Suns Unable to Ascend Washington’s Wall

Mar 7, 2017; Phoenix, AZ, USA; Phoenix Suns guard Devin Booker (left) battles for a loose ball against Washington Wizards guard John Wall in the second half at Talking Stick Resort Arena. The Wizards defeated the Suns 131-127. Mandatory Credit: Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports
Mar 7, 2017; Phoenix, AZ, USA; Phoenix Suns guard Devin Booker (left) battles for a loose ball against Washington Wizards guard John Wall in the second half at Talking Stick Resort Arena. The Wizards defeated the Suns 131-127. Mandatory Credit: Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports /

The broader narrative for tonight’s game is simple: the Phoenix Suns are better now than they have been all season. They are not there yet, but boy does it feel like they are getting close.


During the television broadcast, Eddie Johnson made the point as to why basketball is such a great sport: the ebbs and flows of an individual game can feel like watching several games in one 48 minute package.

If a Suns fan only saw the final score they’d think that Washington won as they should: close, but without the opportunity for Phoenix to tie late. If a person only watched the second half they’d think the game was tight but Washington pulled it away late as the Suns began running out of steam and bodies (Alan Williams and Marquese Chriss fouled out in the fourth).

But if you watched the entire game, you’d know that the Washington Wizards built a 22-point lead early in the second quarter, and that the Suns, despite all their youth and inexperience, managed to fight back (sometimes almost literally) and after a massive scoring run, took the lead early in the third quarter fighting valiantly against a Wizards team on the verge of a playoff run before falling short in the final five minutes.

Down early and looking incapable of keeping up with the veteran-laden Washington team, the Suns clawed back like a certain Marvel superhero and even fought like one too.

Down twelve points just over one minute into the second quarter, Washington Center Jason Smith set a pick on Tyler Ulis, leaning his shoulder into the pint-sized point guard knocking him on his backside. Smith was called for the offensive foul, and the two said a few words to one another while Ulis walked past.

Jared Dudley, who had been much further down court, took extreme exception to the pick and charged at Smith, unintentionally placing his forehead directly into the square of Smith’s chin. A fracas ensued, eventually leading to both Jared Dudley and Washington point guard Brandon Jennings’ ejections.

The Suns did not immediately turn that moment of Phoenix brotherhood into the energetic turnaround one would have hoped for and quickly found themselves down 22 only three (game) minutes later following a well-boo’d Smith mid-range jump shot.

Yet somehow at that moment Phoenix found their mojo.

Outscoring the Wizards 27-6 over the next five and a half minutes to pull within 61-63, Washington managed to stretch it back out to seven points at half. (The final buzzer was preceded by another scuffle, although this one might have brought back some poor memories for the Suns.)

More on that in the coming days (or not)…

Fortunately the halftime rest didn’t cool anyone off as the Young Suns weren’t done trying to climb the Washington Wall and with the type of energy fans are hoping to see from this team for the next ten years, Phoenix came right back out of the gates in the third quarter taking their first lead of the game in less than two minutes, 69-68, after a T.J. Warren jump shot.

After two Markieff Morris free throws Phoenix went on an 11-0 run, including seven points coming for T.J. Warren’s hand alone.

From down 22 to up 11 in only 12:12, the Phoenix Suns spun the Wizards around seemingly taking control of the game on an incredible 47-14 run.

And yet, just as Eddie Johnson opined, the Wizards regained their true form and stormed back, managing to take a 94-92 lead heading into to the fourth quarter following a 24-9 run of their own, led by John Wall and Smith who scored a combined 15 points in the quarter.

The fourth quarter’s undulations was that of the ocean crashing along the shore. Although only two official lead changes in the final period, the game was tied on three separate occasions, the latest with 5:16 remaining when Tyler Ulis hit a jumper in the lane to tie the game at 110 all.

From there Washington ended up building a sizable lead late before the Suns closed back in to give themselves a chance should the Wizards have faltered. The number of momentum shifts in the final period would have had the most seasick among us reach for a bag.

There would be no last minute heroics and no game-winning shot. Moreover, the Suns would not extend their three-game win streak to four for the first time since March 14-22, 2015. But there was a good feeling all around about the Suns’ fight, temperament, and ability to hang once again with one of the Eastern Conference’s elite.

(The Suns finished with 53).

Phoenix’s 127 points was the second most they had scored all season behind the 137 on the Los Angeles Lakers on the eve of All-Star weekend. Tonight was also the most they had scored in a losing effort all year.

Washington’s 131 points was the seventh time the Suns had given up 130+ this season, the most in 28 years.

The Wizards also attempted 53 free throws, draining 42, coming on 32 Suns personal fouls. Washington’s free throws made and attempted were league high’s this season, while the 32 fouls was Phoenix’s third highest this year.

More from Valley of the Suns

The Suns were led in scoring by Eric Bledsoe and Devin Booker who combined for 17-36 from the field, and 8-16 from beyond the arc. Bledsoe led all scorers with 30 points, with 26 points coming in the first three quarters. He also dished out 5 assists and grabbed 3 rebounds.

Devin Booker scored 25 points and led the Suns with 6 assists and grabbed 4 boards. Both he and Bledsoe turned the ball over 6 times apiece.

Phoenix out-rebounded Washington 49-44 led by Alex Len’s 11 rebounds, (he scored 8 points and recorded a game-high 4 blocked shots). Both T.J. Warren and Alan Williams grabbed 10 boards and each also scored 15 points. While this was Big Sauce’s fourth consecutive double-double, and fifth in six games, this was Warren’s first of the season, first since November 29, 2015, and second of his career.

Tyler Ulis dished out 5 assists in 22:14 minutes to go along with 7 points.

Newly acquired Bojan Bogdanovic had a heck of a game scoring 29 points including 16 for 16 from the free throw line and nabbing 9 caroms. Bojan’s 9 boards tied with Ian Mahinmi for the team lead. Bradley Beal and John Wall did their All-Star thing scoring 27 and 25 points respectively, while Wall dished out a game-high 14 assists.

Former Suns Markieff Morris and Marcin Gortat combined for 12 points, 5 rebounds, and 7 personal fouls.

I just had to throw this one in for good measure. Jared Dudley is Batman.