PHOENIX — Hornets coach Byron Scott refused to look at Wednesday night’s 92-83 loss to the Phoenix Suns as a missed opportunity. Huh? Let’s reflect. Playing the worst defensive team in the league, the Hornets scored 25 fewer points than the Suns allow on average. Playing a potentially hazardous run-and-gun style, the Hornets beat the Suns in the turnover department, 20-12, yet lost by nine. Playing their fifth straight game without starting power forward and third-leading scorer David West, the Hornets watched Suns’ All-Star power forward Amare Stoudemire go scoreless with just five rebounds and did nothing to take advantage of his ineffectiveness. “You forget about it,” Scott said. “Take the positives, and the positives are that we held a team that averages 108 points a game to 92.” Stout defense, however, isn’t the only thing that wins basketball games, and the Hornets' four-game winning streak ended because of their offensive woes. One night after scoring their second largest point total of the season in a 101-86 win over the defending champion Miami Heat, the Hornets were held to their second-lowest point total. One night after the Hornets dished a season-high 25 assists, they recorded a season-low seven against the Suns. One night after the Hornets made a season-high 11-of-19 3-point attempts, they made just 1 of 14 and shot 40 percent from the field. All this against a Suns team that entering the game allowing a league-worst 108.1 points per game and ranked 27th in opponent field-goal percentage with a 47.5-percent rate. “We just seemed like we didn’t have any energy tonight,” Scott said. “We just played flat. It was probably the worst game we’ve played energy-wise. In an 82-game season, you’re going to have games like that.” The finger pointing should take aim toward the bench, which gave the Hornets all of eight points on 3-of-18 shooting. Rasual Butler went 1-for-8 for two points. Marc Jackson went scoreless on 0-for-4 shooting. Janerro Pargo scored six points but missed three of five shots, and Cedric Simmons missed his only shot attempt. The unit’s ineffectiveness can be attributed to guard Bobby Jackson starting his first of the season, as Scott replaced Marc Jackson with the 6-foot-1 guard in an attempt to counter the Suns’ small-ball style. Jackson was his usual steady self, scoring 11 points on 5-of-13 shooting with five rebounds. But his insertion into the starting lineup left the Hornets without a spark off the bench. The Suns’ bench, meanwhile, combined to score 17 points with 13 rebounds and four assists while the Hornets’ reserves grabbed just eight rebounds and finished without an assist. “Our bench guys have to really step up and do their job,” Jackson said. “But it was an off night for everybody. We didn’t shoot the ball well. We didn’t pass the ball well. We defended well, but we didn’t run as much as we wanted to.” Peja Stojakovic scored 14 of his 21 points in the first quarter, going 6-of-9 from the field. But he shot just 2-for-7 over the final three quarters. Desmond Mason finished with a season-high 21 points and Chris Paul scored 18 but had only four assists while turning the ball over four times. Center Tyson Chandler grabbed a game-high 16 rebounds in 30 minutes. The Suns led by five at halftime but outscored the Hornets 20-13 in what ultimately proved to be the decisive third period. The Hornets never could recover from the 12-point deficit they faced as they entered the fourth quarter. The Hornets pulled within 71-65 with 7:47 left to play, but Suns guard Marcus Banks ended the Suns’ four-minute, 13-second scoring drought with a pair of free throws. Kurt Thomas later scored on a driving layup and Steve Nash made a sweeping, left-handed hook shot to push the lead back to 12 with 6:41 remaining. The Hornets scored just 37 points on 35.9-percent shooting in the second half. Nash scored 11 of his game-high 24 points in the second half, and Suns forward Shawn Marion scored 14 of his 15 points in the final 24 minutes. “We were right there in the first half,” Stojakovic said. “The third quarter was a struggle offensively. We didn’t make shots and it carried into the fourth quarter, too. We made a couple of runs, but it wasn’t enough. They’re too good offensively. You have to be right there with them throughout the game.”
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The Hornets’ Desmond Mason puts in a reverse layup in front of the Suns’ Boris Diaw on Wednesday in Phoenix. Mason scored 21 points for the Hornets. Go to NewsOK.com for more coverage of the Hornets’ loss to the Suns. Associated Press