PHOENIX AZ - JANUARY 30: Emeka Okafor #50 of the New Orleans Hornets slam dunks the ball against the Phoenix Suns during the NBA game at US Airways Center on January 30 2011 in Phoenix Arizona. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that by downloading and or using this photograph User is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement. (Photo by Christian Petersen/Getty Images)

Suns Hold Down Pesky Hornets, 104-102

Nice all around game against the Hornet who have one of the better defenses in the league. After Hornet's center Emeka Okafor left the game due to injury, the Suns were able to score in the paint and dominate the glass.

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Phoenix Suns Steal Home Game They Had Wrapped Up Late Vs. New Orleans Hornets

It got a little closer than it needed to be at the end as the Phoenix Suns came one blown call away from giving up a 12-point lead in the final three minutes of the game. Grant Hill ended the New Orleans Hornets comeback with a block on a Marcus Thornton layup attempt that would have sent things to overtime. In the replay, the ball can be seen hitting the back board before Hill blocked it but the goal tending call wasn't made and the Suns held on to win their second game in a row.

"I thought (David) West was going to shoot it but he passed it. It was a great play on his part, I was just trying to come over. It was debatable whether it was legal but it was legal because the refs didn't call it," Hill said about the play.

Needless to say, the point of view from the Hornets side was a bit less sanguine. 

"It's the NBA and I guess I have to get more experience to get that call. That's the most hurtful thing; our guys fought it out to the end and to not get that call, that's the hurtful thing," Thornton said.

In the end, the game shouldn't have come down to that one play as the Suns had built a comfortable lead behind solid defense -- holding the Hornets to 42.1 percent shooting -- and a balanced offensive attack that mixed up pick and roll scoring and three point shooting.

The Suns are getting better pick and roll play between Steve Nash and Marcin Gortat who led the Suns with yet another career-high scoring night (25 points). It's his third-straight game where he's set a new career-high.

Stepping in for the injured Goran Dragic, Zabian Dowdell played well in his first full game as the backup point guard. He had four points and four assists in 13 minutes but most importantly, the team was able to hold steady while Nash rested in the fourth quarter.

This is the second straight win for the Suns over a team considered to be in the top tier of the NBA but in both cases the opponent had played the night before and was banged up. You can only play the teams that are on the schedule and you still have to win. But even Grant Hill had some reservations about saying the corner has been turned.

"I think we're starting to come together. You're always kind of hesitant to say that with us, but seven out of the last 10 (wins)...we're starting to get confidence, we're starting to get a feel for one another and a comfort level with the new guys," Hill said. 

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Pace Key To Phoenix Suns Versus Tired New Orleans Hornets

The New Orleans Hornets are the third-best defensive team in the NBA according to points allowed per 100 possessions. They played, and lost, last night in Sacramento in a close game that forced four of their starters to play over 35 minutes. The Phoenix Suns on the other hand, are rested and more so than last season depending on playing fast to win games. That all makes pace and tempo the key for tonight's matchup. 

In the game against Boston on Friday, especially early when the Suns built their big lead, the Suns were coming down the floor and taking shots early in the clock. Even when those shots aren't falling, that's how Gentry wants his team to play. 

"We're not really a half-court team so we have to play in the open court," Suns coach Alvin Gentry said at Sunday morning's shootaround.

"For us, that creates a good tempo and a good flow of the game so we can't pass on shots. That's why sometimes you'll see me getting on Channing (Frye) because he'll pass on a shot and we'll end up with a much more difficult shot than what he passed on. It's all about trying to get the flow of the game up and when we do that we usually play much better."

Gentry credited the Hornets defense this season to new coach Monty Williams who he said brought some of the San Antonio and Portland mentality with him to New Orleans. 

"They're very tough and hard-nosed. You better get out and try and spread the court and be in the open court because once we get in half court they do a great job of just locking in on you and guarding."

Chris Paul is still the key to the Hornets on both ends of the floor. Some NBA observers believe that last season's knee injury has slowed down the Western Conference All-Star team's starting point guard. Gentry wanted no part of that.

"Same guy to me. I just think he's much more efficient in what he's doing. Still a great player.  He still does a great job controlling the game. Great job of getting the ball to people and then a really, really good job of making a big shot when they need it most."

The game tips at 6 p.m. local time and will be broadcast on Fox Sports Arizona and Sports 620 KTAR radio. Fans can follow along with other Suns fans at the live game thread at Bright Side of the Sun.

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