for this game

Diaw thrives as Suns barely hold off sliding Hornets

Mar 10, 2007 - 9:03 AM PHOENIX (Ticker) -- In his return to the lineup, Boris Diaw did a little of everything to help the Phoenix Suns continue their winning ways.

Diaw collected 14 points, nine rebounds and five assists and Amare Stoudemire added 18 points and 11 rebounds as the Suns held off the New Orleans Hornets, 104-103, for their fourth straight win.

Leandro Barbosa scored 19 points for Phoenix, which has won its last two games in sloppy fashion. The Suns needed overtime to defeat lowly Charlotte, 115-106, at home on Wednesday.

"I don't think we are real sharp right now, our rotation is not real sharp right now, but as long as we keep winning," Phoenix coach Mike D'Antoni said. "We are 9-1 (in the last 10 games) and we are not doing well. The perception is we are not running on all cylinders.

"We expect every shot to go in and blow out everybody, but it is a tough league. I don't think you can do that all the time unless you are Dallas or San Antonio. We are catching our breath a little and we think we are safe but we are not. We just need to get our focus back."

A key cog in the Suns' run to the Western Conference Finals last season, Diaw has not lived up to expectations this campaign, starting the season out of shape and getting lost on the offensive end with Stoudemire's return to the lineup.

On Friday, however, Diaw showed his value when playing at the top of his game. The versatile 6-8 forward shot 6-of-13 from the field but did most of his damage as a playmaker and on the glass.

"A positive for us was getting Boris back," said D'Antoni of Diaw, who had missed 11 games with back spasms. "He's a facilitator, and you can see what he means. He's much more aggressive. He can punish switches and he facilitates the ball. We're not quite sharp yet, but we'll be fine. Hopefully, Boris wakes up (Saturday) and his back feels OK, and he improves from what he did tonight. We'll get there."

However, the Suns nearly blew it. With a one-point lead and six seconds left, Barbosa missed a 3-pointer and a scrum for the rebound ensued. The Hornets were given a timeout in the battle for the ball and one more chance to win the game with 3.5 seconds remaining.

On the ensuing possession, Hornets forward David West drove the lane and fired an airball on an awkward running hook as time expired.

"I don't know what they were talking about in the locker room, but the play was designed for a pretty good look at it," Hornets coach Byron Scott said. "I thought he had a wide open shot and he took a couple of dribbles for whatever reason then tried to lob it to Tyson, but the play was designed perfect, he just didn't shoot it."

West admitted the errant toss was supposed to be a pass, but he and forward Tyson Chandler miscommunicated.

"The play was for me to take that shot, but they played up so I caught it on the move going towards the baseline," West said. "Stoudemire came over and Tyson was doing what he was supposed go be doing, getting ready for a rebound. I saw him, but he didn't see me.

West had 19 points and nine rebounds for the Hornets, who shot 48 percent (41-of-85) to absorb their fourth straight loss. They fell 1 1/2 games behind the Los Angeles Clippers for the eighth and final playoff spot in the Western Conference.

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