Hornets.com postgame: Hornets 100, Suns 95

Wednesday, March 16, 2011
By: Jim Eichenhofer, Hornets.com

Hornets (40-30), Suns (33-33)

It was over when… David West bottomed-out a mid-range jumper with 29 seconds left, giving New Orleans a three-possession edge at 95-88. New Orleans moved into sixth place in the Western Conference standings, a half game ahead of idle Portland (38-29). The Hornets also increased their lead to five games over the Suns. With only 12 games to go for NOLA and 16 for Phoenix, it’s going to be extremely difficult for the Suns to overcome that deficit. For instance, if the Hornets only go 6-6 the rest of the way, the Suns would need to be 13-3 just to tie.

Hornets MVP: Chris Paul again was looking for his shot extensively, especially during the first three quarters, when he piled up 24 of his game-high 26 points. He was reliable on 20-footers throughout the win, finishing 9-for-16 from the field. Although he had a few rough performances after he stopped wearing his knee brace, he cited that as a reason behind his recent big games. “Ever since I got that knee brace off, I feel a lot freer,” Paul said. “I feel like I can go like I want to.”

Over the past three games since his return from a concussion, the 6-foot point guard is averaging 28.7 points and 11.3 assists.

Hornets Sixth Man of the Game: Since Monty Williams essentially reduced his rotation following the acquisition of Carl Landry, Quincy Pondexter has been one of several Hornets who must be ready to play, because they don’t know from game to game how many minutes they’ll get. Pondexter responded nicely Wednesday, with eight points, including two three-pointers, in 12 minutes. The rookie sparked NOLA to a 25-17 second-quarter edge.

“It’s really tough,” Pondexter said of the adjustment from college star at Washington who logs heavy minutes to a fluctuating role in his NBA debut season. “But you’ve got to relish moments like this, to have the opportunity to play against some of the world’s greatest (players) and have your number called. A lot of rookies don’t have this (chance).”

The 6-foot-6 small forward added that he has a different approach to games knowing his minutes will likely not be in the 30 or so range. “In college, I tried to strategically get in the flow of the game, a little bit slower. Right now, I don’t have that much room for error. I have to come in and produce right away in my limited minutes. Hopefully some good things come out of it.”

The buzz on… Aaron Gray’s quietly effective contribution. In the prior Suns-Hornets game, Phoenix backup center Marcin Gortat had a field day, piling up 25 points and 11 rebounds. This time, Gortat finished with 10 points and eight rebounds in 36 minutes. Meanwhile, New Orleans reserve center Gray put together a solid four-point, seven-rebound effort in only 10 minutes. Early in the season, Gray received many DNP’s due to coach’s decision, but to his credit, he has carved out a semi-regular role, partly depending on matchups.

“Obviously it’s been kind of a roller-coaster year,” Gray said. “But at the same time, you have to go into every game with the same kind of mentality. I don’t know whether I’m going to play zero minutes, two minutes, five, 10 or 15. I try to be as effective and make the least amount of mistakes in the times I do get to play. I feel like my role right now is to rebound, defend. I feel like as long as I continue to do that, and build confidence with Coach (Williams), it’s only going to be better for me and the team.”

Blog question of the night: The Hornets reduced their magic number to 10 over Phoenix and Utah on Wednesday by defeating the Suns. New Orleans has only one game remaining on its season-long five-game homestand and is 3-1 entering Saturday’s game vs. Boston. How satisfied are you with the team’s play so far during this extended time in the New Orleans Arena?