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 Suns.com. “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.

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