Suns Recap: Phoenix Hangs On For Win Over Wizards

Jan 28, 2015; Phoenix, AZ, USA; Washington Wizards guard John Wall (right) controls the ball against Phoenix Suns guard Goran Dragic in the first quarter at US Airways Center. Mandatory Credit: Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports
Jan 28, 2015; Phoenix, AZ, USA; Washington Wizards guard John Wall (right) controls the ball against Phoenix Suns guard Goran Dragic in the first quarter at US Airways Center. Mandatory Credit: Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports /

Stop me if you’re heard this one.

The Phoenix Suns built a big first half lead at home and looked like world-beaters. The Phoenix Suns came out flat in the second half and watched their lead dwindle down to single digits. The Phoenix Suns somehow pulled out a win that was far more excruciating than it needed to be.

On a night where the Oklahoma City Thunder and New Orleans Pelicans both lost, the Suns took advantage of their opportunity to tighten their grip on the West’s eighth seed. The 106-98 victory moved the Suns to 27-20 on the season, 2.5 games ahead of the Pellies and 3.5 games ahead of OKC.

The Suns jumped on their tired opponent early, using a 17-4 run to close out the first quarter and build a 29-17 lead in the process. They countered Washington’s second quarter run with a small burst of their own to hold a 17-point lead at the half.

With the Wizards playing their fourth game in five days, it seemed like only a matter of time before they wore Washington down, especially since Bradley Beal and John Wall were a combined 5-of-19 from the field at halftime. The Suns gave up a season-low 39 points in the first half.

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But in the third quarter, as they’ve done so many times during the home stand, the Suns came out flat and let their opponent work their way back into the game. Washington started the third quarter on an 18-6 run to cut Phoenix’s lead to five, but the Suns responded with an 18-9 burst to head into the final period up by 14.

However, it was the same story to start the fourth quarter, as the Wizards scored on 10 of their first 11 trips in the period for a 17-3 run that chopped Phoenix’s lead down to four points. It felt like the Portland Trail Blazers game was happening all over again.

“Well you know with our team, you’ve seen it happen, when we get up we have a tendency to do whatever and not really be solid,” head coach Jeff Hornacek said. “Some of that is the pace. That’s how we get the lead is all of a sudden we’re coming down and we hit two or three threes in a row, and then you have that same stretch of time where you come down and you miss two or three threes in a row and it can reverse quickly the other way.”

Leading by six points with six minutes to go in the game, the Suns held on to secure the fifth win of their home stand. An Otto Porter Jr. three-pointer, which capped off a personal 8-0 run, pulled Washington within four with 1:17 to play, but Markieff Morris countered with a big jump shot to extend the lead to six with 23.5 seconds left.

Goran Dragic, who led the Suns with 20 points, said Phoenix’s game plan of pushing the tempo ultimately worked but that he would like to see the Suns start closing out games when they build a big lead.

“I’m happy with the win, as long as that’s not going to happen again in the future,” he said. “But I feel like I’m a broken record, every time when I say that, that actually happens.”

The Wizards were on the second night of a back-to-back, but the Suns knew the second-best team in the East wouldn’t just lay down since Washington was 8-3 on the season on the second night of back-to-backs coming into the game.

The highly anticipated matchup between two of the league’s great young backcourts — including a one-on-one matchup of former Kentucky Wildcats in John Wall and Eric Bledsoe — turned into a battle of the frontcourts, with Marcin Gortat coming out strong against his former team.

Kris Humphries killed the Suns on the boards, racking up 15 rebounds, while Gortat finished with 14 points and eight rebounds to lead the Wizards. Len battled him early in the game and had eight points on the night, but it was the Suns bench that really turned the tide in Phoenix’s favor.

Brandan Wright had the kind of efficient night off the bench the Suns knew he was capable of, putting up 13 points on 6-of-7 shooting in 17 minutes.

“That’s what we hope from Brandan,” Hornacek said. “He give you that…he knows how to play so he gets to the open spots.”

Hornacek said the Suns guards did a good job of looking for their bigs when they penetrated, but that Wright is especially adept and setting himself up for easy looks.

“You can’t just think a pass is going to come to you all the time, you’ve got to find that gap, find the opening and that’s what Brandan’s pretty good at,” he said.

Isaiah Thomas, who had scored at least 20 points in four consecutive games heading into the night, fell just short of a fifth straight game of 20+, scoring 18 points.

The win/loss moved the Suns to 5-2 during their franchise-record eight-game home stand. Phoenix closes out the home stand Friday with a matchup against the Chicago Bulls, another team that will be playing on the second night of a back-to-back.

The Suns were finally able to capitalize on their Western pursuers having an off night, widening the gap between the ninth and 10th seeds in the conference. But Dragic said his focus is on the task at hand: Phoenix’s next game.

“If I’m honest I don’t watch the other teams, because I did that last year and and it was kind of going through my mind, I couldn’t sleep,” he said. “Try to take care of our business, we know that we’re in the middle of a tough stretch, we’ve got Chicago and Golden State, hopefully we’re going to play better in those two games.”

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