EMPIRE OF THE SUNS

Suns come back from 19 down, beat Portland for 2nd straight win

Dec 30, 2019, 10:49 PM | Updated: 10:53 pm
Phoenix Suns guard Devin Booker reacts after scoring against the Portland Trail Blazers during the ...

Phoenix Suns guard Devin Booker reacts after scoring against the Portland Trail Blazers during the second half of an NBA basketball game in Portland, Ore., Monday, Dec. 30, 2019. The Suns won 122-116. (AP Photo/Craig Mitchelldyer)

(AP Photo/Craig Mitchelldyer)

When the Phoenix Suns beat the Sacramento Kings on Saturday to end an eight-game losing streak, it didn’t look like it when the final buzzer sounded.

Harrison Barnes’ wide-open missed three-pointer seemed to leave those on the floor for the Suns either frustrated or surprised, which is not the type of reaction you’d bank on after snapping that type of skid.

It was an ugly game the Suns were lucky to win, but Monday’s 122-116 victory over the Portland Trail Blazers was much more in the bounce-back fashion.

After being down 19 at the end of the first quarter and posting that many points in the 12 minutes, Phoenix posted scored 36, 28 and 39 in the last three quarters, respectively. The defense showed up in the second half too, limiting Portland to 52 points.

The Suns (13-20) kept sticking around, eventually getting the Trail Blazers (14-20) lead down to four midway through the third and keeping it within range from there.

Phoenix seemed to keep getting big shots and moments from everyone on the floor in the fourth, including Deandre Ayton, who returned off the bench after missing five games due to a right ankle sprain. Ayton was largely out of place and ineffective throughout most of the game, but had a key tip-in offensive rebound with 2:48 left that gave the Suns their first lead since the start of the game and made a few key contributions to close.

Devin Booker was clearly a man on a mission again, going away from the contained version of his game within Monty Williams’ “0.5” offense that he had limited himself to often through the first six weeks of the season. It was some of the most aggressive he’s been all season and he posted 33 points, six rebounds and seven assists through that, including a 15-for-15 output from the free-throw line.

Booker scored six straight points shortly after Ayton’s bucket to extend the lead to four with a minute left, and after Portland’s Damian Lillard made one of two free throws, Kelly Oubre Jr. hit his career-high seventh three-pointer of the night to put the Suns in complete control, up six at 44.4 seconds remaining.

Oubre made sure to blow plenty of kisses to the fans who he said boo’d him following some earlier kiss exchanges.

Oubre had 29 points, six rebounds, two assists, three steals and a block.

Ricky Rubio was excellent after the first quarter, having his jumper going for the second straight night to drop 18 points with five rebounds and 13 assists.

Mikal Bridges was monumental off the bench, making swing plays in the second half to the tune of 13 points, three rebounds, three assists, a steal and a block.

Ayton had six points and 12 rebounds in 20 minutes, closing out the game ahead of starter Aron Baynes.

Lillard had 15 of his 33 points in the first quarter, C.J. McCollum added 25 for Portland and the Blazers couldn’t get a win despite shooting 14-for-34 from three-point range.

The Suns, meanwhile, were 13-of-23 (56.5%) from deep while managing terrific assist (29) and turnover (nine) numbers.

The Sacramento win was not one for Phoenix to build off. They were largely playing the way they did during the losing streak, that same stink draped all over them that Suns fans have grown accustomed to seeing the past few years.

That was still present on Monday, mostly in the first quarter, but the play in the second half was getting back to what had the city buzzing about the job Monty Williams was doing. That’s something to build off, especially with the return of Ayton in the first game all season they’ve had a fully healthy squad and Booker rolling through three straight games scoring 30-plus.

UP NEXT

Phoenix travels to Los Angeles to wrap up a four-game road trip on New Year’s Day against the Los Angeles Lakers. Tip-off is set for 8:30 p.m. and you can listen live on 98.7 FM Arizona’s Sports Station.

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