Channing Frye played a solid all-around game tonight with 14 points, 11 rebounds and 2 blocked shots.Mandatory Credit: Jennifer Stewart-US PRESSWIRE.

In a playoff chase with two teams to pass for a spot in the post-season, there is little room for error, and the Suns did the necessary and expected tonight, defeating the shorthanded New Orleans Hornets 92-75.

The Suns were led by Jared Dudley's 21 points and 7 rebounds, Shannon Brown chipped in 16, Steve Nash dished 14 assists and the Suns held a huge edge in FTs, hitting 19-21 to only 7-9 for the Hornets.

The Hornets were led by Marco Belinelli and Jason Smith, who scored 14 apiece, but Suns starters held a huge advantage over Hornets starters, and the Suns led by as many as 21 as they pulled away in the third quarter.

This was a Hornets team playing its fifth and final game of an eight day road trip, and they were missing Emeka Okafor and Trevor Ariza, although Chris Kaman and Gustavo Ayon did return for New Orleans, scoring 8 and 4, respectively.

Tonight's game went as expected. The Suns got the win they needed. It wasn't very pretty and Grant Hill's defense wasn't missed because the Hornets don't have the scorers to take advantage. To their credit, the Hornets don't look like a team that's tanking. They're continuing to play hard, even as their missing players and fatigue from this road trip make winning nearly impossible.

For the Suns, they took care of their business with a balanced offensive effort and held the punchless Hornets to only 75 points. Ho hum, and it was against the worst team in the West at home, but it counts as one in the W column just the same, and a Houston Rockets loss to he Pacers lifts the Suns to only 1 1/2 games back of the eighth and final playoff spot.

Bullet-worthy observations:

  • Channing Frye played another one of those games where his 3-point shot wasn't falling (0-4) and he made a contribution in other ways, leading the Suns in rebounding and swatting their only two blocked shots. Occasionally, Frye looks like more of a conventional PF than his reputation as a one-dimensional bomber indicates, and that was the case tonight. The Suns won the battle in the paint, and Frye was a big reason.
  • Another Suns big man who helped win the paint was Robin Lopez, who scored 10 points in the first half to help stabilize things when the rest of the bench was again shaky. Though held scoreless in the second half, Lopez notched his second consecutive double-figure scoring outing.
  • After a rough start as a member of the Suns, Shannon Brown has become a solid player and is taking advantage of his opportunity to start with Grant Hill's injury. He had 16 points on 6-11 shooting tonight, and continues to look more comfortable, taking fewer bad shots and adopting the Suns style of sharing the ball. At the right price and of course depending upon what other moves the Suns make, keeping Brown around might not be such a bad idea.
  • Josh Childress got some decent run with 19 minutes, and had mixed results. He scored his first three points on a buzzer-beating 3 to end the third quarter and added 6 rebounds, but he was also part of the bench crew that seemed to be doing all it could to make this game interesting after the starters built the lead. I still think he'd fit better with the starting unit, but as long as Brown keeps delivering there, that's not likely to happen.
  • If you get the chance, check out the Grant Hill feature on "Oprah's Master Class". It aired at 7PM PDT tonight on the OWN channel (I didn't know it existed before tonight) and is an autobiographical interview with Hill in which he discusses his family, upbringing and lessons learned in his life. I've seen about half of it now in the background as I'm writing this and highly recommend it. It's certainly easy to be a Grant Hill fan. The word "classy" constantly comes to mind, and the league could use more like him.

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Robin Lopez is having another big game against the Hornets.

Remember that big game Robin Lopez had in the season opener against the Hornets? He's at it again with 10 points in only 9 minutes so far tonight.

Go get 'em, Shannon!

Let's force the tempo, Suns!

Suns vs. Hornets Game Preview: Get Your Own Tacos!

With Grant Hill injured, will Josh Childress be able to rise to the challenge?

The Phoenix Suns had a rare stretch of three consecutive days off to lick their wounds after dropping two games in a row to the Spurs and Clippers, plus the news that Grant Hill needed surgery to repair a torn meniscus in his knee and will be out of action for an estimated 2-4 weeks.

A visit from the worst team in the Western Conference, the New Orleans Hornets, should help cure what ails the Suns. The 13-39 Hornets are 28th in the league in offensive rating, 29th in points per game and last in pace. They're a slow, grinding team that tries to lure opponents into defensive slopfests and then steal a win at the end, as they did on opening night in Phoenix, winning 85-84 on Eric Gordon's game-winning jump shot.

Gordon played one game after that, then had arthroscopic knee surgery, and has yet to return this season. The Hornets also missed injured players Trevor Ariza, Carl Landry, and Emeka Okafor, plus Chris Kaman (illness) and Gustavo Ayon (personal reason) in last night's loss in Los Angeles to the Lakers. That means the Hornets will likely have only one starter in the line-up tonight from that season opener.

This should be a game the Suns will be able to win, yeah?

That doesn't necessarily mean it will be pretty. On the surface, the Hornets are a team in tank mode but they've continued to compete. This past week, they've played the Spurs and Blazers tight, beat up on the Warriors and nearly stole one from the Lakers in LA last night.

They also flat out don't give up many points. A lot of that is due to the snail's pace with which they play and they're only 18th in defensive rating, but the bottom line is that they only gave up 100 points twice in the month of March. In one of those games, they gave up 101 to the Warriors and in the other they gave up 107 in an OT loss to the Lakers, but less than 100 in regulation.

The Suns, meanwhile, have averaged 101 points per game in going 11-6 since the All-Star break. The loss of Hill will be felt much more in games against opponents with strong perimeter scorers, which the Hornets don't have right now unless Marco Belinelli scares you.

FG 3PT FT Rebounds Misc
G M M A Pct M A Pct M A Pct Off Def Tot Ast TO Stl Blk PF PPG
Eric Gordon 2 39.0 8.5 20.0 42.5 0.5 6.0 8.3 3.5 4.5 77.8 0.5 4.5 5.0 2.0 2.0 2.0 1.5 2.5 21.0
Jarrett Jack 44 34.1 5.9 13.0 45.5 0.9 2.5 34.5 2.9 3.3 87.0 0.5 3.4 3.9 6.4 2.3 0.7 0.2 2.1 15.6
Chris Kaman 39 29.3 5.8 13.3 43.5 0.0 0.0 0.0 1.7 2.3 76.4 2.1 6.1 8.1 2.2 2.9 0.5 1.5 2.2 13.3
Carl Landry 28 24.9 4.5 9.2 49.0 0.0 0.1 0.0 3.5 4.3 80.8 2.0 2.9 4.9 1.0 1.7 0.4 0.3 2.4 12.5
Marco Belinelli 52 30.6 4.3 10.3 42.0 1.6 4.3 37.8 1.5 1.9 78.6 0.3 2.3 2.6 1.5 1.2 0.7 0.1 1.8 11.7
Trevor Ariza 38 33.6 4.2 10.1 41.0 0.7 2.2 32.9 2.0 2.6 77.3 1.1 4.4 5.5 3.4 1.9 1.7 0.6 1.8 11.0
Emeka Okafor 27 28.9 4.2 7.9 53.3 0.0 0.0 0.0 1.4 2.7 51.4 2.6 5.3 7.9 0.9 1.4 0.6 1.0 2.7 9.9
Jason Smith 27 23.0 4.2 8.6 48.9 0.0 0.3 12.5 0.9 1.2 69.7 1.6 3.0 4.7 0.6 0.8 0.5 1.1 2.6 9.3
Greivis Vasquez 52 23.9 3.2 7.3 43.2 0.6 1.8 31.5 1.4 1.7 80.9 0.3 2.2 2.5 4.9 2.0 0.9 0.1 1.9 8.3
Gustavo Ayon 41 21.3 2.9 5.2 55.1 0.0 0.0 0.0 0.7 1.2 61.2 1.6 3.2 4.9 1.4 1.0 1.1 0.9 2.2 6.5
Xavier Henry 32 16.2 2.1 5.2 39.5 0.2 0.5 40.0 1.2 1.9 59.7 0.5 1.6 2.1 0.8 0.6 0.4 0.2 1.0 5.5
Al-Farouq Aminu 52 20.1 2.0 5.1 40.3 0.1 0.6 18.8 1.1 1.4 78.7 1.4 2.8 4.2 0.8 1.2 0.8 0.4 2.1 5.3
Lance Thomas 30 14.6 1.5 3.2 47.4 0.0 0.0 0.0 1.4 1.7 82.0 1.3 1.8 3.1 0.2 0.7 0.3 0.1 2.1 4.4
Chris Johnson 26 6.6 0.8 1.6 48.8 0.0 0.0 0.0 0.6 0.7 78.9 0.6 0.9 :1.5 0.1 0.5 0.2 0.3 1.2 2.1

Markieff Morris isn't expected to play for the Suns, still out with the flu. I would have thought seeing his Kansas Jayhawks beat Ohio St. to make it to the NCAA Championship game would have made him feel better.

Projected starting line-ups, using Hornets starting five from last night:

PG Steve Nash vs. Jarrett Jack

SG Shannon Brown vs. Marco Belinelli

SF Jared Dudley vs. Lance Thomas

PF Channing Frye vs. Al-Farouq Aminu

C Marcin Gortat vs. Jason Smith

In the first three meetings between the teams, two won by the Suns, the Suns scored 84, 93 and a whopping 120 last time they met. Still, I'm calling this one a likely ugly win, scoring under 100. Sorry fans, no free tacos. You'll just have to get your own.

Additional reading

Paul Coro's Orange Slices

At the Hive

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Will the Suns score at least 100 points tonight?
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