An affinity for drama started a four-game losing streak for the Phoenix Suns, and in a game with the Charlotte Bobcats on Friday, it nearly continued the skid. Despite Phoenix building a 21-point lead, the Bobcats used fourth quarter Phoenix turnovers, some forced and some not, to come within six points with less than a minute to play.
The Suns made enough free throws and used a late offensive board by P.J. Tucker to close out the Bobcats 98-91 in Charlotte, and finally a breath of fresh air can be let out.
Coach Jeff Hornacek probably won’t see it that way (Editor’s note: Hornacek actually started off his TV press conference by letting out a breath). By the end of it all, he went from angry to laughing as Markieff Morris clanged a free throw in the final seconds. If the Suns were going to blow it, it would’ve taken a better worse effort. That’s because the Bobcats still aren’t a team ready to challenge for much — don’t get me started on a rookie class that saw Cody Zeller get drafted a pick ahead of Alex Len.
The second-slowest team in the NBA in terms of pace got caught up playing like the Suns. Early on, there wasn’t much changed for Phoenix compared to the last few games, but Charlotte’s poor defense finally allowed the Suns to find an offensive flow.
Channing Frye led Phoenix with 20 points on 6-of-10 shooting and 5-for-7 shooting from three-point range. P.J. Tucker added 17 points and hit all three of his threes, and the Suns shot 47 percent overall and 44 percent from three despite Gerald Green finally hitting a wall.
Getting to the foul stripe 38 times, the Suns left 16 free throws on the board. They also struggled mightily with 21 turnovers, which were used by the Bobcats to make a mighty comeback that threatened Phoenix late.
Dave Dulberg previewed the game with some questions, and all three were points of emphasis in a learning experience of a win.
When will Green slow down from three-point range?
Cold as a cucumber, and not the good kind of cold cucumber. More like a frozen one. Green missed all eight of his three-point shots and by the end of the night was 5-for-15 from the field. That didn’t mean he didn’t have an impact.
Green had a few forehead smacking turnovers, but in the fourth quarter forced a turnover by knocking a pass off a Charlotte player, then as he jawed at a fan sitting courtside, turned, caught a pass coming out of the backcourt and rose up for a long two that warranted a Bobcats timeout as the Suns extended their lead to 18 with 9:30 left in the game.
In general, the Suns offense and defense continued to struggle as it did in two disappointing losses to the Sacramento Kings. The ball movement was poor, and though it makes sense that Phoenix would struggle without Eric Bledsoe acting as a mask to any lulls in execution — he pulled himself out of shootaround, according to Paul Coro – the Suns found some confidence at the end of the first quarter. Charlotte’s defense was quite bad, and the Suns ended the first on a 12-2 run and scored six straight points to start the second.
Over/under 16 turnovers for the Suns?
Phoenix was playing with the over-under at halftime when it had nine turnovers, and it had 13 turnovers entering the fourth quarter. They finished with 21 turnovers that led to 28 Bobcats points, and six of the miscues came in the final five minutes as Charlotte trimmed a lead that was 21 points, 84-63, with eight minutes to play down to six with less than a minute to go.
Goran Dragic again forced things in the fourth and accounted for four of the team’s eight turnovers while missing two free throws in the final minutes.
Another double-double down low?
Center Al Jefferson, who has missed the majority of the year with an ankle injury, started for Charlotte and played in just his fourth game this season. The former Utah big man didn’t torch Phoenix as he had many times in the past, and for the first time in six games, the Suns didn’t give up a double-double to an opposing center.
Jefferson finished with nine points, six boards and three blocks, while Phoenix center Miles Plumlee led the team with 11 rebounds and three blocks.
And somehow, the Suns won a game despite getting outscored in the paint 48-26. Holding Charlotte to 42 percent overall and just 3-of-14 from three-point range might be the reasoning there.
- Rookie guard Archie Goodwin had another strong performance, hitting 3-of-5 shots thanks to attacking the rim with his usual aggression. He finished with eight points and six boards.
- Markieff Morris didn’t quite bounce back with his offensive efficiency, but he did score 11 points on 4-of-13 shooting. The most promising part of his 36 minutes were his nine rebounds.