EMPIRE OF THE SUNS

Phoenix Suns do enough through slog to beat Charlotte Hornets

Mar 15, 2024, 6:26 PM | Updated: 6:27 pm

Tre Mann #23 of the Charlotte Hornets guards Devin Booker #1 of the Phoenix Suns in the first quart...

Tre Mann #23 of the Charlotte Hornets guards Devin Booker #1 of the Phoenix Suns in the first quarter during their game at Spectrum Center on March 15, 2024 in Charlotte, North Carolina. (Photo by Jacob Kupferman/Getty Images)

(Photo by Jacob Kupferman/Getty Images)

The Phoenix Suns had an uninspiring three quarters and did enough in the other to get a 107-96 win over the Charlotte Hornets.

It took until the third quarter for Phoenix to do what it should against Charlotte. A 38-point period created major separation, a 25-point lead.

The game, of course, couldn’t be claimed as in cruise control until the Suns showed something in the fourth quarter.

Like clockwork, Charlotte began the final frame on a 17-2 run. It is as unexplainable as it is almost a given at this point.

A Devin Booker trip to the free throw line in the mid-fourth quarter got Phoenix back ahead by 12 and then a Bradley Beal midrange was enough to keep things relatively sane.

The Hornets, already one of the worst rosters in the league fully healthy, were without LaMelo Ball (right ankle Tendinopathy), Cody Martin (right ankle sprain) and Mark Williams (lower back injury recovery). Ball and Williams have been long-term absences.

Despite that, Charlotte came in with a 7-8 record with Grant Williams in the lineup, the Hornets’ addition from the Dallas Mavericks when they sent away P.J. Washington. Across every team’s previous 15 games entering play on Friday, the Hornets’ offensive rating was 29th but they owned the fourth-best defensive rating. Friday wasn’t necessarily a trap game. It was just not a contest to judge the Hornets solely off their now 17-50 record.

Phoenix came out with terrible defensive energy. The Hornets generated layups and dunks in bunches across the opening 13 minutes. The lack of on-ball intent and resistance was alarming. On offense, there was little attacking mindset to make the defense move.

Going through the motions is a trait all contenders possess. The Suns aren’t contenders yet. With now just 15 games left in the regular season after Friday, they’ve got to have urgency to improve on a game-to-game basis. Who knows how healthy they will remain for that stretch, so even if it’s against a team like the lowly Hornets, the Suns’ mentality has to get turned up.

Charlotte started 2-for-22 from 3-point range, and if it knocked down just a few more of those, it could have been a different ball game. Instead, the Suns were able to glide through the first half and lead by nine.

Unlike fixtures we’ve seen against squads like the Houston Rockets and San Antonio Spurs in similar vibes, this Charlotte group did not have any real fight in it to find confidence off how beatable the Suns appeared to be.

Phoenix located a spark in the third quarter and that quickly got the advantage up to 17 that Charlotte was never going to be able to catch, even with the opportunity created by the Suns’ ineptitude in the last dozen minutes.

The only positive from this one for the Suns outside of picking up a victory was the continual presence provided by Jusuf Nurkic. He grabbed 21 rebounds to go with 13 points and two assists.

Eric Gordon scored 14 points in his return after missing two games due to a knee contusion.

Charolotte finished 8-of-37 (16.2%) on 3s.

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