PHOENIX — Whether momentum carries from one season to the next is debatable.
This is not: the Phoenix Suns finished 2015-16 strong.
Never mind the year ended without a playoff appearance for a franchise-worst sixth straight season, the Suns closed with their best stretch of basketball since early December.
Seven players, including four starters, scored in double figures as the Suns won their regular-season finale, 114-105, over the L.A. Clippers before a sold out Talking Stick Resort Arena on Wednesday.
Mirza Teletovic (22 points) extended his career-long streak of scoring 20 or more points to four games, while Jon Leuer (16 points, 14 rebounds) and rookie Alan Williams (14 points, 22 rebounds, both career-highs) recorded double-doubles.
Williams also had three blocks.
P.J. Tucker (14 points), Devin Booker (12), Alex Len (10) and Archie Goodwin (10) all scored in double figures to help the Suns win for the third time in four games.
Again without Tyson Chandler (concussion protocol), the Suns used a 13-0 run spanning the second and third quarters to open up an 11-point lead, an advantage that eventually grew to as large as 18 in the fourth quarter.
The victory snapped a season-long-tying four-game home losing streak and ended the Clippers’ six-game winning streak, though it should be noted the playoff-bound Clippers (53-29) chose to rest their top five scorers, four of whom start.
Chris Paul, J.J. Redick, Blake Griffin and DeAndre Jordan, plus top-reserve Jamal Crawford, didn’t make the trip.
Wesley Johnson and C.J. Wilcox each led the Clippers with 19 points off the bench. Austin Rivers added 16, and Cole Adldrich 14 and 10 rebounds.
Both teams shot 45 percent but the Suns made seven more free throws and had a plus-18 advantage on the boards, including 18-6 on the offensive end leading to 31 second-chance points.
At 23-59, the Suns finished with the NBA’s fourth-worst record.
Led by Tucker, the Suns jumped out to an early eight-point advantage. They took the lead, 16-8 at the 5:08 mark, thanks to a 12-2 run with Tucker scoring three different times: an and-1, reverse lay-up and cutting lay-up. He scored seven of his game-high 12 first-quarter points during the 5:29 stretch. Tucker shot 4-of-6 with one 3-pointer and hit 3-of-4 free throws. He also added four rebounds and a steal.
Great start and close to the second quarter for the Suns. At the onset, Williams scored the team’s first five points plus blocked a shot and recorded a steal, all within 42 seconds. He scored twice more to finish with a team-best nine points, putting him in double figures (11 points on 4-of-5 shooting) for the first time in his career by halftime. The Suns ended the period with a 9-0 run to go into the locker room ahead 62-55.
Of the Suns’ first 11 third-quarter points, Leuer accounted for eight of them with six points and an assist, a pass to Len underneath for a slam dunk. Six possessions later, Len made a fast-break lay-up to hand the Suns their largest lead through three periods, 79-65, at the 4:39 mark. Leuer finished the quarter with six points and five rebounds, giving him his second straight double-double (13 points, 13 rebounds).
Five straight points, including a 24-foot 3-pointer by Teletovic, extended the Suns lead to 17 points, 100-83, at the 6:41 mark of the fourth quarter. Teletovic scored 11 on 5-of-10 shooting plus grabbed three rebounds, all offensive, in the period. Teletovic finished the season with a career-best 12 straight games in double figures, which passed his 11-game streak from Feb. 4-March 3 earlier this season.
Only a Williams lay-up with 2.7 to play kept the Suns from having just as many made field goals as turnovers in the first quarter. In the game’s first 12 minutes, the Suns shot 8-of-21 (38.1 percent) with seven turnovers, two of which came during a 17-4 Clippers run that turned an eight-point deficit into a five-point advantage, 25-20, at the 1:05 mark; their largest lead of the first half.
Both Rivers and Johnson, the ex-Sun, scored eight second-quarter points, sharing team-high honors. Six of Rivers’ points came during a 2:08 stretch in which the Clippers scored on five of six possessions to re-take the lead, 55-53, at the 2:13 mark. Johnson, meanwhile, opened the period with a 19-foot jump shot and later added a pair of 3-pointers to finish with 11 first-half points.
More than three minutes elapsed (3:16 to be exact) between Suns made field goals late in the third quarter: a Len fast-break lay-up and Goodwin 13-foot jump shot. The drought allowed the Clippers to trim what had been a 14-point deficit to eight, 79-71, at the 1:41 mark. Jeff Green led the Clippers with six points, hitting 3-of-5 shots, plus grabbed two rebounds in the period.
One last run by the Clippers pulled the visitors to within seven, 108-101, at the 1:22 mark of the fourth quarter. It was a Wilcox 25-foot 3-pointer, one of three he hit in the game. Wilcox finished with a team-best 11 points on 4-of-5 shooting with a single free throw in the period. For Wilcox, the 19 total points surpassed his previous career-high of 10 on Feb. 18, 2015 at Oklahoma City.
STAT OF THE GAME
58: The number of Suns rebounds, which set a season-high. Eighteen of those on the offensive end led to 31 second-chance points.
HE SAID IT
“Let’s talk about Alan Williams,” interim head coach Earl Watson said. “Alan Williams had blocks like he was a young Theo Ratliff, I don’t know. He was blocking shots and to see him play and get minutes and his energy … I’m so happy for him because he deserves it. He has the right attitude and what he brings to our team and the energy he plays within the game, it’s only right. So Alan Williams, amazing.”
– Leuer recorded consecutive double-doubles and his 10th double-double of the season. He had two in his career entering season.
– Booker recorded his 50th game with 10+ points, becoming the fifth Suns rookie with at least 50 double-digit scoring games.
– Chandler closed the year missing his second straight game and 16th overall. He played 66 games, nine fewer than last season.
– With Chandler out, the Suns started Ronnie Price, Devin Booker, P.J. Tucker, Jon Leuer and Alex Len for a second straight game.
– Among those in attendance for the last game was Arizona Gov. Doug Ducey, who sat just to the left of the Suns bench courtside.
The offseason is officially underway and there is much work to be done.
The first priority is hiring a head coach, according to GM Ryan McDonough.
Thoroughly examining the roster likely has already begun and will continue as the Suns prepare for both the draft and free agency.
Some key dates to keep in mind: the combine is May 11-15, the lottery is May 17 and the draft itself is June 23. Free agency begins on July 1.
All will be important as the Suns look to get back into the playoffs for the first time since their 2010 Western Conference Finals run.
- Suns GM: ‘It probably is unlikely’ Tyson Chandler plays rest of season
- Dudley ‘would be shocked’ if Suns don’t have roster overhaul
- Suns’ Jay Triano: I want Devin Booker, T.J. Warren to play
- Is Elfrid Payton squandering his ‘tryout’ with the Suns?
- Suns struggle immensely without Booker, Warren in loss to Detroit