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Suns connect on 20 3-pointers in rout of Hornets

PHOENIX (AP) -- The playoff-bound Suns are almost impossible to beat when they are shooting the ball well.

Leandro Barbosa scored 21 points and Phoenix made a season-high 20 3-pointers to beat New Orleans 115-78 on Monday night.

The Suns' total was one short of the NBA record set by the Toronto Raptors against the Philadelphia 76ers on March 13, 2005.

"We did shoot the ball extremely well from the 3, and we will do that occasionally," Phoenix coach Mike D'Antoni said in an obvious understatement.

With their 20 3s, the Suns extended their NBA record this season to 824. Phoenix is the first team in NBA history to average 10 or more for a season. Their previous team record for 3s was 19, against the Los Angeles Lakers on April 11, 2005.

"The shots were going down all around," said Eddie House, who hit four 3-pointers. "All of us were filling it. It was beautiful basketball. That's the way we play."

The victory enabled the Suns to finish their home schedule with a 31-10 record, the same mark as last season when they won an NBA high 62 games.

Raja Bell, who finished with 19 points, hit five 3s in nine attempts. Barbosa was 4-for-4 and Steve Nash went 3-for-3.

Bell, who returned after a two-game absence because of a quadriceps injury, stressed that the Suns' ball movement was the key to their success against the Hornets.

"When we play that way, when we're unselfish, we're going to get good looks," he said. "It's not going to be like that every night and you can live with that, but when it's cooking like that, you try and take advantage of it."

James Jones had 20 points and 10 rebounds for the Suns.

Rookie Chris Paul and Marc Jackson scored 11 points each for the Hornets and J.R. Smith and Desmond Mason had 10 apiece.

With the game having little meaning to either team, neither team's high scorer -- Shawn Marion of Phoenix and David West of New
Orleans -- played. Marion, who had played in all of the Suns' previous 80 games, was rested in order to be prepared for the playoffs. West was out with a sore left ankle.

Hornets coach Byron Scott was disappointed in his team's defense.

"You can't give them [the Suns] open looks and if you do, they're going to burn you," he said. "We talked about playing against this team ... I don't care if it's a mismatch. You can't give them open looks."

House opened the second quarter with eight straight points in the first 2 minutes, giving the Suns a 33-20 advantage. House's third 3-pointer gave Phoenix its biggest lead of the half, 42-26.

The Hornets shot a lowly 30 percent (15-for-50) from the field in the half.

Mason scored half of the Hornets' 20 points and grabbed five rebounds in the first period, but sat out the entire second quarter.

The Suns continued their 3-point barrage in the third period, hitting seven of their first eight attempts, including five in a row -- two each by Barbosa and Nash, one by Tim Thomas, in building their largest lead until that point, 81-50.

Phoenix wound up the game with five more 3-pointers in the final period.

Game notes
Duke coach Mike Krzyzewski, who also is head coach of the USA Basketball Team, met early Monday with Phoenix coach Mike D'Antoni, one of his assistants on the world team, and stayed to watch the game. ... Brandon Bass, a rookie from LSU who had played in 27 games this season, made his first start in place of West. ... In addition to West, the Hornets were without Speedy Claxton and
Aaron Williams, both sidelined with knee injuries. They also lost Kirk Snyder, who left after 7 minutes with a strained right hamstring. ... Boris Diaw is the only Suns' player to appear in every game this season. ... At halftime, Bell was presented with the Majerle Hustle Award, named in honor of former Suns player Dan Majerle. ... Both teams end the regular season Wednesday night,
with Phoenix at Portland and New Orleans at the Los Angeles Lakers.


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