Five Observations: Hornets 120, Suns 103

Wednesday, February 27, 2008
By: Jim Eichenhofer,

Among all of the things the Hornets have accomplished through 56 games this season, perhaps the most impressive line on their 2007-08 resume is a 4-0 record vs. Phoenix. New Orleans capped its four-game sweep over one of the Western Conference’s perennial contenders, and it wasn’t even close this time.

The Hornets took a four-point lead into halftime, before thoroughly dominating the Suns after intermission. New Orleans (38-18) moved into a virtual tie in the West standings in part by outscoring Phoenix (39-19) by a 38-22 margin in the third quarter.

Overall, it was one of the club’s most well-rounded performances of the season, with six players producing double-digit scoring, including Jannero Pargo’s 22 points off the bench.

Five observations from the 17-point victory at the sold-out New Orleans Arena:

1) Yet another big edge goes to the youngster in the matchup of elite West point guards.
That’s four straight times that 22-year-old Chris Paul has outplayed 34-year-old Steve Nash head-to-head this season. CP finished Wednesday’s game with 25 points, 15 assists, three steals and only one turnover. Meanwhile, Nash didn’t dent the scorebook until the second half and totaled eight points, 13 assists and four turnovers. He was only 1-for-6 from the field, including misfiring on each of his three attempts from three-point range.

You can’t give all of the credit to CP for Nash’s subpar game, though – Byron Scott also credited Pargo with playing harassing, end-to-end defense against the two-time MVP.

2) Jannero Pargo again demonstrates his value.
The 6-foot-1 combo guard has the knack for winning you some games over the course of a season, which is something you can’t say about many guys who are signed for the affordable price Pargo agreed to last summer. Not that this victory was anywhere near all Pargo’s doing, but his 22-point effort in 31 minutes was huge. He gave the Hornets a big spark in the second quarter after the Suns had built an early eight-point lead and appeared to be gaining the upper hand against a Hornets team that had lost three straight.

3) Morris Peterson bouncing back.
Scott recently mentioned the possibility of the 6-foot-7 shooting guard being moved out of the starting lineup in favor of trade pickup Bonzi Wells, but Mo Pete has been excellent the past two games. The Michigan State product has been nearly perfect from the field this week, going 11-for-12.

Peterson said in the locker room after the game that he has been spending even more time than usual working on his shot in the hopes of breaking out of a slump he’s been in much of the season. His field-goal percentage is up to 41.4 now, which still needs to jump a few notches, but he has been under 40 recently. Also keep in mind that he takes a huge portion of his shots from three-point range, which skews his overall rate somewhat.

4) Update on the new guys.
Bonzi Wells watched the game from the locker room due to a sore Achilles’ tendon. Scott clarified in his postgame chat that the reason Wells was not on the bench watching the game was because he failed to bring attire that would have met the standards of the NBA dress-code policy.

Meanwhile, I thought Mike James did a solid job defensively, hounding ballhandlers throughout his 13-minute appearance. James finished with two steals and scored four points on 1-for-4 shooting.

5) Losing streak ends in encouraging fashion.
With the West standings so jammed up with multiple teams playing well, it’s easy to panic whenever a team loses even three games in a row, as the Hornets had. But New Orleans did a lot to appease anyone who started to get worried that the club was headed into dangerous territory by throttling Phoenix. After Friday’s difficult test vs. Utah, we’ll see if the Hornets can build some momentum against a series of opponents with losing records. Each of the first four March opponents are Eastern Conference clubs that are below .500 right now.