New Orleans Hornets 100, Phoenix Suns 95 -- Nash not enough

The Suns couldn't complete the late comeback Wednesday as their playoff hopes continue to fade. (AP photo)

For the second straight time, a frantic late game run by the Suns came up just a bit short and ended in defeat.

On Monday, Phoenix had a last-second shot to win a game over Houston, but Jared Dudley failed to connect on an open three.

On Wednesday, this time with Steve Nash back in the lineup, the team cut a 17-point second half deficit to five before faltering late and dropping another close game, 100-95.

“We didn’t play smart throughout the whole game,” Dudley told “We had bad turnovers and bad shot selections. We dug ourselves a hole.”

Nash played decent in his return, scoring eight points and adding 10 assists, but key turnovers and missed opportunities killed the Suns all night.

“He tried, but he’s not the same guy. I didn’t expect him to be. Just to have him out there was good for us,” head coach Alvin Gentry said. “At the end of the day, they got 22 points off of our turnovers and we’re going to struggle when teams get that.”

Dudley led the way for Phoenix in scoring with 25 points off the bench while Vince Carter put in 21.

The fourth consecutive loss puts Phoenix even further back in the playoff race.

“Every loss hurts and definitely every loss is going to make a difference for this run towards the playoffs,” Marcin Gortat said. “We were so close again and for the second time we started playing in the second half, and in the first half we didn’t play smart. We made easy mistakes and we made too easy turnovers.”

The Suns ended the first quarter horribly.

With the ball and a one-point lead, Carter threw away Phoenix’s last second possession to Chris Paul, who proceeded to drill a 26-foot jumper to cap the Hornets’ 7-0 run to end the opening frame.

New Orleans shot 68 percent that quarter with Paul leading the way with 12 points.

To start the second quarter, the Hornets outscored the Suns 11-3 to take a double-digit lead.

Three straight Nash-assisted buckets got Phoenix within four again before the Hornets answered back.

With just over two minutes left in the half, the Hornets led by just two.

The Suns would go scoreless the rest of the way while New Orleans recorded eight to take a 10-point lead into the locker room.

Paul had 20 at the break while Carter had 12.

For much of the third, Phoenix looked dead in the water, trailing by as many as 17 before cutting the deficit back to 12.

The Suns shot 7-for-20 in the quarter, finding themselves way off the mark on their three-point attempts.

Phoenix duplicated its late-game run against Houston with a similar one Wednesday to get within five at the halfway point of the fourth quarter.

Still down a handful with two minutes left, Gortat missed a wide-open layup to cut the lead to a single possession.

The Hornets went on to milk the clock down the stretch and secure the crucial win.

Zabian Dowdell didn’t get any minutes Wednesday with Aaron Brooks playing 14 behind Nash.

Phoenix is now 11th in the Western Conference, three games out of the final playoff spot.

Tags: Steve Nash

  • PHX Suns Fan In LA

    So what do u guys think our chances of making the playoffs are? I think we can do it but gortat needs to start and if brooks is playing bad dowdell should get his minutes.

  • Mel.

    Probably nil and none, PHXSFIL. Which isn’t entirely a bad development, honestly… it’ll force management to take a nice, hard look at the Nash situation and drive home the fact that we are ostensibly in the middle of a rebuilding phase (Even if the franchise did everything in its power–including signing the kitchen sink–to avoid admitting that fact, this season), and to make moves accordingly.

    Comparing that to limping into an 8th seed and a speedy dispatching at the hands of the Spurs, I actually think it’s the better of two scenarios. It makes the “we’re still competitive with the pieces we’ve got, and our one-foot-in/one-foot-out of the future” mentality much more difficult to justify.

  • Kyle

    So when do we realize that loosing (better draft pick odds) is in our best interests?

    I’m not being cynical, just honest. I want the best for the Suns- today and in the future.

  • Zak

    I’m completely against “tanking” any games to try to get a higher draft pick but I also think it’s time to give the bench more playing time. The rest will only help Nash, Hill and even Carter while giving some of the other younger players more experience or just more minutes to sharpen their skills in a real game situation. If that causes the Suns to loose a few more games, so be it. The chance of making the playoffs this years is already almost zero at this point.

  • Freddy

    I feel the same after the last Loss. Are we gonna make it? how quick of an exit will we make? and when do the higher ups realize that its a lost cause and start focusing on developing the younger guys for next year. If we get an 8,7, or 6 seed the top 3 teams are going to be tough for a team that hasn’t played consistent ball. As far as Tanking the season I agree with giving the younger guys more minutes to develop their game and get a feel of how they will be played. I really don’t foresee us in the playoffs this year.

    It will be interesting to see how this team plays once Channing comes back. I was really anti Channing at the start of the season but his game has really grown on me. Prior to his Injury he was playing great ball. I hope he continues playing good ball and beefs up a little more over the summer. If he gained ~15 Lns of Muscle he could be a BEAST.

    :beers: :cheers: to the rest of this season whatever it may bring.

  • Kyle

    I agree with both Zak & Freddy: time to give younger guys minutes. I never meant “tanking” the season, but just focus on player development instead.

    You never know what type of future Dowdell/Brooks will have with the Suns unless they get real game time experience. Heck- if we didn’t trade Clarke, this would be a great time to have given him as many minutes as he’s getting down in Orlando now.

    What other players should we be developing if the switch goes from making the playoffs to development?

  • PHX Suns Fan In LA

    @freddy…if channing got 15 lbs more muscle it might affect his shot…there’s not a lot of ripped pg/sg in this league because of that fact…and my friend who plays for usc is the same way…he does not want to hit the gym more than he already does because he is afraid of messing up his jumper

  • AJ

    I think Suns need to move from Phoenix to somewhere like Las Vegas. It’s probably the state and the fact that MCain is a Suns fan that is holding back the Suns. One month to go and at .500 with Memphis, Denver, and Portland playing better basketball means the Suns are taking an early off season break this year along with Utah.

  • Zak

    Bite your tongue off and CHOKE on it, AJ! Talk of moving the Suns ANYWHERE is BLASPHEMY!

  • Zak

    Freddy, I have to agree with PHX Suns Fan In LA. Frye is really more of a finesse player and bulking up might actually hurt his game. He’s been improving continuously since joining the Suns. I doubt he’ll ever be a real “power” player but I think he’s working to move in that direction. If he gains that extra 15 pounds of muscle over the next 2-3 years, it would give him the opportunity to adapt and adjust his game along the way. Trying to do it all during this off-season might actually hurt his game in the short term.

    The Suns are actually in a good position to improve a great deal next year… in my opinion of course.

    Steve probably has 1-2 more really good years left. Frye is continuing to improve. Gortat is a major addition to the team. Hill defies all conventional logic and still plays a great game. If Stat hadn’t left this year… well, that’s debatable.

    But I still think that the Suns are only a few pieces away from being contenders again next year. They do obviously need another all-star caliber player. Many will say that should be a PF but I think an all-star SG could do the trick too. Where will the Suns get either of them? I have no idea. Hopefully the draft will solve some of the problems. If not, buying out VC’s contract should at least give them enough cap space to bring in some good talent.

    Sorry if I sound like a VC “hater” but the odds on him remaining a Sun after this season aren’t something I would bet on no matter what odds I was given in LV.

  • Freddy

    I didnt really think about the effects of adding that bulk that fast. Maybe doing it over time. Frye has the potential to be a beast as long as he continues perfecting his game.

    I agree with Zak about being a few pieces away from being a contender. Depending on how Dowdell or Brooks pan out we should have a descent PG out of one or the other. Gortat was the best thing to happen this season to the Suns. I can see gortat being a 15+pts. 10+ reb. guy every night. I can’t say enough about how much I enjoy Channings game.

    Maybe this summer we can go back and look for a PF to help our game. Get rid of a certain 7 footer and a VC.

    I would like to see More Gortat, No Lopez, and Maybe some Siller. <- Not sure why I really like him and hope he pans out to something.

  • Zak

    Good thoughts, Freddy. Lopez will definitely be good trade bait for someone looking for a back-up center. Buying out VC’s contract will give the Suns a good deal of financial flexibility in bringing in at least a potential all-star player. Zach Randolph? Rumor is that Memphis isn’t going to offer him a contract extension this year. He’s a beast on the boards and a good scorer too. I’m not suggesting it, just throwing the possibility out for debate.

  • Petshop

    Well if VC signs a MLE and comes off the bench next season and start Dudley it might be good for the suns. I also don’t think trading Lopez is a good idea. I think he’s been improving on the last few games taking chances on the offensive boards, plus he’s a minimal contract where can you find another big with that contract. I’d say in the draft. So its better for the suns to just take the lottery this year than just to give our pick to Houston. We lost Goran and Clark this year we can’t another future player.

  • Mel.

    I’m not advocating a “tank job” in the least, fellas. I’m suggesting that it’s going to take a miracle and a full collapse by teams that have been playing WAY better than our boys in recent games to make that eighth seed; and even then, nobody–not even the most adamantly, purple-and-orange-ly patriotic among us–is going to pick the Suns in a spoiler over the best team in the NBA.

    I would go as far as giving Phoenix five games against the Spurs, but with an ailing Nash, no Frye and a lack of confidence, that even seems like a stretch and a half.

    HOWEVER. My original point stands. This scenario of the Suns limping into the playoffs and facing a demolition does absolutely nothing for the long-term direction of the franchise. All it does is confirm that a team with some promising pieces and Steve Nash can scrape its way just north of mediocrity; if anybody wanted that notion driven home, they could have just watched the regular season. We get it, we love it, we know it.

    But. You miss the playoffs for the first time in years, and it means something else entirely. It means that a reevaluation–a SERIOUS reevaluation–of the post-Nash era is at hand. Not contingent on whether or not Steve leaves, not contingent on when he’s retiring, but rather a stone-cold slap in the mush that this time is upon us; not two or three years down the line, should he stay with the Suns through the off season.

    And we all know this is coming, regardless of whether the team voluntarily “tanks,” or not. It’s inevitable. Once it’s here, the Suns are going to have to ask themselves who they believe in, and where they go from here: is Brooks’ upside such that he and Zabian get the keys to the offense? Is Lopez worth keeping, with Gortat firmly established as a potentially marquee center? Do we keep Childress, Pietrus, Warrick, or are major moves needed?

    I love this team, but anybody who believes that this year wasn’t one prolonged patch-job is wearing blinders. There is some serious promise on the bench and in our starting five, but as long as there’s this belief that we can contend–seriously contend–then it hamstrings the reality of the next few years.

    And frankly, I’d rather see the team soul-search about the future this summer than hobble into a gimme bracket. Bring it. The diehard geeks among us aren’t goin’ anywhere.

  • Steve

    They missed the playoffs a couple of years ago. But the point stands. The revamp of this Suns team NEEDS to happen this offseason, or next year is going to be awful.

    Part of that revamp process is developing the talent already in place. If we are going to keep giving Lopez, Dowdell, Childress, Pietrus, and Brooks any money next season, then we really need to find out what they’re made of. Give them some serious time. Don’t “tank” games, but we have to give THEM a shot to win it rather than relying on Nash to get it done. We need to find out if our talent we already have is worth developing further or if it’s time to dump.