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Steve Nash hits assists landmark as Suns shut down Hornets

NEW ORLEANS -- Steve Nash made Phoenix Suns history for his ability to put his teammates in position to score.

Yet it was Nash's ability to hit his own shots that sank the hapless New Orleans Hornets on Wednesday night.

"I guess it's very ironic," said Nash, who scored a season high 30 points to go with 10 assists in the Suns 120-103 victory over New Orleans.

By increasing his total number of assists with the Suns to 6,522 in nine-plus seasons with the club, Nash surpassed Kevin Johnson's mark of 6,518.

"To be honest, it pales in comparison to getting the win," Nash said. "The things that really matter about (the record) is: One, to be up there with Kevin, who was a great, great player and deserves a lot of credit for what type of player he was. And then the other one, just I love the city and organization and to do it for the Suns is a real honor. But other than that I'm just glad the team got the win."

Marcin Gortat had 23 points and 11 rebounds for Phoenix, which won for only the fourth time on the road this season and second time in New Orleans. Channing Frye added 16 points and Jared Dudley 15.

Hornets reserve point guard Greivis Vasquez had career highs of 20 points and 12 assists for the Hornets, making him the first reserve in franchise history to hit the 20-point and 10-assist mark in a game.

Jason Smith added 16 points for the Hornets, who led 57-44 late in the first half, but were outscored 76-46 the rest of the way en route to a third straight loss and 18th defeat in 20 games. Trevor Ariza added 15 points for New Orleans, while Emeka Okafor scored 11.

There were 20 lead changes and 15 ties in the game, and New Orleans was as close as 95-94 after Vasquez's 3 with 8:14 to go in the game. Then the Suns began to pull away, outscoring the Hornets 25-4 the rest of the way. Gortat's free throws began a 13-0 Suns run that included Frye's layup as he was fouled, Nash closed out that spurt with a 3 that made it 108-94 with 5:10 left.

"We shot the ball well. I thought that was a big key," Suns coach Alvin Gentry said. "Obviously when Steve is going like that we're pretty good. He was real aggressive offensively."

Phoenix wound up shooting nearly 53 percent (41 of 78) for the game, while New Orleans shot 52 percent (40 of 77). The big problem for the Hornets were their 17 turnovers -- including 13 in the second half -- which led to 27 Suns points. Phoenix also shot a whopping 39 free throws, hitting 32.

The Hornets, who shot nearly 60 percent (25 of 42) in the opening half, led by 13 points when guard Jarrett Jack made his second 3-pointer to make it 57-44 with 2:12 left in the second quarter.

Nash then hit a reverse layup and a floater before setting up Gortat's jumper, which comprised the beginning of 12-2 run to close out the half and cut New Orleans' lead to 59-56.

"It seems like we had the game in hand or had a rhythm to the game that was in our favor," said Jack, who had 10 points. "To let them come back in the fashion and quick manner they did is just difficult."

Nash finished the half with 19 points, 12 in the second quarter.

Phoenix then scored 10 straight points early in the third quarter, capped by Nash's jumper, to go up 66-62. When that surge ended, Phoenix had scored on 15 of 16 possessions.

The Hornets managed to regroup and stay close until early in the fourth quarter before Phoenix finally pulled away for good.

"I thought their veteran leadership showed up tonight," Williams said of the Suns. "They never got rattled. They made the right plays. Sometimes when you run into a snowball like that, it's hard to stop it from rolling."

Game notes
Nash now has 9,441 assists in his NBA career, which ranks sixth all time in the NBA. He is 46 behind Oscar Robertson for fifth and 200 behind Earvin "Magic" Johnson for fourth. ... The Hornets set season highs for most points in a half (59) and in a second quarter (32). They also made a season-high nine 3-pointers on 16 attempts. ... Hornets coach Monty Williams decided to start DaJuan Summers at shooting guard for Marco Belinelli, who played in a reserve role. Summers finished with five points and Belinelli, who played more minutes, scored 10. ... The Hornets hit season highs in both points allowed and points scored. ... Okafor had one block to reach 900 in his career.

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