Hornets.com postgame: Hornets 104, Suns 91

Wednesday, December 3, 2008
By: Jim Eichenhofer, Hornets.com

Over the past two seasons, the Phoenix Suns have had their hands full when facing the Hornets, even while at full strength. The Suns entered Wednesday’s game missing former league MVPs Shaquille O’Neal (resting due to back-to-back) and Steve Nash (virus), making the task even more difficult.

New Orleans (10-6) continued its recent run of success against Phoenix (11-8), taking advantage of the shorthanded Suns in the second half. Chris Paul and Peja Stojakovic tallied 24 points apiece, helping the Hornets improve to 6-0 against the Suns since the start of the 2007-08 season.

“They’ve got two starters out, (but) don’t take them lightly,” Byron Scott told his players before the game. “Don’t take it like it’s a big sigh of relief. They’re like wounded animals. They’re dangerous. If we take them lightly, we’re going to be in trouble.”

New Orleans built a 14-point lead by the end of the first quarter, but Phoenix cut the deficit to one by intermission. The Hornets regained control with a 31-19 third quarter and kept the Suns at arm’s length throughout the final stanza.

More from the 13-point win in New Orleans:

After a stellar shooting performance on the three-game Western trip, Stojakovic turned in a fourth straight encouraging game, going 8-for-16 (including 5 of 9 on three-pointers). He’s one of a few Hornets players who have generally performed better against the Suns than pretty much any other opponent.

“I’m trying to be aggressive,” the 6-foot-10 small forward said. “I’m trying to open it up for Chris and David (West), and take the pressure off of them. Then their job is going to be much easier.”
“We were doing a little bit extra to try to free him up for shots,” Scott said. “When he shoots like that, we’re very dangerous.”
After missing six games to injury, Morris Peterson returned to action Wednesday, but came off the bench (he started the first nine games). Rasual Butler remained the starting shooting guard, going 1-for-6 from the floor and scoring four points.

Scott said Butler and Peterson will be competing over the next few games to determine who will ultimately win the starting job next to CP3 in the starting backcourt.

“Obviously there is going to be a fight for that two (guard) spot,” Scott said. “But right now Rasual has done a good job in the six or seven starts he’s had, (because) we’ve had some success (winning games).”

Byron Scott

About going to the foul line 32 times: "We are one of the best free-throw shooting teams in the league, but we don’t utilize it enough because we don’t get to the rim enough. The guys made a conscious effort tonight to put their heads down a little bit more and to get to the basket which got us to the free-throw line, and we were able to get to capitalize on that."

Chris Paul
On the win: “In the third quarter we came out with a lot of energy just like we did to start the game. We got stops, we got out on transition, and Peja (Stojakovic) hit a lot of big shots for us.”

On the difference in the game: “We got in the paint early and I think that put a lot of pressure on their team. When we get in the paint early, they start helping down and our shooters can shoot shots.”

On what was said at halftime to motivate the team: “We’ve just got to pick up the energy. James Posey takes a lot of pride… That first unit is usually mine and that second unit is usually his. He let them know that even if they’re not scoring that they have to get stops on the defensive end.”

On the next several games: “It’s a very important stretch for us. It’s a few games in a lot of days. We get a lot of time to rest. Each night we’ve got to make sure that we come out with a lot of energy.”

Tyson Chandler
On the solid play of the team in the first quarter: “I thought we played with great energy out there. We got out on ball screens, boxed out, and executed what we wanted defensively. We played with a lot more energy. This is what coach is talking about. That’s what we have to continue to bring throughout the rest of the season.”

On what was said at halftime: “If we get a lead, we just have to keep it. We can’t get out there and allow teams to get any kind of momentum so that they can carry over. If you give a team like that momentum, then they can be dangerous. They’re wounded, but if you show them some light, it can come back to bite you in the long run.”