The Phoenix Suns built a 25-point lead then watched John Wall almost single-handedly tear it down. The Suns were totally powerless to stop, hinder, or even mildly bother the Wizards’ speedy superstar, but they pulled together down the stretch and held on for a 99-93 victory. This was Phoenix’s fifth win in a row and fourth straight win on the road. The Suns are once again tied with the Mavericks for the final spot in the West and could rise to 7th if the Grizzlies lose tonight in Utah.
This was a game of runs. Phoenix built its lead with a 31-9 stretch that spanned the end of the second quarter and the first half of the third. At that point in the game, the Suns looked to be in complete control. Then John Wall remembered he is the fastest player in the NBA. Over the first 31 minutes of this game, Eric Bledsoe and the Suns had held Wall to just five points. But with his team headed for a blowout, Wall put the squad on his back and turned on the afterburners. He scored 24 points down the stretch, most of them coming on layups where he had blown by at least two Phoenix defenders. With Wall spurring them on, the Wizards slashed the Suns’ lead all the way down to three points with 1:30 left to play. With all the momentum favoring Washington, and the Suns starring down the barrel of a complete choke job loss, Eric Bledsoe hit a 30-footer as the shot clock expired to put Phoenix up six points with a minute play. Not to be outdone by his former backup at the Kentucky, Wall, who hadn’t been stopped on a drive in over a quarter, settled for a three and missed. The Suns grabbed the rebound and got the ball on to Gerald Green who drew the foul and hit both free throws, effectively ending Washington’s comeback hopes. Wall was incredible in this game, but he opted for a three when he had scored eight straight points going to the basket. Not the best decision.
There was a lot of good and bad in this game from both teams. For more analysis, let’s answer our three preview questions.
Which team wins the point guard battle?
The Suns’ duo of Dragic and Bledsoe get the win, but it comes by decision, not knockout. Wall ended up with 29 points and six assists. Dragic wasn’t far behind with 25 points (11-of-17 FG), six assists, and seven rebounds. And Bledsoe continued his streak of 20 points performances with 23 points, seven assists, and six rebounds. Back when the Suns traded for Bledsoe and Coach Hornacek talked about playing the two guards together, this was the type of night he and Ryan McDonough believed they could be capable of. There aren’t many backcourts in the league who can put up 48-13-13 lines. The Suns’ guards are playing as well right now as they have all season, and they are the biggest reason Phoenix is still in the playoff hunt. All those compliments for Bledsoe and Dragic aside, in the second half, Wall was the best guard on the floor hands down.
Can Phoenix win the rebounding battle?
When the Suns lost at home to the Wizards back in January, their biggest flaw was the obscene number of offensive rebounds they allowed. In this game, Phoenix was much more disciplined, winning the overall battle on the boards 39-35, and only surrendering seven offensive boards to the Wizards. It’s clear that the Wizards miss Nene, who is currently out with injury. His replacement, Trevor Booker, played only 16 minutes as both teams went small and fast. The Suns did a much better job of having bodies in place to rebound and hold Washington to one shot than they have in previous games. Their great effort on the boards helped them control the tempo and ultimately stymied the Wizards’ comeback attempts.
Can the bench handle the scoring load?
Gerald Green is way too much fun to watch. Sure he makes crazy mistakes and can get emotional at the wrong times, but when he is engaged and feeling it, he is one of the most enjoyable watches in the NBA. He dropped 18 points off the bench and hit three of his seven attempts from downtown. He helped the Suns keep up early and was there to seal the win late at the free throw line. He and the Suns bench outscored Washington’s reserves 29-23. Green was aided by Markieff Morris’ eight points and four assists, but the rest of the reserves had an off night. Luckily for Phoenix, there are nights when Gerald is all the bench they need.