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Hot shooting leads Hornets over Suns

Oct 31, 2008 - 6:42 AM PHOENIX (Ticker) -- James Posey is already paying major dividends for the New Orleans Hornets.

The team's prized free-agent acquisition led a shooting outburst in the fourth quarter as the Hornets held off the Phoenix Suns, 108-95, on Thursday.

After the Suns climbed to within three in the final frame, Posey drained three clutch 3-pointers down the stretch and Rasual Butler added two more as the Hornets won their second shootout in a row.

"What is special about this team is we expect to win no matter who we play. We have high expectations for ourselves," point guard Chris Paul said. "Posey hit some big-time shots. He is one of those guys that is a consummate team guy."

In Wednesday's season opener, they edged a surprisingly tough Golden State Warriors squad, 108-103. In the second leg of a back-to-back, the Hornets had plenty of offense left over.

Posey signed a four-year, $25 million deal with the Hornets this offseason after playing a key role for the Boston Celtics on their way to the NBA title last season. After an 11-point showing against the Warriors, he posted 13 on 5-of-8 shooting.

"They had a spurt we couldn't make a shot and we were turning the ball over," Posey said. "They started making shots, got to the free throw line. We withstood their run and made some shots when they got to three and opened it up a bit."

With the Hornets clinging to an 83-80 lead with just over six minutes remaining, Posey knocked down his first 3-pointer to double the lead. One possession later, Butler connected from long range to make it an 89-81 game. With 1:37 on the clock, Posey put the game on ice with his third 3-pointer, giving the Hornets a 100-90 cushion.

"The last couple of season we have guys who don't fold under pressure," New Orleans coach Byron Scott said. "We have the ultimate confidence down the stretch and when games are on the line. The first games of the season it is a good sign that we are hitting big shots when we need them and we are getting big stops when we need them."

Posey's hot shooting helped maintain the Hornets' recent dominance over the Suns. The rising Western Conference power swept Phoenix in last year's season series and has won the last five meetings between the two. Once again, it was Paul that led the way. The star fourth-year point guard just missed his sixth career triple-double with 20 points, 10 assists and eight rebounds.

New Orleans was 13-of-24 (54 percent) from the arc. Morris Peterson was responsible for four of those and paced the team with 21 points.

"Teams have to play honest against us because we have so many guys that can do different things," Peterson said. "That makes us a lot more dangerous."

The Hornets took control from the opening tip, scoring the game's first nine points and jumping to a 14-2 lead before three minutes had passed.

"It is unexplainable the way we came out. I can't explain it," forward Amare Stoudemire said. "Everything was set for us. The stage was set for us to get this win but for some reason we didn't have the energy like we did last night against San Antonio."

The Suns had to play catch-up, finally putting on some pressure with a hot start to the fourth quarter. Stoudemire scored four points in an 11-2 run that cut the Suns' deficit to 83-80 with seven minutes on the clock.

But their defense - which has been the focal point of head coach Terry Porter's new system - couldn't hold the momentum as the Hornets exploited Phoenix on the perimeter. Of course, the Suns didn't do much to help themselves, turning the ball over 24 times.

"It is a disappointing way to have our home opener," Porter said. "Turnovers really hurt us tonight and they shot the ball well from the 3-point line. Whenever we got ourselves a chance to get back in the game, we shot ourselves in the foot, one mistake to another."

Steve Nash led Phoenix with 24 and nine assists, while Stoudemire posted 21 and 12 boards.

Peja Stojakovic chipped in with 20 points for the Hornets before leaving the court with a sprained right ankle in the fourth quarter.