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Suns finally beat Hornets as playoff hopes officially end

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After six straight tries, the Suns finally managed to overcome the Hornets in game that saw a surprisingly stingy defense.

Granted, the Hornets were on the second of a back-to-back that saw most of their starters play 44 minutes in an OT win over the Heat the night before, but they still managed to explode for an early lead.

It looked as if we were in for another defensive collapse when the Suns bench, playing with Shaq, went on a 9-2 run to take the lead halfway through the 2nd quarter. Before we get too excited, it should be noted that Chris Paul was resting for most of that stretch.

Remember the days when the Suns would stagnate offensively when Nash went out? That's New Orleans. They struggle to make anything happen outside of what Paul can create, which why the Spurs were able to beat them last year and likely will again this year even without Ginobili.

Final - 4.8.2009 1 2 3 4 Total
Phoenix Suns 26 23 26 30 105
New Orleans Hornets 32 19 14 35 100

Full Boxscore »

Nash had a brilliant offensive game. Coming off his 4-12 game Sunday against Dallas, Nash bounced back with a strong 24 points on only 9 attempts. Combine that with 13 assists and a couple of charges and this was one of the better games Steve has played against the CP Hornets.

Shaq was dominant as well against the Chandler-less New Orleans front line. They employed an effective hack-a-Shaq, sending the guy to the line 8 times, where he only managed to connect on 3. It seems that Shaq's FT form was reverted back somewhat but that is the only sign of his game slipping as he was lively on the boards and went 7-10 from the field -- in Shaq's case, the painted field 3 feet from the rim.

Barbosa, after two solid games, had a sub-par performance, only managing 7 points on 7 attempts. It is not uncommon for LB to be up and down like this and I think he still looks a bit rusty after his injury. Especially on the defensive end.

Fortunately though, the Suns bench is no longer only dependent on a Barbosa spark, as Dragic led the way with 9 points and 5 rebounds in 13 minutes and Dudley chipped in 10 points and his usual hustle. Lou was Lou and Lopez is looking better and better in his increased minutes.

I love how Gentry brought in Robin to play with Nash, which of course helps Robin but then also allows Shaq to be on the court with Dragic.

A good win for the Suns on a night when Dallas clinched the final playoff spot and sent Suns fans' hopes officially into summer remission.

Next up are the Grizzlies on Friday. The Grizz have been playing very well of late and the combination of Gay and Mayo along with an improved Conley will test the Suns perimeter defensive metal once again. Of course, this will be the Suns first truely meaningless game in five years. No playoff seeding on the line. No playoff teams involved. The out come will simply not matter beyond individual and team pride.