Suns Strokes: Phoenix drops Atlanta behind Brandon Knight, bench effort
The wins have been few and far between for the Phoenix Suns through the first full month of the 2016 season.
Even fewer at home.
The Suns, though, closed out November with a 109-107 victory over visiting Atlanta in front of 15,909 at Talking Stick Resort Arena on Wednesday, perhaps providing some momentum moving forward.
Five Suns players scored in double figures, led by Brandon Knight’s 23 off the bench. Jared Dudley and P.J. Tucker each added 17 with Devin Booker contributing 13 and Bledsoe 12. The latter two combined for 13 of the team’s last 17 points with Bledsoe hitting perhaps the biggest shot, a 17-foot pull-up jumper off the glass for a 104-99 lead with 28.4 seconds left to play.
“Yeah, I called bank,” he said, with a big smile.
The Suns (6-13) led by as many as 14 points and had a 10-point advantage midway through the fourth quarter. Twice, however, the Hawks (10-9) pulled within one. But the Suns scored on three straight possessions capped by Bledsoe’s fifth and final made field goal.
The win snapped a three-game home losing streak and two-game losing skid overall.
Knight and Dudley, along with Leandro Barbosa (eight points) and Alex Len (six), provided much-needed energy off the bench, outscoring the Hawks reserves, 54-34.
Len added nine rebounds, as did Tyson Chandler to help neutralize the presence of Dwight Howard (17 points and 14 rebounds) inside.
The Hawks, who played without Paul Millsap, their leading scorer and second-best rebounder, got a game-high 31 from Dennis Schroder and 20-point efforts from both Kent Bazemore (22) and Tim Hardaway Jr. (21).
They’ve lost four straight and seven of eight overall.
Tucker had the hot hand early. He scored seven of the team’s first nine points with a pair of jumpers and a 3-pointer to give the Suns a 9-2 lead at the 10:12 mark of the first quarter. Five minutes later, Knight checked in and went to work scoring 14 of the team’s next 19 points to help the Suns open up a double-digit lead, 36-26, with 29.7 seconds left to play in the period. Knight shot 3-of-5 from the field, including two 3s, and 6-of-7 from the foul line.
After a one-game absence, Dudley returned to help boost the bench production. He scored a team-best five points in the second quarter with a five-foot bank shot and 24-foot 3-pointer. He had eight total points at halftime, doubling his output from his last appearance: four points in 20 minutes against Minnesota. Dudley had missed the Denver game because of soreness on the ball of his left foot. It was the first game he had missed this season.
The Tucker-Knight combination worked its magic once again in the third quarter. They each scored five points. Booker had the best output of the period with six. But, it was Tucker and Knight who kept the Suns in front. They each hit 3-pointers in the final two minutes with Tucker’s deepball giving the Suns a 76-73 lead with 65 seconds left to play in the period. Through three quarters, Tucker and Knight had shot a combined 12-of-22 from the field.
Trailing 84-83 with 8:37 left in the game, the Suns went on an 11-0 run to go up by 10 points, 94-84, with 5:23 left, and the Suns never fell behind the rest of the game. Most of the damage in the run came from the Suns’ bench, as Barbosa hit three shots for six points, and Dudley made a 3-pointer. Bledsoe chipped in the other two points with a layup. Barbosa, by the way, had missed his first two shots, making him 0-for-his-last 11, before his spurt.
Leading by seven less than two minutes into the game, the Suns went into a dry spell, missing six of their next eight attempts. Not included in this stretch was Booker clanking two free throws. The Hawks took advantage of the Suns’ misfortune with a 16-4 run to take an 18-13 lead at the 6:22 mark of the first quarter. Howard spurred the offense with six points and three rebounds.
Just an awful close to the second quarter for the Suns. They made just one field goal, a Dudley 3-pointer, in the final 5:17. There were six missed shot attempts and six turnovers. Meanwhile, the Hawks seemingly scored at will with 10 straight points, which was part of a larger 15-3 run—Hardaway Jr. had eight points—to help Atlanta close to within a possession at halftime, 50-48.
Though he committed two more turnovers, giving him a game-high six, Howard had nine points and six rebounds in the third quarter. Both marks were team-bests. All four of his field goals came within two feet of the basket, including an alley-oop dunk from Hardaway Jr. Through three quarters, Howard had 17 points and 12 rebounds, giving him his 13th double-double this season.
STAT OF THE GAME
47.6: The Suns shot a season-high 47.6 percent from 3-point range, making 10-of-21 attempts. The Suns’ previous high was 44.0 percent on Sunday against Denver when they made 11-of-25. The Suns last had two straight games shooting at least 40 percent from long range while making 10 or more 3s from Dec. 2-4, 2015.
HE SAID IT
“I think the veterans did a great job leading the way in the fourth quarter to start it. That’s what we need from them is stability,” head coach Earl Watson said. “Our young guys are going to have ups and downs, trying to make it as consistent as possible. But, at the same time, that’s what families do. Families take care of each other when the other part can’t go. We kind of replace each other, and help each other build each other up.”
– The Suns’ 36-point first quarter marked their third consecutive quarter scoring 35 or more going back to Sunday.
– Millsap was held out due to a sore left hip. It was the first game he’s missed and only the second in two seasons.
– T.J. Warren missed his sixth straight game because of a minor head injury. He last played on Nov. 18 at Indiana.
– For the second straight game, the Suns started this five-man unit: Bledsoe, Booker, Tucker, Chriss and Chandler.
It’s back on the road for the Suns. They’ll play their next two games away from Phoenix with visits to Golden State and Utah.
The game against the Warriors is on Saturday, Dec. 3. Tip-off is scheduled for 8:30 p.m. with pregame coverage beginning 30 minutes earlier on Arizona Sports 98.7 FM.
The Suns have lost nine straight to the Warriors, including the first two meetings this season.
In the most recent matchup, Stephen Curry and Klay Thompson each scored 30 points, while Kevin Durant had 29 and Draymond Green nearly had a triple-double with 14 points, 11 assists and seven rebounds in a 133-120 victory at Oracle Arena on Nov. 13.
Bledsoe and Warren both totaled 20 points to lead the Suns.
Overall, the Suns have lost just four season series to the Warriors since 1995-96, though two have come in the past two seasons.