Hornets.com postgame: Suns 120, Hornets 106

Sunday, March 14, 2010
By: Jim Eichenhofer, Hornets.com

The list of injuries continues to grow for the Hornets. So does their deficit in the Western Conference standings behind the eighth-place Trail Blazers.

Darius Songaila (bruised right knee) was the latest New Orleans player to be affected by an injury, forcing him to leave the game in the second half of a one-sided loss in Phoenix. Fortunately the injury did not appear to be serious, but it left the Hornets with only seven available players in the fourth quarter.

The Hornets (32-35) hung around for much of the first three quarters, but the Suns built a 20-point lead in the final stanza. The loss continued a recent run in which New Orleans has seen the gap between it and Portland rapidly expand. Consider that on Feb. 27, the Hornets were only two games out of eighth place. Two weeks later, after New Orleans has gone 1-7 and Portland conversely has gone 7-1, the two-game margin has quadrupled to eight games.

Even if New Orleans were to win all of its remaining 15 games, it still would not be able to overtake Portland unless the Blazers finished worse than 7-6 in their final 13 contests.

Other notes:
• Although it’s impossible to quantify, you have to wonder how much the shorthanded nature of the roster is affecting the Hornets late in games. For the third straight time during the current three-game losing streak, they played noticeably better in the first half than in the second. Like in the Hornets’ losses to other playoff-bound West clubs Oklahoma City and Denver, Phoenix put New Orleans away as the game progressed. Darren Collison and Julian Wright both played over 40 minutes and six Hornets played at least 28 minutes.
• Marcus Thornton finished with 28 points, the eighth time in the last 11 games that he has topped the 20-point mark. What’s most impressive about Thornton lately is that he has been very efficient. In several early-season games he was productive but went 3-for-12 or 4-for-15. He was 12-for-21 tonight, the fifth time in seven March games that he has made at least half of his shots.
• This was the Hornets’ seventh consecutive road defeat, a streak that dates back to Feb. 6 at Charlotte, the day before the Super Bowl. New Orleans is 4-10 since the All-Star break.

Marks out for season, Posey out tonight at Suns

An injury-filled 2009-10 for Sean Marks has officially come to a conclusion. The 6-foot-10 reserve center is scheduled to undergo right shoulder surgery on Tuesday, meaning he will not play again this season. Marks contributed more during the 2008-09 campaign than he had during any season of his career and was invaluable during several stretches when New Orleans was shorthanded. However, this season he continued to battle injuries, appearing in just 14 games, including only five from opening night through mid-January. Marks is scheduled to become an unrestricted free agent this summer.

In other news related to Hornets injuries:
• Chris Paul was medically cleared to begin running at half speed. The 6-foot three-time All-Star point guard has been sidelined since a Jan. 29 knee injury vs. Chicago. Paul has appeared in 38 games this season; the Hornets are 21-17 when he plays and 11-17 when he does not.
• James Posey (flu-like symptoms) did not travel with the team to Phoenix yesterday and will not play in this evening’s 8 p.m. road game at the Suns. He is listed as questionable for Monday’s game at the Clippers. As a result of his absence in Phoenix, the Hornets will have eight players available. Marcus Thornton, Aaron Gray and Darius Songaila were the only subs Friday vs. Denver.
• Peja Stojakovic (lower abdominal strain) will remain out for a minimum of the next 10 days.