Paul nears triple-double as Hornets buzz past Suns

PHOENIX -- A new coach and a new style didn't change the result for the Phoenix Suns against New Orleans.

The Hornets won, just as they did all four times the teams met last season.

Chris Paul had 20 points, 10 assists and eight rebounds and New Orleans held off a rally, then pulled away to beat Phoenix 108-95 Thursday night and spoil the home debut of new Suns coach Terry Porter.

The Hornets, who never trailed, improved to 2-0 on the heels of a season-opening victory at Golden State on Wednesday night.

"The first two games of the season, it's a good sign we're hitting big shots when we need them and we're getting big stops when we need them," New Orleans coach Byron Scott said.

Peja Stojakovic added 20 points before leaving the game with a sprained right ankle in the first few seconds of the fourth quarter. New Orleans already was without starting center Tyson Chandler, who sprained his right ankle against the Warriors.

Morris Peterson added 21 and David West 18 for New Orleans. James Posey scored 13, including three 3-pointers in the fourth quarter.

"Man, that was a great team effort," Paul said. "The way those guys started knocking down shots, as a point guard, it made my job so easy."

Steve Nash had 24 points and nine assists, and Amare Stoudemire added 21 points and 12 rebounds for Phoenix. The Suns committed 24 turnovers, resulting in 21 New Orleans points, after only 10 in their victory at San Antonio the previous night. Nash had seven turnovers.

"I just thought we tried to force things when we didn't need to," Porter said. "It really hurt us. Turnovers lead to easy baskets. When you give up easy baskets in this league and you let a team shoot 54 percent, you're going to really struggle."

Porter has warned that the transition from coach Mike D'Antoni's full-tilt style to a more defensive-oriented approach is going to take some time.

"We're still a work in progress," the Suns' Raja Bell said, "and there's going to be some bumps along the way. Not every night is going to be a well-oiled machine out there on the court."

Down by as many as 16 in the first half and 15 in the third quarter, the Suns scored the first seven points of the fourth to cut the Hornets' lead to 81-76 on rookie Goran Dragic's 9-foot runner with 8:34 to play, his first NBA field goal.

Grant Hill's 17-footer as the shot clock approached zero cut it to 83-80 with 7:08 to play. But Posey sank a 3-pointer, Rasual Butler made another, then Posey hit one again to boost the Hornets' lead to 92-83 with 4:46 left.

Butler's second 3-pointer of the quarter made it 97-87 with 3:08 to go.

"That's what we've been all about the last couple of seasons -- guys don't fold under the pressure," Scott said. "I think we have the ultimate confidence in ourselves when it comes down the stretch and game's on the line like this."

New Orleans made its first six shots to take a 14-2 lead.

The Suns made 1-of-7 shots and committed seven turnovers in an ugly first seven minutes of the second quarter. The Hornets, meanwhile, built a 49-33 lead when Shaquille O'Neal was called for goaltending on Paul's shot with three minutes left in the half.

Phoenix went on an 11-2 run to cut it to 51-44 with 41.1 seconds left, but West made two free throws, then Paul sank a 3-pointer with two seconds to play to give New Orleans a 56-44 lead at the break.

"When you've got a guy like Tyson missing," Peterson said, "everybody else has to step their game up a little more defensively. With us hitting shots, I think we're a dangerous team."

Game notes

The Hornets play their home opener Saturday against Cleveland. ... Suns rookie Robin Lopez had three fouls and a turnover in the first 1:35 of the second quarter. ... Phoenix was called for three technicals in the first half -- on Stoudemire, Porter and Nash.

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