PHOENIX – J.R. Smith scored a season-high 26 points, including four free throws in the last 17.6 seconds, and the New Orleans Hornets held off the Phoenix Suns 91-87 to snap a five-game losing streak.

Desmond Mason added 22 points and rookie Chris Paul had 19 points, seven assists, seven rebounds and four steals for the Hornets, playing their third road game in four nights.

New Orleans never trailed and led 87-75 after Paul’s 3-pointer with 3:26 to play.

The Suns sank four 3-pointers after that to make it close.

Consecutive 3s by Steve Nash, Raja Bell and Eddie House cut the lead to 87-84 with 1:03 to play. After Nash missed what would have been a game-tying 3-pointer, Smith made two free throws to make it 89-84 with 17.6 seconds to go.

House, who missed his first seven 3-point attempts and finished 3-for-13 overall, sank another one with 14.1 seconds left to cut it to 89-87, but Smith clinched it with two more free throws 11.6 seconds from the end.

Bell scored a season-high 24, including 5-of-5 on 3s, for the Suns. Nash added 14 points and 16 assists. Kurt Thomas and Shawn Marion scored 12 apiece.

The Hornets made nine of their first 11 shots, capped by a 9-0 run that put them up 23-11 on Smith’s 3-pointer with 6:13 left in the first quarter, and New Orleans led 54-46 at the break.

Nash shot 2-for-8 in the first half but had 11 assists, many of them to Bell, who was 6-for-8 for 16 points.

Smith scored 17 on 5-of-6 shooting, 3-of-3 from 3-point range, and Mason made 7-of-9 shots for 16 first-half points.

Phoenix outscored the Hornets 9-4 to start the second half to cut the lead to 58-55 on Marion’s fast-break rebound. But P.J. Brown’s stuff on a lob pass from Paul capped a 10-2 run and New Orleans led 68-57 with 6:01 left in the third.

Mason’s stuff gave the Hornets a 72-59 lead with 4:26 to play in the quarter.

Notes: Suns guard Leandro Barbosa is out at least three weeks after re-injuring his left knee. Forward James Jones sat out the game with a sprained left ankle. … New Orleans shot 62 percent (13-for-21) in the first quarter. … Phoenix could have gained a share of first in the Pacific Division with a victory. … The Suns had beaten the Hornets five straight.

AP-ES-12-12-05 2331EST


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