Five Observations: Hornets 132, Suns 130 (2OT)

Wednesday, February 6, 2008
By: Jim Eichenhofer, Hornets.com

Wow. That one was downright ridiculous. Peja Stojakovic capped a contest Hornets TV play-by-play broadcaster Bob Licht described as "the best game in the NBA this season" by draining a fadeaway 20-footer at the buzzer of the second overtime period.

New Orleans (33-15) used a tremendous 42-point, nine-assist, eight-steal performance by Chris Paul to stave off Phoenix (34-15), which made a pair of game-tying three-pointers in the extra periods. Steve Nash drilled an open trey with 8 seconds left in the first OT period to knot it at 124. Down by three again, this time in the second OT, Leandro Barbosa buried a trifecta to make it 130-130 with 3.2 seconds left. After a timeout, Stojakovic canned his difficult jumper over Amare Stoudemire to end New Orleans' three-game losing streak and enable the Hornets to post another momentous victory over an elite Western Conference foe. New Orleans is now an eye-opening 3-0 vs. Phoenix and 2-0 on the Suns' home floor.

"We hung tough," David West said of bouncing back after the Suns kept making clutch buckets. "We just kept scrapping and Peja came through with an unbelievable shot."

"It was unbelievable," Byron Scott described of the game. "Luckily at the end, Peja knocked one down at the end to give us the victory."

Five observations from the thriller in Phoenix:

1) CP3 brilliant again in head-to-head matchup vs. two-time MVP.
Lately a lot of the national talk has been that Paul's chances of winning the 2007-08 MVP award are diminishing somewhat, but if that's the case, the Hornets' point guard gave everyone a big reminder of how great a player he has become this season. He's had some incredible games lately, but 42 points, nine dimes, eight thefts and 18-for-33 shooting against Steve Nash has to rank right at the top of the list. Nash wasn't exactly subpar for the Suns, netting 32 points and 12 assists. On the downside, however, Nash coughed up 10 turnovers. CP3 only had one turnover.

2) Jannero Pargo, unsung hero.
As has been the case often this season, Pargo got the nod in crunch time over starter Morris Peterson, who had a quiet two-point game. Pargo not only registered 22 points Monday, but he scored 12 of those points in the OT periods. He was ultra-clutch from the line with the game at stake, going 6-for-6 in extra time. Pargo also converted a large fast-break basket in the final minute of the first OT. The guy has easily been the most valuable and consistent Hornets reserve this season and has already more than justified the affordable deal the club signed him to late in the summer.

3) The buzz on... Peja Stojakovic.
A game-winning buzzer-beater on the road provides us with another reminder of what was missing from this team in 2006-07, when New Orleans lost several nip-and-tuck away games with no reliable perimeter shot-maker to rely on in key moments. With Chris Paul, David West and Byron Scott all headed to the 2008 All-Star Game - and Tyson Chandler frequently mentioned as an All-Star snub - it's easy for the national media to overlook how much impact Stojakovic has made on the first-place Hornets. It's also easy to not notice the fact that the 10-year NBA veteran is looking more and more like the guy who was a key reason why Sacramento once was a major force in the league. He entered Monday's 26-point game shooting 46.2 percent from three-point range, which is the best accuracy rate of his decorated pro career.

4) The buzz on... David West.
The Xavier (Ohio) product had not shot the ball well in the two games immediately after the announcement that he will appear in his first All-Star Game. He struggled again from the field Monday, going 8-for-24 from the field, but finished with 21 points and 13 rebounds. West's 14 first-half points helped stake New Orleans to a 63-55 halftime edge. West was extremely consistent during the team's 12-2 month of January, but he appears to be going through a mini-shooting slump right now. Is it fatigue from all of his minutes he's played? At this rate he may set a career-high in that department by about mid-March.

5) Hilton Armstrong makes emergency start.
Tyson Chandler (flu) did not play Monday, opening up a spot in the first five. Instead of reconfiguring his rotation, Scott opted to move Armstrong into the starting lineup. It was another mixed-bag kind of night for the UConn product, who had six points, seven rebounds and four fouls in 25 minutes. Is it me, or does this guy seem to get no calls from the officials lately? It seems like every borderline call goes against him, including one play Monday where his tip-in appeared to be well off the cylinder, yet he still was whistled for offensive interference. I suppose the only way to get more respect from the refs is to play better. That's also the only way for Armstrong to get more regular playing time.