Stoudemire scores 25 as Suns hold off Hornets

NEW ORLEANS -- The Phoenix Suns had a good reason not to be overconfident playing New Orleans without injured All-Star point guard Chris Paul. They'd already lost to the Hornets in November when Paul didn't play.

Amare Stoudemire scored 25 points and Grant Hill hit two late key baskets and the Suns held on to beat the Hornets 109-100 on Monday.

"We knew they could beat us without Chris Paul," Stoudemire said. "That's what they did last time we were here. Tonight it really didn't play a factor. Without Chris Paul, they are still a pretty good team. We came out with the same intensity as if he were playing."

Paul missed his second game in a row and is out indefinitely with a left knee injury that coach Jeff Bower said probably could require surgery. Paul was injured on Wednesday against Golden State. He got hurt again when he collided with a camera while chasing an errant pass on Friday against Chicago.

Bower said that an MRI taken Sunday revealed the injury was more serious than a knee bruise, the original diagnosis.

"We're in fact-finding stages right now, gathering as much information as possible for decisions to be made to take the next steps," Bower said earlier Monday. "It is likely there will be surgical solution for it. We don't have a timetable [for Paul's return] right now, nor do we know a surgical procedure right now."

Sources close to the situation confirmed to on Sunday that Paul tore cartilage in his left knee and will be forced to undergo arthroscopic surgery.

Channing Frye added 20 points, including three 3-pointers as the Suns took control in the second quarter. Robin Lopez added 18 points and Steve Nash had 18 points and 12 assists.

"We wanted to come out and set the tone early," Stoudemire said. "We tried to be aggressive out there and really bring it."

Phoenix led 83-63 on Stoudemire's layup late in the third quarter, but the Hornets used a 26-11 run in the fourth quarter to cut the deficit to 100-98 on David West's dunk with 1:41 left.

Hill responded with a 3-point play and an outside jumper on consecutive possessions to close out the Hornets.

The first basket came after an inbound pass with seven seconds left on the shot clock. Hill caught the ball, beat Peja Stojakovic, hit the shot and was fouled on the arm by West.

"We called that play for me," Hill said. "I think everybody thought we would go to Steve or Amare on that play. I came off, I was open, I took a dribble and I got that shot to fall."

The Suns have won three in a row for the first time since November, when they were 14-3 before compiling a losing record in December and January. The Hornets have lost two in a row at home for only the second time this season.

Marcus Thornton led New Orleans with 25 points. Darren Collison, Paul's replacement at point guard, had 16 points and 14 assists.

The Suns took control in the second quarter, making five 3-pointers in the first seven minutes. Frye hit all three of his 3-pointers and converted another 3-point play when he tipped in a long-range miss from Jared Dudley while being fouled.

That last basket was part of a 13-0 run as Phoenix took a 57-42 lead. Nash started the spurt with a 3-pointer and an off-balance, buzzer-beating shot while the Hornets went cold from the field. After hitting 12 of 21 shots in the first quarter, they were 6 of 23 in the second quarter, falling behind 59-46 at the break.

"We did a phenomenal job defensively," Stoudemire said. "It all goes down to our defensive effort. In the past three games we've done a great job with that. We wanted to come out and set the tone early."

The Hornets, who rallied from a 21-point second-half deficit to beat Memphis on Saturday, put themselves in position to do it again with their fourth-quarter run. Thornton scored eight quick points to cut a 97-88 deficit to 99-96, but Hill took over from there.

"We couldn't make that next play to get the lead," Bower said. "It was just not enough tonight against a team that was having a good night."

Game notes
Although Bower did not rule out signing a player to a 10-day contract in Paul's absence, he indicated it was not a priority. "We'll look at everything," Bower said. "But our whole area of emphasis will be on who we have and what we need to do with this group. ... Hornets reserve James Posey returned after missing two games with an Achilles tendon strain. ... Phoenix has won two in a row on the road after losing 12 of 13. ... The Hornets fell to 5-5 without Paul.

Information from The Associated Press was used in this report.