Bradley Handwerger / WWLTV.com Sports Reporter
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NEW ORLEANS ― New Orleans won their two openers with grit and balanced scoring.
On Friday night at the New Orleans Arena, the Hornets lost their first game of the season when they couldn’t get scoring, falling 93-78 to Phoenix.
The Hornets’ (2-1) normally steady defense didn’t help, allowing the Suns (1-2) to shoot 42.3 percent from the floor.
But it was the offense that failed – New Orleans missed numerous shots inside of 4-feet in shooting only 28.9 percent themselves.
The lone bright spot for New Orleans was Emeka Okafor, who scored 10 points and had 16 rebounds, including eight on the offensive glass.
Carl Landry added 17 points and seven rebounds and Jarrett Jack added 12 points and four assists.
The Hornets were outscored in the paint 38-28 and 17- on the break.
New Orleans had a tough time stopping Phoenix’s scorers once they got going. Six Suns scored in double figures, including 16 from forward Jared Dudley. Channing Frye killed the Hornets from all over, scoring 10 points while grabbing 16 rebounds.
Eric Gordon sat for his second consecutive game and while the Hornets survived without him the first time around, his scoring presence was missed Friday night.
He’s day-to-day with a bruised knee.
The Hornets picked up where they left off Wednesday night, hitting baskets while forcing bad shots with defensive rotation.
New Orleans led 10-4 nearly midway through the first quarter and looked to be the aggressors on the night before New Year’s Eve.
But slowly, the Suns began hitting shots and the basket began to get smaller for New Orleans.
By the end of the opening 12 minutes, the game was tied at 22.
Phoenix took a 24-22 lead on Hakim Warrick’s 17-footer, pushed it to 27-22 on Shannon Brown’s 3-pointer and the momentum was firmly in the Suns’ corner for the rest of the night.
The Hornets tried for a late push, pulling to within nine points in the final five minutes, seemingly buoyed by a near scrum between New Orleans forward Trevor Ariza and Suns forward Robin Lopez.
But each time the Hornets seemed to gather themselves, the Suns bit back. First, Marcin Gortat hit a 6-foot jumper to answer Okafor’s tip-in with 4:24 to play.
Then, after an Okafor free throw made it 84-74 Phoenix, Dudley answered with two free throws, leaving just 3:14 to go.
Gortat followed with a short hook shot, ending any hopes of the Hornets fighting back.
The Hornets never got any closer.