Hornets 106, Suns 100
With West out for the season because of a torn ACL, Carl Landry scored 19 points in his place and the Hornets pulled away late for a 106-100 victory over Phoenix on Friday night, sinking the Suns further out of the Western Conference playoff race.
The Hornets, who lost leading scorer West in a victory at Utah on Thursday night, won for the fifth time in six games to stay in a virtual tie with Portland for the No. 6 spot in the West.
''A lot of guys stepped up,'' Paul said. ''When you lose someone like D-West you can't just throw one person in there, it has to be by committee. I think we showed a lot of resilience, a lot of fight to win a game like this on the road.''
Landry, who scored 13 in the second half, overcame what he called ''a little tentative'' start.
''Right before halftime, coach just told me to just play, just be yourself. Don't try to be David West, don't try to be something that you're not, don't try to put all the weight on your shoulders.''
Marcin Gortat had 18 points and 10 rebounds in 28 minutes before leaving the game with a broken nose with 4 minutes left in the third quarter. Grant Hill also scored 18, while Jared Dudley and Aaron Brooks added 17 apiece.
With the loss, Phoenix failed to take advantage of a loss by Memphis and stayed three games behind the Grizzlies for the last playoff spot in the West. The Suns have 11 games to play.
''It doesn't matter what Memphis or anybody else does,'' Phoenix coach Alvin Gentry said. ''What we have to do is try to win games. For us to lose it hurts. It doesn't matter what those teams are doing.''
Gortat left the court, blood gushing from his nose, after banging into the back of teammate Steve Nash's head. It was a tough night for Nash, who made 1 of 9 shots and committed five turnovers, two down the stretch. He did have eight assists.
The Suns led by as many as 11 in the second quarter and were up 56-46 after Hill made one of two free throws with 55.5 seconds left in the half. But the Hornets got a pair of free throws from David Andersen, then Paul sank a 13-footer just before the halftime buzzer to cut Phoenix's lead to 56-50.
The Suns led most of the third quarter, but never by more than five points. Brooks' 10-footer with 12.5 seconds to play put Phoenix ahead 78-73 after three quarters.
Brooks sank a 3-pointer and Dudley made a 20-footer to put the Suns up 85-78 with 9:54 to play, but the Hornets kept coming. New Orleans scored the next nine points, the last two on Paul's jumpers, to take an 87-85 lead with 7 1/2 minutes to play.
Nobody led by more than two points until the Hornets put it away late.
Paul's short bank shot, followed by his 22-footer put New Orleans ahead for good 102-98 with 54.2 seconds to play. Dudley's two free throws cut it to 102-100 with 48.4 seconds remaining, and the Suns played a solid defensive series, forcing Green to throw up an airball from the corner. But the Hornets' Emeka Okafor grabbed the ball out of the air and scored to put his team ahead 104-100 with 25.8 seconds left.
Nash turned it over on a drive to the lane, leading to Green's breakaway layup that provided the final margin.
An MRI on Friday confirmed that West had suffered a torn ACL. West leads the team in scoring at 18.9 points per game. Coach Monty Williams called him ''one of my favorite guys.''
''Before the game I was concerned, the highest level of concern you can be,'' Williams said. ''David West is a flagship for us. he is a pillar and you lose him to a devastating injury like that you kind of forget about basketball and think about him as a person and his future. ... He and Chris (Paul) are the heart and soul of our team.''
Still, his team persevered.
''You can't say enough about guys pulling together in adversity. I would love to tell you it was about tricky play,'' Williams said. ''We had some schemes go well for us and Nash didn't shoot the ball well. I thought Carl showed great toughness. He got off to a bad start but finished the game well. ''
The Suns missed Gortat dearly.
''That's our man in the middle,'' Dudley said. ''He shuts it down. He gets blocks, rebounds, and loose balls. It was tough losing him but guys have to step up and we have to fight through it.''
Notes: Vince Carter, 0 for 3 shooting in 10 ineffective minutes, reportedly was ill. ... Gortat has scored in double digits for 17 consecutive games since the All-Star break. ... The Hornets are 2-1 without West this season. ... The Suns were 11 of 18 from 3-point range, giving them at least eight in the five games since Channing Frye returned from an injury. ... Phoenix was without G Mickael Pietrus with a strained knee.