Nash dominant as Suns keep slim playoff hopes alive in West

The Sports Network
4/9/2009 12:16:56 AM
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New Orleans, LA (Sports Network) - Steve Nash scored 24 points and dished out 13 assists, and the Suns beat New Orleans 105-100, only to be eliminated from playoff contention later Wednesday night.

Shaquille O'Neal tallied 17 points and 11 rebounds for the Suns, who were left out of the playoff hunt when Dallas blew out Utah, 130-101, later Wednesday. Jason Richardson ended with 17 points for Phoenix, which will miss the playoffs for just the third time in the last 21 seasons.

Grant Hill and Jared Dudley each netted 10 for the Suns, who last missed the playoffs in 2004.

"We're just having fun. We realize we have four games left. We have to play them out," said O'Neal.

The Suns had lost six straight times to the Hornets, but shot 51.4 percent from the field in this game to win for the ninth time in their last 13 overall. Phoenix also won for just the second time in its last 11 road contests.

Chris Paul had 29 points and 16 assists for the Hornets, who remained in sixth place in the Western Conference, a game ahead of Utah. The Hornets are now two games behind Houston and San Antonio, which are tied atop the Southwest Division.

Rasual Butler, who pushed the Hornets into overtime with a shot at the buzzer Tuesday, had 10 points in this game.

The Hornets have four games left in the season, starting with a pair against Dallas, then road games at Houston and San Antonio..

"The games against Dallas are huge," said Butler. "It will give us the tiebreaker if we win down there. We've beaten them three times. We may see them in the playoffs anyway. We need to try to start playing playoff atmosphere type basketball."

David West scored 28 and had 12 rebounds for New Orleans, which was coming off a 93-87 overtime win at Miami Tuesday. Peja Stojakovic hit four three- pointers, on the way to scoring 18, but New Orleans lost for the third time in four games.

The Suns entered the fourth quarter with a 75-65 lead and upped that cushion to as many as 14 before the Hornets rallied. West converted a three-point play, bringing the hosts within 92-88 with 1:51 remaining.

Nash took over down the stretch, hitting six foul shots, and the closest the Hornets got was 100-97 following Stojakovic three-balls, the last one with 4.2 seconds left. Richardson then hit two from the charity stripe to seal it.

New Orleans held a 32-26 lead after one quarter and the Hornets were clinging to a 51-49 edge at the half.O'Neal and Nash combined for 25 of Phoenix's 49 first half points, shooting 11-of-11 from the field.

Phoenix started the third on a 20-8 spurt, capped by a Matt Barnes jumper.

"I didn't really think we came out ready to play in the third," said Hornets coach Byron Scott. "Our guys looked like a bunch of tired guys out there. Fatigue was allowed to be a factor."

Game Notes: Phoenix plays at Memphis on Friday...Nash went 7-of-9 from the field and made all nine of his foul shots.

Steve Nash (Photo: Layne Murdoch/NBAE via Getty Images)


(Photo: Layne Murdoch/NBAE via Getty Images)
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