The Hornets trailed, 70-68, before Jamal Mashburn
tied it on a dunk with 6:25 remaining. The teams traded baskets and Campbell made a layup to give Charlotte a 74-72 lead and spark a 9-0 run.
Campbell followed with a short jumper before Davis banked an off-balance 3-pointer as the shot clock wound down with 2:24 left. Davis fed P.J. Brown
for a baseline jumper that made it
79-72 with 1:52 to go.
The Suns scored just four points in the final 4 1/2 minutes -- all by Marion -- and managed only 13 in the fourth quarter.
"We played well that last five minutes," Silas said. "Our defense denied the wings and they couldn't get into any kind of
offense. I like the way we finished the game."
Phoenix has lost five consecutive games and has not won on the road since defeating Memphis on February 21.
"It's disappointing, but we have to keep working," Marion said. "This thing isn't over. It ain't over until the fat lady says
so. We have to win some games and that's the bottom line."
Mashburn finished with 23 points, seven rebounds and five assists. He had just seven points in the first half before
scoring 11 in the third quarter.
scored 13 points and Brown added 10 and seven
rebounds for Charlotte, which shot just 42 percent (29-of-69) from the field but outscored Phoenix, 25-4, at the line.
"We were balanced tonight," said Davis, who had five points and 10 assists. "There were a lot of people doing a lot of
different things. It was pretty quiet night for me. I was trying to make things happen near the end of the game. We're
starting to have have more confidence in what we're doing.
Marion had 31 points and 13 rebounds and Stephon Marbury
scored 19 points for the Suns, who shot just 33 percent (30-of-90) from the field.
scored 11 points off the bench and Bo Outlaw
grabbed 11 rebounds to help Phoenix to a 52-45 rebounding
advantage, including 18-8 on the offensive end.
"I'm very proud of this group, they didn't give up and they played hard," Suns coach Frank Johnson said. "They didn't play
with the poise that we needed, though. You've got to execute every time you have the bell. We need to have that kind of