Regular Season Series (Game 4 of 4)

Series starts 11/17

Game 1: Wednesday, November 17th
Game 2: Friday, November 26th
Game 3: Wednesday, December 29th
Game 4: Tuesday, April 12th

Hornets 85

(18-59, 7-31 away)

Suns 99

(59-19, 28-10 home)

    Coverage: COX

    7:00 PM ET, April 12, 2005

    US Airways Center, Phoenix, AZ

    1 2 3 4 T
    NO 22 26 25 1285
    PHX 25 29 19 2699

    Top Performers

    New Orleans: J. Smith 23 Pts, 5 Reb, 3 Ast, 1 Stl

    Phoenix: A. Stoudemire 27 Pts, 11 Reb, 1 Ast, 2 Blk

    Phoenix remains a game ahead of San Antonio

    PHOENIX (AP) -- The Phoenix Suns have developed a habit of moving their game into high gear only when they need it. It worked again Tuesday night against the lowly New Orleans Hornets.

    Amare Stoudemire made 15 of 16 free throws and scored 27 points, and the Suns snapped out of their lethargy to dominate the fourth quarter in a 99-85 victory.

    Phoenix coach Mike D'Antoni could only shrug about watching another near disaster turn to a comfortable win.

    "We're in a little funk right now, but we took care of business," he said. "We've got four games against good teams to end the season to try to get us on a little bit of a roll, and you know, everything's good in paradise."

    Jim Jackson, starting in place of injured Quentin Richardson and coming off a season-high 25 points at the Los Angeles Lakers on Monday night, was 6-of-7 from 3-point range and scored 20 points. Shawn Marion added 18 points and 17 rebounds for the Suns, who at 59-19 stayed one game ahead of San Antonio for the best record in the NBA and homecourt advantage throughout the playoffs.

    "You're talking about a team that has won 59 games for a reason," Hornets coach Byron Scott said. "They know when the game is on the line and what to do."

    Steve Nash had only six points, but handed out 13 assists for the Suns, playing their fourth game in five nights.

    "I think we're a tired team, and we certainly didn't get up for this game," Nash said. "It was a difficult game, and they came out and did a good job. Fortunately, we're more talented."

    The 59 victories ties the Suns' second-best total in franchise history, accomplished in 1994-95. The victory made Phoenix only the fourth team in NBA history to accomplish a 30-game turnaround from the previous season.

    "What they've done is remarkable," D'Antoni said, "but we have higher goals. We started off by trying to make the playoffs. Now all of a sudden we're talking franchise-best record and we're talking championships. It takes another gear up. We've got to ramp it up a little bit, and I think we will."

    J.R. Smith scored 23 points for New Orleans, while Dan Dickau added 13 and Lee Nailon had 10. P.J. Brown had 10 points and 15 rebounds, but was just 4-of-13 from the field before fouling out in the final minute.

    The Suns sleepwalked through most of the first three quarters and were down 77-73 after the Hornets scored the first four points of the final quarter, the last on Smith's 20-footer with 10:55 to play.

    But Phoenix turned it on, outscoring New Orleans 26-8 the rest of the way. Stoudemire, bothered by foul trouble for the third straight game, scored 11 points in the late surge.

    "I decided to step it up a notch in the fourth quarter," Stoudemire said, "because the game wasn't going too well for us in the first three quarters. I got into a little bit of foul trouble again, which I wasn't too happy about, but I was able to get back in there and make a difference."

    After going 2-for-7 at the free throw line Monday night, Stoudemire made his first 15 Tuesday before missing one in the final minute.

    A night after making a franchise-record 19 3-pointers, the Suns were 13-for-27 from beyond the arc against New Orleans.

    Smith gave all the credit to Nash.

    "He's just the best I've seen, man," Smith said. "He kicks it to his teammates. He knows his teammates better than they know themselves. I think it's just all about that point guard."

    Richardson sat out the game with a sprained left ankle, an injury that occurred early in Monday night's game. In Richardson's place, Jackson made his first six 3-pointers and finished 7-for-9 overall from the field.

    Johnson started the decisive surge with two free throws, then Marion made a 3-pointer. The run reached 15-2 on Marion's dunk from Stoudemire with 3:20 to go, putting Phoenix ahead 88-79.

    The Suns led 54-48 at halftime, but New Orleans outscored Phoenix 16-4 to start the second half to go up 64-58 with 6:59 left in the third.

    As they often do, the Suns stayed in the game with 3-pointers. Jackson made three in a row from long range, then Marion hit a 15-footer from the baseline to tie it at 69 with 3:29 left in the third.

    Game notes

    The Suns must win their remaining four games to have the best record in franchise history. ... Johnson is the only Phoenix player to appear in all 78 games. ... The Suns expect Richardson back for Friday's game against the Los Angeles Clippers. ... The Hornets had won three straight on the road.

    Copyright by STATS LLC and The Associated Press


    Team Stat Comparison

    Points 85 99
    FGM-FGA 36-95 (.379) 33-79 (.418)
    3PM-3PA 3-17 (.176) 13-27 (.481)
    FTM-FTA 10-16 (.625) 20-24 (.833)
    Rebounds (Offensive-Total) 12-46 8-49
    Assists 19 21
    Turnovers 8 13
    Steals 8 4
    Blocks 6 10
    Fast Break Points 4 9
    Fouls (Tech/Flagrant) 21 (1/0) 14 (1/0)
    Largest Lead 6 14

    Top Performers

    New Orleans
    J.R. Smith Smith
    Points: 23
    Reb: 5
    Ast: 3
    Stl: 1
    Blk: 0
    Amar'e Stoudemire Stoudemire
    Points: 27
    Reb: 11
    Ast: 1
    Stl: 0
    Blk: 2