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Walker scores 31 as Hornets rout Suns

Walker scores 31 as Hornets rout Suns
Published On: Sun, Mar 26
Mar 1, 2016; Charlotte, NC, USA; Phoenix Suns forward Alex Len (21) tries to hold the ball against Charlotte Hornets center Frank Kaminsky (44) and forward Tyler Hansbrough (50) in the second half at Time Warner Cable Arena. The Hornets defeated the Suns 126-92. Mandatory Credit: Jeremy Brevard-USA TODAY Sports

CHARLOTTE, N.C. -- The Charlotte Hornets wanted to start fast, and that's exactly what they did.

The Hornets pounced on the Phoenix Suns quickly on Sunday afternoon and rolled to a 120-106 victory at the Spectrum Center.

The Hornets scored the first eight points of the game, then led 17-1, 22-3 and 30-7 before settling for a 38-18 lead after one quarter.

They went on to lead by as many as 25, although the Suns got within four points down the stretch before the Hornets reasserted themselves.

Hornets coach Steve Clifford stressed getting off to a fast start, which he felt was essential because of a 1 p.m. tipoff. It was just the Hornets' second afternoon game of the season.

"In my experiences, in these afternoon games, usually the teams that come out and play well in the first quarter have a big advantage," Clifford said. "People always talk about the NBA is a fourth-quarter league, and by the numbers it's anything but. It's usually a first-quarter league or a third-quarter league. Playing from ahead is always a big advantage."

Kemba Walker led the Hornets with 31 points and nine assists, marking the 50th time this season he has scored 20 or more. Marvin Williams scored 21. Nicolas Batum had 18 points, 10 assists and six rebounds, Cody Zeller scored 16, Michael Kidd-Gilchrist scored 14, and Frank Kaminsky scored 10.

Williams was 5 of 6 from 3-point range and Walker added four 3-pointers on an afternoon when the Hornets finished 14 of 30 from 3-point range. The Hornets were also 22 of 24 from the free-throw line.

"I thought we played well even though we had some stretches where we kind of let our guard down, got a little bit too comfortable and they made their way back," Walker said. "But we were able to pull out this huge win."

Phoenix's Devin Booker, in his first game since scoring 70 points in a 130-120 loss at Boston on Friday night, finished with 23 points on 7-of-17 shooting from the field. He scored just three points in the first quarter as the Hornets took control.

The Hornets (33-40) have now won four of their last five and remain alive in the race for an Eastern Conference playoff spot, although they are still in 11th place in the conference. With the win, they trailed No. 8 Miami by two and a half games going into Miami's game at Boston on Sunday night.

"We don't have much room for error, but we're still here," Williams said. "We're still in it. We've just got to take care of our own business and hopefully we can get a little bit of help from some of those other teams. We have an opportunity to play some of those teams, so we'll take it one game at a time when we meet those guys and try to take care of business."

The Suns (22-52) have now lost eight straight and 10 of their last 11.

Besides Booker's 23, the Suns got 21 points and 10 rebounds from T.J. Warren in his first game back from a foot injury. Tyler Ulis had 16 points and nine assists, Marquese Chriss scored 13, Jared Dudley scored 12 and Alan Williams finished with 11 points and 11 rebounds.

Phoenix coach Earl Watson said it was a difficult task after getting behind early.

"But our guys always fight back," Watson said. "They try to find a way to get back into the game. We had a chance, cutting it to single digits. Our young guys, they fight hard. The guys who are available, they fight hard."

Watson said he didn't expect Booker to come close to duplicating his performance at Boston.

"We knew Devin was going to play well," Watson said. "It wasn't waiting to see how he responded. He had 70 the previous game, but I doubted he could get 70 back-to-back."

Booker said: "Michael (Kidd-Gilchrist) is a really good defender and he was really active tonight. The bigs were really active on screens. That's what you expect coming into a game like this. I expect it to be hard from here on out, and we're all going to learn from this as a group. At the end of the day, I think it's going to be good for us."

NOTES: The Suns won the only previous game between the teams this season, 120-103 in Phoenix on March 2. ... Suns G Devin Booker's 70 points against Boston made him the youngest player in NBA history to score 70 or more. He was 21 of 40 from the field and 24 of 26 from the free-throw line. ... Only five other players in NBA history have scored 70 or more: Wilt Chamberlain, Kobe Bryant, David Thompson, David Robinson and Elgin Baylor. ... The Suns were without F Dragan Bender (ankle), G Ronnie Price (leg), G Eric Bledsoe (rest), C Tyson Chandler (rest) and G Brandon Knight (rest). ... The Hornets were without F Johnny O'Bryant (ankle) and G Ramon Sessions (knee). ... The Suns were playing the fifth game on a six-game Eastern road trip. They will close out the trip on Tuesday at Atlanta. ... The Hornets will host Milwaukee on Tuesday to close out a three-game home stand.

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