Suns hand Hornets second straight loss
PHOENIX -- Backup center Marcin Gortat scored a career-high 25 points and the Phoenix Suns beat a team with a winning record for the fourth straight time, surviving the New Orleans Hornets' frantic late rally for a 104-102 victory Sunday night.
The Suns nearly blew an eight-point lead in the final 18 seconds, but Grant Hill blocked Marcus Thornton's inside attempt with 3.9 seconds left and Hornets guard Chris Paul's desperation 3-point attempt missed the rim as time expired.
Paul led New Orleans with 26 points. The Hornets were coming off a loss Saturday night in Sacramento that snapped their winning streak at 10.
Paul made a 3-pointer with 17.2 seconds left to cut it to 104-99, Trevor Ariza then stole Hill's errant pass and Paul made three free throws with 12 seconds left after he was fouled by Channing Frye.
The Hornets got the ball back with 10 seconds left when Steve Nash stepped out of bounds trying to control Hill's wild inbounds pass.
Gortat was 9 of 10 from the field and had 11 rebounds in 23 minutes. Hill added 16 points, and Frye had 11, hitting three of the Suns' nine 3-pointers.
The Hornets lost center Emeka Okafor, their leading rebounder, to a muscle strain just before halftime. Okafor was doubled over in pain after losing the ball out of bounds with close to 2 minutes left in the second quarter, and appeared to be holding his left hip. He didn't return.
Without Okafor, who left the game with seven rebounds, all offensive, the Hornets struggled with interior defense. Gortat got free and hauled in two long passes from guard Zabian Dowdell for dunks, including a no-look assist from above the 3-point line with 9:30 left in the game that the Suns a 92-84 lead.
The Suns scored 35 third-quarter points to turn a 53-53 halftime tie into an 88-80 lead. The lead ballooned to 12, at 100-88, when Nash found Gortat for a dunk with 5:03 to play.