Offense clicks as Suns handle Hornets in Bradley Beal’s return
Dec 29, 2023, 8:12 PM | Updated: 9:35 pm
(Jeremy Schnell/Arizona Sports)
Though many of the early points came from outside the Big Three, the Phoenix Suns were cooking offensively in the first half against the Charlotte Hornets as Bradley Beal made his return to the Suns’ lineup.
Phoenix (16-15) scored at least 30 points in every quarter as they closed out Charlotte (7-23) by a score of 133-119.
The Suns took less than three minutes to reach double-digit points, including six quick points from big man Jusuf Nurkic, playing in his second game since returning from a two-game absence (personal reasons).
Nurkic was the Suns’ first double-digit scorer, finishing with 12 points in the first quarter on 5-of-7 shooting to go with his six rebounds.
Jusuf Nurkić got the Suns going early with 12 points in the 1st quarter! pic.twitter.com/Y1TSQcovkj
— Arizona Sports (@AZSports) December 30, 2023
As for the man of the hour, Beal, making his return from a five-game absence (ankle), missed his first three shots but made his next two as he got acclimated back into the offense. He added four first-half assists.
All Suns starters except Beal reached double-digit scoring in the first half, led by Devin Booker’s 15 points, benefitting from the upgraded gravity around them.
Charlotte head coach Steve Clifford said pregame that none of the Big Three can be defended one-on-one, and the Suns were feasting off of that fact, moving the ball well, finishing the half with 18 assists on 24 made field goals.
Heading into halftime, the Suns were ahead 68-58 while shooting 64.9% from the field and 56.3% from deep. Charlotte stayed in it thanks to their 48.9% shooting, including 57.1% from beyond the arc.
Brandon Miller and Terry Rozier each scored 17 in the half for the Hornets.
Booker heated up to start the third, scoring 12 points in the quarter’s first four minutes. All four of his made field goals over that stretch were off assists, continuing the trend of purposeful ball movement.
Late in the third, Eric Gordon passed J.J. Redick to move into 18th on the all-time 3s made list and is in line to pass former Suns guard Joe Johnson next.
— NBA (@NBA) December 30, 2023
Phoenix reached 100 points with time to spare in the third for the second-straight game, scoring 35 in the quarter.
Including Booker, Nurkic, Durant and Gordon, four Suns scored more than 20 points, and each of the Big Three finished with at least seven assists.
Beal finished with six points on 3-of-8 shooting with seven assists in 29 minutes in his return.
Durant followed up his career high-tying 16 assists in the win over Houston with 11 assists in this win. It’s the third time in his career with back-to-back games of 10-plus assists and the most in a two-game span in his career.
However, the Suns’ tendency to allow big scoring nights from opposing guards continued as Rozier finished with 42 points on 8-of-12 three-point shooting.