Suns Strokes: Phoenix survives Wizards’ rally, snap losing streak
All signs pointed toward the Phoenix Suns having an advantage entering Wednesday night’s game.
Catching a team on the back-end of a back-to-back and on their fourth game in five days, all on the road, the Washington Wizards were ripe for the taking.
“We should have the advantage,” head coach Jeff Hornacek said, speaking before his team’s seventh game of an eight-game homestand.
Of course, ‘should’ being the operative word there.
The Suns, as they are accustomed to doing, made the 106-98 victory more difficult than it needed to be.
They led by 12 points after the first quarter and by as many as 22 points in the second quarter, but then nearly blew 14-point and 18-point advantages in the third and fourth quarters, respectively.
“Well, you know with our team, you’ve seen it happen,” Hornacek said. “When we get up we have a tendency to do whatever and not really be solid.”
The Suns (27-20) held on to snap a two-game losing streak and sweep the Wizards for the sixth time in the last eight seasons.
Goran Dragic scored a game-high 20 points, Isaiah Thomas added 18, Markieff Morris 16 and P.J. Tucker recorded his first double-double of the season with 12 points and 10 rebounds.
With the victory, the Suns improved to 5-2 on the homestand and ended the Wizards’ (31-16) two-game winning streak.
It was a quick start for Dragic. He scored eight of the team’s first 12 points, hitting four-of-six shot attempts, and grabbed three rebounds by the opening timeout at 5:31.
Markieff Morris had eight unanswered points (three field goals and two free throws) before Eric Bledsoe nailed a 3 to cap an 11-2 run. The Suns’ extended the run to 17-4 and closed the first quarter with a 29-17 lead.
Gerald Green and Brandan Wright had the two-man game working in the second quarter. Three times Green found Wright open underneath, including an alley-oop dunk to give the Suns a 44-25 lead at 6:25. Wright finished the half with nine points, while Green filled the stat sheet with five points, three rebounds and three assists.
Wright, it should be mentioned, had arguably his best game as a Sun with 13 points and five rebounds in 17 minutes off the bench. It marked his highest scoring game as a Sun and his 14th double-digit scoring performance of the season.
The Suns held the Wizards to an opponent season-low 39 points in the first half. Washington shot just 33.3 percent (17-of-51).
With the Suns lead cut to five in the third quarter, Bledsoe came to the rescue with a three-point play plus two assists in a 2:22 stretch to push the advantage back to double digits, 70-57, at the 4:05 mark. Bledsoe and Dragic each scored five points in the quarter.
It was Tucker’s turn to rescue the Suns in the fourth quarter. He had 10 points and seven rebounds, five on the defensive end, playing nine minutes, including the final 6:42 when he subbed in for Green with the Suns ahead 91-87. Tucker opened the quarter hitting back-to-back corner 3s.
Thomas’ 18 points gave him at least 15 points in five straight games, which is the second time a Suns player had five straight games with 15 or more points this season. Gerald Green did so in five straight from Dec. 2-9. All four of Thomas’ made field goals were 3-pointers.
Marcin Gortat burned his former team for eight first-quarter points, or one fewer than he scored in 20 total minutes in their first meeting. Gortat finished with 14 points, hitting 6-of-12 shot attempts, to go along with eight rebounds.
John Wall, who tweaked his ankle last night in L.A. against the Lakers and has been dealing with migraines for the past two weeks, missed his first five shots and turned the ball over twice before his first made basket, which came with 3:05 remaining in the first half.
The Wizards outscored the Suns 17-5 on second chance points in the first half, hitting 8-of-12 field goals. It was a direct result of their 11 offensive rebounds, five by Kris Humphries, who totaled 13 rebounds in 17 combined minutes in the first two quarters. He ended with a game-high 15 rebounds.
The Wizards opened the third quarter with seven unanswered points, part of a larger 18-6 run to trim a 17-point deficit to single digits, 62-57. Paul Pierce, who had but one point in the first half, had eight in the quarter, shooting 3-of-6, including one 3-pointer.
The Wizards opened the fourth quarter with an all-reserve lineup and promptly scored on their first nine trips. Twice they pulled to within four points, the second time after an Otto Porter 3-pointer. He scored 11 of his 14 points in the fourth quarter.
STAT OF THE GAME
15: The number of Suns wins since implementing the starting lineup of Bledsoe, Dragic, Tucker, Markieff Morris and Len
HE SAID IT
“I don’t know what to say anymore,” Dragic said, “it’s only going to be the same thing. I think that we played well. I think we followed the plan to try to run as much as possible and they’re going to get tired. I think we did that great and we built the lead to 20 points and then again, I think they’re second unit came back. Unfortunately the game was prolonged. But I’m happy with the win as long as that’s not going to happen again. I feel like I’m a broken record, every time that I say that, that actually happens.”
Archie Goodwin was included among the inactives; a rare move considering his five previous inactive listings came while he was with D-League Bakersfield
Spotted in the crowd: Seahawks defensive ends Cliff Avril and Michael Bennett, Chiefs running back Jamaal Charles, Packers receiver Randall Cobb and Pro Football Hall of Famer Warren Sapp
The longest homestand in franchise history comes to an end, finally, as the Chicago Bulls make their one and only appearance in the Valley on Friday, Jan. 30. Tipoff is scheduled for 8:30 p.m. with pregame coverage beginning 30 minutes earlier on Arizona Sports 98.7 FM.
The Suns lost both meetings last season — swept for the fourth time in the past six seasons — including the last matchup at US Airways Center, 101-92, on Feb. 4.
Chicago never trailed and were led by Carlos Boozer, who had 19 points and 12 rebounds. Dragic scored a game-high 24, 12 of those coming in the fourth quarter.
The Bulls have won five straight games in Phoenix, their longest road winning streak in series history.
The all-time series, which dates back to Oct. 31, 1968, is separated by just three wins (66-63, Bulls).