PHOENIX SUNS

Bender’s lob to Chandler with 0.6 seconds left lifts Suns over Grizzlies

Dec 26, 2017, 11:36 PM | Updated: Dec 27, 2017, 8:18 am

PHOENIX — With the Cactus Bowl taking place just down the street, there was a bit of football inspiration in the Phoenix Suns’ 99-97 win over the Memphis Grizzlies Tuesday night.

While Dragan Bender didn’t throw it like a touchdown pass, his precise lob to Tyson Chandler with 0.6 seconds left on the clock in a tie game ran only 0.2 seconds off the clock and got the Suns the win.

It was a play that head coach Jay Triano has had ready for 15 years.

“I put it in probably two or three days after I took over with the job here,” he said.

“It’s a rule people don’t know. You cannot goaltend the ball that isn’t going to count, so I told our guy shoot the ball at the basket and all Tyson has to do is touch it on the way down or grab the rim and have it hit your knuckle and go in.”

The ball couldn’t have come closer to hitting the rim, arriving at rim level on the other side of the hoop, leaving Chandler the task of only catching the ball and putting it in, but his perfectly timed jump also helped matters.

After Jarrell Martin’s tip dunk tied the game with 0.6 seconds left, Chandler knew what was coming.

“Literally as soon as it happened, I’m like, ‘We running the play?’ He’s like, ‘We running the play,'” the center said, confirming that he asked Triano for the play before he even could call it out in the huddle.

After Chandler’s make, Memphis tried to pull off something even more spectacular, as a full-court pass to rookie Kobi Simmons at the free-throw line resulted in a quick-touch floater that did not go in or go off in time to beat the 0.4 seconds.

Chandler said he didn’t even know about the rule when Triano presented the play in practice.

Bender said he was indeed trying to make the shot off the pass.

“Once you look at the play you realize it’s the right play to do,” he said, revealing he did think the pass was going in the basket.

The backstory on the play is unique.

“I asked the officials when they come and do their clinics and seminars with the coaches, I asked them that 15 years ago when I was in Toronto,” Triano said. “They had to go back and look at it and come back. I’ve tried to keep it a secret and it’s not a secret anymore.”

Chandler said as soon as he saw that Marc Gasol, the taller player, was guarding Bender on the pass and he had the shorter Brandan Wright on him, he knew he had a chance.

As it turns out, Memphis thought Chandler was getting ready to set a screen for a shooter, much like Chandler does all the time in those situations.

“They were screaming,” he said. “They thought I was gonna back-pick, so he was getting in position to guard the back-pick. As soon as I saw him get in the position I’m like ‘I got him.'”

Because Bender’s pass, shot or whatever you want to call it was so accurate, Wright was forced to recover backward and try to maximize his vertical in the process, which is extremely difficult to do. Oh, and Chandler gave him a nice little nudge to create some extra separation and make the execution even more challenging.

“Tyson did a good job using two hands to get some space on Brandan,” Grizzlies head coach J.B. Bickerstaff said.

It resulted in Wright getting stuck under the rim in the dream scenario for the play, allowing Chandler to give his team the win.

The madness of the ending overshadowed what was a terrific Devin Booker performance in his first game back from a strained adductor.

In his first game in three weeks, he had 32 points, five rebounds and six assists.

He fouled out with 41 seconds left on a controversial offensive foul call.

Booker shot 9-of-21 from the field and was 11-of-12 from the free-throw line.

Following 20 points in the first half, Booker went cold in the next 15 minutes of game time before scoring eight points in his final seven minutes. Triano said he felt Booker got a little fatigued towards the end.

The first half was an odd one reading the box score.

Phoenix shot 16 percent better than Memphis from the field but they were only up 57-53. That was due to the Grizzlies taking 20 free throws and turning the ball over just twice.

The game would remain tight throughout. Memphis only led by as many as four points, but kept the score close and didn’t allow the Suns to pull away.

Despite a 9-0 Suns run after the game was tied at 82 early the fourth, Memphis had a quick 5-0 run of its own and the score would stay close up until the end.

Tyreke Evans had 25 points, five assists and five rebounds for the Grizzlies while T.J. Warren added 17 for the Suns, strangely finishing the game with zero rebounds. Marquese Chriss wasn’t scoring and had his share of brain fart moments, but he worked hard and finished with 13 rebounds, tying a career-high.

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