PHOENIX (AP) — When the Phoenix Suns’ big lead was fading away fast in the fourth quarter, P.J. Tucker put a stop to the collapse.
The Suns’ forward, not usually a big part of the high-scoring team’s offense, scored 10 of his 12 points and grabbed seven of his 10 rebounds in the fourth quarter to help Phoenix hold on for a 106-98 victory over the worn-out Washington Wizards on Wednesday night.
“P.J. doesn’t get a lot of opportunities,” Suns coach Jeff Hornacek said. “But late in the games, he really gets tuned in.”
Goran Dragic scored 20 points to lead five Phoenix players in double figures.
The Wizards trailed by 22 in the first half and 18 early in the fourth quarter before twice cutting it to four.
“It was our fourth game in five nights and we were playing teams that were pretty fast,” Washington’s John Wall said, “Denver and L.A. and now them, so it was tough. I’m not looking for excuses but we definitely didn’t have the same energy as we usually do.”
The Wizards’ Otto Porter scored eight consecutive points to slice the lead to 101-97 with 1:17 left, but Markieff Morris’ high-arching 15-footer with 23.9 seconds to go put Phoenix up 103-97.
But it was Tucker from long-range and on the boards that pulled this one out.
“He drilled two big 3s to extend the lead back out there,” Hornacek said, “and then P.J. does what he usually does — gets big rebounds at the end of games.”
Phoenix, which hadn’t played since Sunday, improved to 5-2 with one to go in its franchise-record eight-game home stand.
Isaiah Thomas had 18 and Morris 16 for the Suns.
Porter and Marcin Gortat scored 14 each for the Wizards.
Washington’s standout backcourt of Wall and Bradley Beal were a combined 10-for-31 shooting. Beal was 5 of 15 for 13 points. Wall, who tweaked his ankle the previous night against the Lakers and has been bothered by migraines, missed his first five shots and finished 5 for 16 for 11 points.
Brandan Wright scored 13, his most since coming to Phoenix.
“We let our inefficiency from an offensive standpoint drain our energy in the first half,” Wizards coach Randy Wittman said. “You can’t do that — missing some easy layups, missing some easy shots. It just kind of sucked the energy out of us.”
Washington scored the first seven of the second half, then later mounted a 9-0 run to cut it to 62-57 on Paul Pierce’s driving layup with 6:39 left in the third.
Consecutive 3s by Dragic, Thomas and Marcus Morris restored the lead to 76-59 and the Suns were up 80-66 after three.
A lineup entirely made up of Washington reserves went on a 17-3 run to cut the lead to 91-87 with 6:58 left. The Suns scored the next eight, four by Tucker, to go up 99-87, but Porter’s scoring binge made it close one last time.
“They had their bench come off with some energy, some unexpected energy,” Tucker said. “But you expect them to make a run. In those type of games, when they’re making runs you got to get offensive rebounds and make sure you secure defensive rebounds and make free throws.”
The Suns swept the season series from Washington for the sixth time in eight seasons.
Coach Jeff Hornacek has softened his no-technical policy. Trying to eliminate the flurry of technical fouls his players draw, he decided to bench anyone who got one for the rest of that game. Dragic and Markieff Morris did and sat as Phoenix lost the last two. Now the benching is at Hornacek’s discretion. He wants the players to police each other.
Wizards: Nene sat out the game with a sore right foot. … Paul Pierce returned after missing the Lakers game with a sore right big toe. … Washington is 8-4 in the second of back-to-back games.
Suns: Phoenix is 15-6 since going with a starting lineup of Bledsoe, Dragic, P.J. Tucker, Markieff Morris and Alex Len at Charlotte on Dec. 17. … Suns are 8-1 when playing on two days’ rest. … Suns practiced at owner Robert Sarver’s house when US Airways Center was being used for Super Bowl media day on Tuesday.
Wizards: Return home to meet Raptors on Saturday.
Suns: Conclude eight-game homestand against Bulls on Friday.
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