Suns Spoil Hornetsí Return to Louisiana
Phoenix 101, New Orleans/Oklahoma City 88
BATON ROUGE, La., (Ticker) -- The Hornets ownership group that returned to New Orleans had a better day than the Hornets players who returned to Louisiana.
Hours after owner George Shinn toured the Crescent City, the Hornets were blitzed in the fourth quarter by the Phoenix Suns, who rode a huge game from Eddie House to a 101-88 victory.
The crowd was nowhere near the 18,599 fans the Hornets average in their "other" home, the Ford Center in Oklahoma City. But the Louisiana fans were enthusiastic and the players noticed.
"It was good to be back in front of our hometown fans," Hornets forward and Louisiana native P.J. Brown said. "People here love us and it was good to be back in front of family. It felt good. Everything was going well. Hopefully we can come back (to Baton Rouge) next month and get back on track and win some games in front of our fans."
"It was great to get to play for fans that were there for us in the beginning before that tragedy," said Hornets rookie Chris Paul, who scored 25 points. "I am happy they came out to support."
They were sent home unhappy by House, who scored 16 of his 26 points in the fourth quarter. He made four 3-pointers in the final period, when he outscored the Hornets by himself and helped the Suns erase a 78-64 deficit.
"You know they are going to come back and play harder," Hornets coach Byron Scott said. "The game wasn't over. Being down 14 with 12 minutes left in the game is nothing. We relaxed on the defensive end and hit (they) every shot they wanted. Then we tried to pick it up on the offensive end and you're dead."
House's jumper with 6:16 left was part of an 8-0 run and gave the Suns the lead for good at 85-84.
"Eddie House went off and we didn't have an answer for him," Brown said. "He was hitting 3-pointers from every spot on the floor and he got momentum going their way and it never came back to us."
For the fourth time this season, the Hornets were denied a third straight win.
"I don't think it's psychological, its just part of the learning process," said Brown, who scored 20 points. "We want respect and talk about getting respect, but the only way you can get that is put together a streak and win games in this league. We need to string together four or five in a row to do that."
Earlier Friday, Shinn, president Paul Mott and NBA deputy commissioner Russ Granik toured the storm-ravaged New Orleans area. They discussed the future of the team in the Crescent City and the possibility of the Hornets moving Baton Rouge games in March to New Orleans.
"It was an outstanding meeting," Shinn said. "Everybody was very understanding with the situation and wanted to do the right thing. They were working on a long-term solution and a short-term solution. I think it will be late January or early February before we come up with a plan."
Shinn has maintained his allegiance to Louisiana but does not want to rush matters where it could negatively affect the recovery process.
"Our goal is to come back and see if we can play a couple of games this year," he said. "But if we come back and play a game in front of 1,500 people, that is not going to be good for anyone. It won't be good for the NBA or New Orleans."
"It is one of those situations where it is very unique," Scott said. "It doesn't happen in this league very often. You just try and put certain things in the back of your mind and concentrate on your job and that is getting them ready."
Shawn Marion scored 21 points, Steve Nash had 16 of his 18 in the second half and Kurt Thomas added 16 for the Suns. J.R. Smith scored 14 points for the Hornets.