None of the players or coaches or front offices on either team wanted this to happen. They each wanted their tilt on Sunday night to mean something more than who gets more lotto balls in the hopper next month. The Hornets had just picked first overall last summer and came into the season boasting what some believed to be a strong rotation. But injuries and ineffectiveness have plagued them, despite playing hard each night, and they along with the Suns will be anxiously awaiting what young player they might be able to draft in June.
The Suns began the game on fire, just like Friday night against Golden State. They built a 26-17 edge at the end of the first quarter, similar to their sizzling Friday lead of 37-23. They held a 4-point halftime lead, similar to the 8-point lead on Friday.
And just like Friday, the Suns folded in the third quarter. Tonight, they were outscored in the third by 16 points (35-19 in favor of NOLA), whereas on Friday it was a whopping 18 point deficit in the same stanza (32-14 in favor of GS).
On Friday, the Suns recovered, played hard, and brought the Golden State game within 2 points in the final seconds. The crowd was hooting and hollering, cheering the Suns toward victory and appreciating the brief respite from the doldrums of this season.
On Sunday, it took longer to get their mojo back, but behind Goran Dragic, Luis Scola, Jared Dudley, Markieff Morris and Kendall Marshall, the Suns cut a 16-point deficit to 3 with three minutes left.
While Dudley missed big shot after big shot, Goran Dragic and Kendall Marshall went to work. Marshall (9 pts, 5 a, 3 r) showed some talent, dropping a couple of quick (for him) 3s and drove left for a running layup against the teeth of the Hornets defense. Dragic carved up the defense from the wing, and both players dished to big men at the rim and 3-pt shooters.
But after the Suns cut it to 3 points, the Hornets scored on two possessions while the Suns missed a few bunnies. The lead was quickly back to 7.
UPDATE: Forgot to mention, tonight the Suns lost a SEASON HIGH and FRANCHISE RECORD 7th STRAIGHT HOME GAME.
The Los Angeles Lakers LOST today (to the Clippers) while the Utah Jazz WON today (over the Warriors), forcing the Lakers to have to win TWO more games than the Jazz the rest of the season to make the playoffs, because the Jazz have the tiebreaker.
A very good lotto day for the Suns!!
The Phoenix professional basketball club did not give a reason for their quick change of heart, only dropping this bit of statistical braggadocio:
Garrett recorded 32 points, six assists and six rebounds in Bakersfield's 106-105 victory last night that helped the club finish the regular season with a franchise-best 36-14 (.720) record and secure the No. 1 overall seed in the NBA Development League Playoffs.
Perhaps Lance Blanks saw how well Garrett played and realized that he could use some backcourt scoring off the bench as well. Or maybe Diante forgot to pack enough underwear and this is just a brief return before heading back to the Jam.
We are all on pins and needles with this one.
Here's full game video if you are interested. Tell us how it was.