Suns-Hornets Preview

Associated Press  |  Last updated February 06, 2013
Wins have been tough to come by for the Phoenix Suns all season, but they're starting to play a bit better away from home. After beating one of the top teams in the Western Conference on the road, Phoenix seems to be visiting the struggling New Orleans Hornets at the right time. The Suns will try to put together rare back-to-back wins Wednesday night when they visit the skidding Hornets and likely get their first look at Eric Gordon since nearly landing the talented guard over the summer. Despite coming into Memphis on Tuesday with a conference-low four road victories, Phoenix (17-32) won for the third time in six games away from home by beating the Grizzlies 96-90. Marcin Gortat had a team-high 20 points while Goran Dragic had 15 of his 17 points in the fourth quarter to key the Suns' 31-19 advantage in the final 12 minutes. Phoenix had lost 17 of 22 overall after winning a season-best four straight games Dec. 12-19. The Suns have won back-to-back contests once since that streak, beating Sacramento and the Los Angeles Lakers Jan. 23-24. They'll likely need another strong showing from their defense to do it again. While the Suns have lost eight in a row when allowing 100 points or more, they've won four straight when holding opponents under 100. "We don't always shoot the ball well, but one thing we can control is how we defend, and that is something we really, really stress," said Suns interim coach Lindsey Hunter, who is now 4-4 since taking over for Alvin Gentry. Dragic hasn't had trouble shooting in New Orleans. He's averaged 19.5 points and shot 7 for 12 from beyond the arc in his last two trips to New Orleans. Those were both losses with Houston, but Dragic had 20 points and eight assists in the Suns' 111-108 overtime win against New Orleans on Nov. 23. One of those assists came on Markieff Morris' key 3-pointer in overtime, and he finished with a career-high 23 points as Phoenix rallied from a 19-point third-quarter deficit. The Hornets (15-33) were without Anthony Davis and Gordon for that meeting, and Gordon has missed two of the last three games since he hasn't yet been cleared to play in back-to-backs as he recovers from knee surgery. Gordon should play Wednesday, his first look at the team he hoped to wind up with over the summer. He agreed to a four-year, $58 million offer sheet with Phoenix, but New Orleans matched it despite Gordon saying he'd prefer it didn't - even after he missed all but nine games last season. Though the Hornets are healthy for this meeting, their defense isn't. They've allowed 105.9 points per game over their last nine after Saturday's 115-86 loss at Minnesota. "We've got to regroup, better ourselves and get back home and get a win and try to get out of this slump," guard Greivis Vasquez said. Vazquez has particularly struggled lately, shooting 32.5 percent despite averaging 10.2 assists in his last six games. He had no problems against Dragic and the Suns in the first meeting, though, posting 25 points and 14 assists. Neither did Ryan Anderson, who scored a career-high 34 points while hitting 8 of 13 3-pointers in that game. Anderson had averaged 19.6 points and shot 44.6 percent from long distance over his last seven games before being held to eight points at Minnesota. Phoenix has won four straight in the series, including the last two in New Orleans by a combined 32 points.
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