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Suns Strokes: Phoenix is ball, not pins as 9-game skid ends vs. Hornets

Charlotte Hornets' Brian Roberts, left, strips the ball from Phoenix Suns' Devin Booker (1) during the second half of an NBA basketball game, Wednesday, Jan. 6, 2016, in Phoenix. The Suns defeated the Hornets 111-102. (AP Photo/Ross D. Franklin)

PHOENIX — Perhaps the Phoenix Suns need to go bowling more often.

“Maybe we should, maybe we should,” head coach Jeff Hornacek said, smiling.

After two days off, including a team outing to Lucky Strike, the Suns looked refreshed, or at least fresher than they had during a stretch of six games in nine days.

With six players in double figures, the Suns beat the Charlotte Hornets, 111-102, in front of a Wednesday night crowd of 16,910 at Talking Stick Resort Arena.

The win snapped a season-long nine-game losing streak and earned Hornacek his 100th coaching victory. He had been stuck on 99 wins since Dec. 18.

Mirza Teletovic (19 points), T.J. Warren (17) and Devin Booker (17) each came off the bench to score in double figures, while starters Brandon Knight (18), Jon Leuer (14) and P.J. Tucker (10) reached double-digits, as well.

Booker added a season-best 10 rebounds for his first career double-double.

The Suns (13-25) made a season-best 19 three-pointers, none bigger than No. 19, a corner trey by Tucker with 54.9 seconds to play after the Hornets (17-18) had cut the lead to four, 106-102.

The Suns watched a 14-point second-quarter lead disappear late in the third quarter only to then regain the lead with 13 unanswered points over a 98-second stretch spanning the third and fourth quarters.

Taking advantage of a Hornets team that played without injured staters Al Jefferson, Nicolas Batum and Michael Kidd-Gilchrist, the Suns won for the seventh time in the last eight meetings between the clubs.

The Hornets have lost five in a row.

THE GOOD

All five starters scored in the game’s first four minutes as the Suns made eight of their first nine field goal attempts. During one stretch, the Suns scored on eight consecutive possessions on the way to a 34-point first quarter, their second-best first period total of the season. Knight had seven points on 3-of-4 shooting.

It was a big second quarter for Leuer, who scored nine of his team-best 13 first-half points in the period. Seven of those points, including his one and only three-pointer of the half, came during a 14-0 Suns run in which the Hornets missed nine consecutive shots. The Suns took their largest lead of the half, 50-36, at the 5:06 mark.

After seven assists in each of the first and second quarters, the Suns had seven more in the third, the last two dished by Knight to set up Teletovic for a pair of 25-foot three-pointers and an 86-85 lead entering the fourth quarter. The Suns finished with 25 assists, or 11 more than they totaled two nights earlier at the Lakers.

After those two threes to close the third quarter, Teletovic opened the fourth with a 15-foot step-back jumper to account for eight straight Suns points. Minutes later, he added another three-pointer, his fifth of the game, and then capped his night with a pair of free throws at the 0:21 mark. Teletovic had seven points in the period.

THE BAD

The Suns’ hot start quickly cooled with six consecutive misses. The three-plus minute drought saw the Suns have four straight shot attempts blocked as the Hornets went on a 7-0 run to take a 24-20 lead at 3:23 of the first quarter on Jeremy Lin’s 25-foot 3-pointer. Lin scored a game-best 13 in the period, going 5-of-7 with that one three.

Two turnovers in the last 90 seconds of the second quarter kept the Suns from further distancing themselves from the Hornets. Tucker and Ronnie Price each coughed it up — both were picked by Cody Zeller, who had three steals in the period. The Suns turned the ball over 12 times, leading to 23 Hornets points on the night.

Early in the third quarter, Tucker collided with P.J. Hairston and took a knee to the right thigh. After a few seconds on the ground, Tucker got up and then had to be assisted off the court and to the bench by Teletovic and head athletic trainer Aaron Nelson at the 9:30 mark. Tucker exited with seven points and five rebounds.

Up by as many as 14 points in the first half, the Suns found themselves trailing by five, 85-80, at 0:41.1 of the third quarter after Kemba Walker’s 12-foot pull-up jump shot. Walker scored five of his 11 points (three field goals and five free throws) in the period during the Hornets’ 14-5 run which gave them their largest lead of the game.

STAT OF THE GAME

19: The 19 three-pointers the Suns made tied for the fourth-most in a game in franchise history and is their most since making a franchise-record 22 on Nov. 14, 2010 at the L.A. Lakers.

HE SAID IT

“I’m just proud of the guys, they keep battling, they shot the ball with confidence tonight—obviously we shot 19-for-33 from the 3-point line, so that’s a good start for getting that confidence back,” Hornacek said.

NOTED

The Suns improved to 17-1 when shooting 50 percent or better from beyond the arc as they made 19-of-33 attempts for 57.6 percent.

The Suns had six different players make multiple 3-pointers in the same game for the first time since Dec. 31, 2014 at Oklahoma City.

The Suns’ bench outscored Charlotte’s 53-23 with three reserves scoring at least 17 points in a game for the first time since Nov. 15, 2014.

The Suns started their 11th different starting lineup of the season with Ronnie Price joining Knight, Tucker, Leuer and Chandler.

Hornacek became the eighth coach in team history to reach 100 wins, joining John MacLeod, Cotton Fitzsimmons, Paul Westphal, Danny Ainge, Scott Skiles, Mike D’Antoni and Alvin Gentry.

Markieff Morris was a DNP-Coach’s Decision for the fourth straight game; though one his on-court absences was because of illness.

NASCAR driver Kasey Kahne, in attendance to promote the start of the 2016 NASCAR season, traded jerseys, or in his case, a fire suit, with Tucker prior to the game.

UP NEXT

It’s the return of former Suns point guard and fan favorite Goran Dragic.

He and the Miami Heat make their only Valley appearance of the season on Friday, Jan. 8. Tip-off is scheduled for 7:30 p.m. with pregame coverage beginning 30 minutes earlier on Arizona Sports 98.7 FM.

For Dragic, it’s his first trip back since he was traded last February.

Two more former Suns, Gerald Green and Amare Stoudemire, are on the Heat’s roster that, of course, includes veterans Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh.

The Heat swept the Suns last season and have won 10 straight games in the series, their longest winning streak in series history.

The Suns last beat the Heat on Nov. 3, 2009 in Miami.

Overall, the Heat have won 13 of the last 14 meetings dating back to Dec. 2007.


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