The Phoenix Suns were bound to win at some point. It happened Friday night in the Big Easy, as Phoenix benefited from the New Orleans Hornets' miserable 28.9 percent shooting in a 93-78 win for the Suns' first victory of the 2011-2012 NBA season.
Coach Alvin Gentry had said before the game that to panic was basically fruitless, and his players seem to take his words to heart. Though the Suns had to go on the road for their first win after two losses at home to open the season, they got it done with balanced scoring and good sharing of the ball, plus an up-tempo pace on offense.
The Suns starters were shooting just 31 percent as a unit after two games. Friday night was an improvement to just over 40 percent, but Hakim Warrick came off the bench for 18 points, his second straight game in double figures after not playing at all in the season opener.
It just goes to show you how up-and-down the NBA is. The Hornets (2-1) beat the Suns by one in the season opener and thumped the Boston Celtics by 19 points on Wednesday. Friday night, though, they played without guard Eric Gordon (bruised knee), and seemed out of sync, especially in the second half.
The first quarter ended in a 22-22 deadlock -- Jared Dudley scoring nine points -- but the Suns began to take control in the second quarter. A 3-pointer and dunk by Shannon Brown gave Phoenix a 29-22 lead with 10:49 left.
Brown had nine points in the quarter and the Suns held two leads of 10 points. Warrick scored all seven of the Suns' points in less than a three-minute span late in the quarter and Phoenix took a 52-45 lead to halftime. It was the Suns' first 30-point quarter of the season.
The Hornets faded in the third quarter with poor shooting and turnovers. A 10-0 run that lasted almost four minutes through the middle of the third turned a seven-point Suns lead into a 68-51 lead with 4:55 to go.
That run spelled the end for the stingless Hornets.
The Suns took their largest lead of the night on a three from Ronnie Price with 1:55 left in the third, making the score 75-57. The Hornets never went on a run of any significance.
The key for the Suns was their ability get out and run the fastbreak with consistency and effectiveness. While rookie Markieff Morris played just over a minute in total after playing more than 20 minutes in the first two games, Phoenix's bench totaled 38 points.
Marcin Gortat got most of the minutes at center and posted 12 points, seven rebounds and four blocks. Channing Frye had 10 points and 16 rebounds, but struggled from the floor again, making 4 of 15 shots.
Frustration bubbled over for the Hornets with 8:40 to play in the game when Trevor Ariza and the Suns' Robin Lopez got into a scuffle that resulted in technical fouls for both players.
"We're there in the rotation," Gentry said in a TV postgame interview. It'll be interesting to see who gets more or fewer minutes and how they are spread around, with Gentry having made that statement.