Suns Strokes: Suns winning streak at season-high 3 after Ulis buzzer-beater
PHOENIX — This season, winning three straight has eluded the Phoenix Suns.
Tyler Ulis beat the buzzer with a 3-pointer to send the Suns past the Boston Celtics, 109-106, in front of 16,790 at Talking Stick Resort Arena on Sunday afternoon.
The game-deciding basket capped a 7-1 close for the Suns, who had failed in four previous attempts at a three-game winning streak.
Eric Bledsoe scored twice, the second of which tied the game at 106 after Isaiah Thomas had made only 1-of-2 free throws.
With four seconds to play, Thomas could not handle the inbounds pass — Marquese Chriss was credited with the steal — and the ball wound up in Ulis’ hands.
The 3-pointer was his only attempt at that distance in the game.
Ulis finished with a career-high 20 points and Bledsoe had 28. Bledsoe also added nine assists and six rebounds.
Four other Suns players scored in double figures, including Alan Williams, who recorded his third straight double-double with 11 points and 15 rebounds.
The Suns (21-42) had lost three in a row to Boston.
Playing without injured starters Avery Bradley and Al Horford, the Celtics (40-23) were led by Thomas’ 35 points. He had made all nine of his foul shots before that last trip to the line.
The loss snapped a two-game winning streak for Boston.
In nine first-quarter minutes, Chriss blocked three shots (including Thomas twice) matching his single-game season-high total, a mark he had reached three times previous. Chriss also scored four points, on 2-of-4 shooting, and grabbed one rebound in what was the Suns lowest-scoring opening period (19 points) since Feb. 8 at Memphis (15).
In what had to be his best quarter as a pro, Ulis had a game-high (and new career-high) 15 points, making 6-of-7 field goal attempts and 3-of-3 free throws in the second quarter. During one stretch, he scored 11 straight points and 13 of 15 overall, assisting on the other basket, a Williams seven-foot jumper. Ulis later added a steal, drawing the fourth foul on Thomas.
It wasn’t until the 2:17 mark of the second quarter when the Suns had their first lead of the game, 38-37, after Bledsoe made a pair of free throws. That was in the midst of a 10-0 run that ballooned to a 17-5 close over the final four minutes of the period for 49-42 halftime edge. The Suns led by as many as 10 points.
The Chriss’ block party continued after halftime. His fifth of the game (blocking Marcus Smart’s layup attempt off the glass) led to a Warren basket, assisted by Bledsoe, and 79-64 lead at the 3:11 mark of the third quarter. It was the Suns’ largest advantage of the game. Bledsoe, by the way, had four assists plus eight points in the period.
Of the Celtics’ first 13 points, Thomas accounted for 11. He scored eight, including a pair of 3-pointers, the latter of which he turned away to look at the Suns bench before the shot went in, and set up an Amir Johnson triple. Thomas finished with 10 first-quarter points, on 3-of-8 shooting and two free throws. The Celtics led by as many as 11 points.
Held scoreless in the first half, Jaylen Brown erupted for a team-best 10 third-quarter points. He made 3-of-6 field goal attempts and 4-of-8 free throw attempts. He added two rebounds and an assist in his 11 minutes of action. His last four points triggered a 13-2 Celtics close, highlighted by a pair of Terry Rozier 3-pointers; the latter of which made it 81-77.
Re-entering the game at the 9:27 mark, Thomas, who began the day averaging a league-best 10.3 points in the fourth quarter, scored six quick points. Five minutes later his 3-pointer handed the Celtics the lead, 93-91, with 4:41 to play. Thomas finished the period with 14 points on 4-of-7 shooting, including 2-of-4 3-pointers, and four three throws.
STAT OF THE GAME
33-27: The Suns bench outscored the opponent’s reserves for the third straight game
HE SAID IT
“Tyler Ulis. No more questions. Thank you for coming,” head coach Earl Watson as he began his post-game media session.
This marked the Suns’ third game-winning buzzer-beater here this season, the most in the league.
Suns have won four straight at home, their longest win streak of the season.
Suns are now 13-9, including 9-4 at home, against the Eastern Conference.
Both teams lost double-digit leads, as the Suns led by 15 and the Celtics 11.
Bradley (hamstring strain) and Horford (elbow strain) were listed as inactive.
Tyson Chandler and Brandon Knight did not play for the sixth straight game.
It’ll be the fourth game of this season-long five-game homestand as the Washington Wizards visit the Valley on Tuesday, March 7. Tip-off is scheduled for 7:00 p.m. with pregame coverage beginning 30 minutes earlier on Arizona Sports 98.7 FM.
The Suns will be looking to avoid the season series sweep for a second straight year.
Earlier this season, despite 30 points from Booker and 29 from Bledsoe, the Suns dropped a 106-101 decision to the Wizards on Nov. 21 at Verizon Center. Bradley Beal scored a career-high 42 points, while John Wall added 18 points, 15 assists, four steals and three blocked shots.
The Wizards have won three of the last four meetings in Phoenix.
Overall, the series is even 61-61, dating all the way back to Oct. 20, 1968, in the second-ever game in Suns history against the then-Baltimore Bullets.