Suns Strokes: Suns hang with Wizards but miss Booker in fourth quarter
PHOENIX — So, here’s what the Phoenix Suns were up against on Thursday: No Devin Booker or Tyson Chandler, meaning they were without their leading scorer and rebounder, respectively; and they were facing one of the better teams out of the Eastern Conference with a player who had just dropped 51 points two nights earlier in Portland.
In other words, good luck, right? On paper, yes.
The Suns, though, battled, put six players in double figures and yet still came up short, falling 109-99 to the Washington Wizards in front of an announced crowd of 15,925 at Talking Stick Resort Arena.
The fourth quarter is what decided the game, and when the Suns missed Booker the most.
The Wizards, who once again played minus John Wall, outscored the Suns 24-15. They pulled away with a late 9-0 run after the Suns had closed to within two, 98-96.
Bradley Beal followed up his career-high 51-point effort with a 34-point performance, shooting 13-of-22 from the field. Markieff Morris added 21 points to help put the Wizards (14-11) in the win column for the third time in four games.
The Suns, meanwhile, have now lost five of six.
T.J. Warren was both the team’s leading scorer (23) and rebounder (8). He was on the floor for 44 of the game’s 48 minutes.
Playing their first home game after a season-long six-game road trip, the Suns (9-18) enjoyed an early lead. They were up by as many as 12 points before surrendering a 24-4 run between the first and second quarters.
Greg Monroe (15), Tyler Ulis (13), Marquese Chriss (11), Josh Jackson (10) and Troy Daniels (10) also reached double figures for the Suns.
Jackson started in place of Booker.
It was a nearly flawless first five minutes for the Suns. They scored on their first eight possessions to take a 19-8 lead at the 7:09 mark of the first quarter. Their advantage would grow as large as 12, 24-12 at the 4:47 mark, after a Chriss dunk on a lob pass from Jackson. At this point in the game, all five starters had scored. Chriss finished the period with a team-best seven points on 3-of-3 shooting including one made 3-pointer.
Held scoreless in six first-quarter minutes, Troy Daniels had seven points in the second quarter. He made one 3-pointer and went a perfect 4-of-4 from the foul line; three of those free throws came after being fouled by Ian Mahinmi on a 3-point try. Those free throws tied the game at 48 at the 3:21 mark of the period. It was Warren, though, who had the most points in the quarter for the Suns, nine on 3-of-8 shooting and three free throws.
For the nine minutes he was on the floor in the third quarter, Monroe accounted for 12 of the Suns’ 20 points. He had 10 points and one assist, setting up Jackson for a 20-foot step-back jumper. Monroe did much of his scoring in the paint with three layups and a seven-foot turnaround hook shot. He also made both of his free throw attempts. Through three quarters, Monroe had 14 points on 6-of-6 shooting from the field.
For almost three minutes in the first quarter the Suns went scoreless. They missed three shots and turned the ball over twice, during which time the Wizards went on a 10-0 run to pull to within one possession, 24-22 at the 2:10 mark. The visitors closed the period outscoring the Suns 14-4. Beal had nine of his game-high 11 points over this stretch. He shot 4-of-7 with one made 3-pointer and two free throws.
While Beal continued to put up points in the second quarter, it was actually Mike Scott who accounted for the early scoring in the period. He had eight of his team’s first 13 points as the Wizards took their first lead of the game, 29-28 at the 10:48 mark of the quarter. Meanwhile, Beal added another 11 points to his total — he had 22 at halftime — on 4-of-6 shooting and making 3-of-4 free throws.
The first 12 Wizards points in the third quarter were scored by ex-Suns. Marcin Gortat hit a layup and then Morris made three straight field goals, including a 3-pointer, and three free throws; the latter of which pushed Washington’s lead to 69-61 at the 7:37 mark of the period. Neither scored the rest of the quarter. Morris’ 19 total points was second only to Beal’s 30-point effort through three quarters.
It’s simple. You can’t win if you can’t score. And the Suns went nearly five minutes without scoring late in the fourth quarter. Ulis’ 13-foot pull-up jumper ended the 4:46 drought but by then the Wizards had scored nine straight points, with Beal accounting for four. In addition, the Suns turned the ball over five times during this stretch. Overall, they committed eight turnovers in the fourth quarter.
STAT OF THE GAME
15: The Suns set a season-low for fourth-quarter scoring with 15 points; they shot just 5-of-15 from the field.
HE SAID IT
“Our execution down the end wasn’t very good,” interim head coach Jay Triano said. “The game comes down to the end where you give it to somebody, and we saw Beal do it and make tough shots and our guy who does that was on the pine.”
Alex Len had three blocks; his second block moved him past Gar Heard (303) into ninth place on the Suns’ all-time list.
Chriss got a technical foul (arguing official’s call) at the 7:37 mark of the third quarter; it was his fourth of the season.
Chandler was at shootaround and he was expected to start but because of personal reasons he was not with the team.
Booker (left adductor strain), Brandon Knight (knee), Davon Reed (knee) and Alan Williams (knee) were listed inactive.
The Suns will be back home to host LaMarcus Aldridge, Pau Gasol and Manu Ginobili of the San Antonio Spurs on Saturday, Dec. 9. Tip-off is scheduled for 7:00 p.m. with pregame coverage beginning 30 minutes earlier on 98.7 FM, Arizona’s Sports Station.
It’s the second meeting of the season. The Spurs won that first matchup, 112-95, at AT&T Center behind 21 points and nine rebounds from LaMarcus Aldridge pus 17 points and four assists from Patty Mills.
Overall, the Spurs have won 10 of the last 11 in the series.