Hornets.com postgame: Suns 111, Hornets 108 (OT)
By: Jim Eichenhofer, Hornets.com, @Jim_Eichenhofer
Suns (6-7), Hornets (3-8)
It was over when… Roger Mason’s off-balance, desperation three-pointer at the overtime buzzer fell well short, bringing an end to one of the wildest NBA games you’ll ever see. New Orleans led 74-55 in the third quarter, before Phoenix surged to a 39-9 run that gave the hosts a 94-83 edge. The Hornets regained their footing and scored the final eight points of regulation to force a 103-all deadlock, an 8-0 run capped by Greivis Vasquez’s clutch three-pointer with 17 seconds remaining. The Suns whitewashed the Hornets for much of overtime, prevailing with just an 8-5 tally in the extra time. It was New Orleans’ sixth consecutive loss overall and second OT defeat in a span of three days.
Hornets MVP: It says a lot about Ryan Anderson’s performance that he clearly deserved game MVP honors even though one of his teammates (Vasquez) finished with 25 points and 14 assists, both career highs for the point guard. As Suns TV analyst and former Suns player Eddie Johnson put it, to describe Anderson’s Friday play as “amazing is an understatement.” With the man guarding him often draped all over the fifth-year pro, Anderson put on a dazzling shooting display, going 8-for-13 from three-point range en route to a career-best 34-point clinic. He drained seven three-pointers in the second half alone, part of the 25 points he poured in after halftime. Oh by the way, he also grabbed a team-high 11 rebounds.
Hornets Sixth Man of the Game: The worst news of the evening from a bench perspective was that Jason Smith was inadvertently poked in the eye by a Phoenix player, just 32 seconds into Smith’s first-quarter stint. Smith was struck from behind as he collected a rebound, not giving him much of a chance to anticipate the hit or even blink to decrease the impact. He underwent tests during the game; it was determined that he has a corneal abrasion. His status is to be determined. With Smith sidelined, Lance Thomas gave the Hornets a nice boost, particularly in a six-point second quarter. Thomas finished with eight points, two rebounds and two steals in 17 minutes.
The buzz on… a change in the starting lineup. Austin Rivers had been the Hornets’ first-string shooting guard in each of his nine appearances (he missed the Philadelphia game due to injury), but Monty Williams elected to move Mason into the first unit. New Orleans’ starting five has been digging early holes in several games lately, and perhaps more damaging, it has also come out of the locker room sluggishly at the outset of third quarters. Those third-period dry spells have cost the Hornets dearly during the current losing streak. On Friday, the group of Vasquez, Mason, Al-Farouq Aminu, Anderson and Robin Lopez instead charged out of the gates quickly, staking NOLA to a 31-23 lead after the first quarter. They also played well to open the third quarter, with a 21-8 push that gave the Hornets a 74-55 lead. In a drastic change from previous games, however, the late portion of the third quarter was the killer stretch Friday. Phoenix outscored NOLA 22-7 to close the third period. The Suns still trailed 81-77, but had completely changed the momentum of the game and carried it into the fourth quarter. Individually, Mason struggled to find his shooting touch in his first Hornets start, going 3-for-12 from the field (3-for-8 on treys).