Grab your pitchforks everyone!
That's right, it's a third straight late-game collapse by your Phoenix Suns. This time, the team was outscored by the Washington Wizards 31-21 in the fourth quarter, allowing the Wizards to finally take the lead with 1:42 left in the quarter. From that point on they never looked back.
Eric Bledsoe and Brandon Knight both finished with impressive performances, as has become expected of the duo. Bledsoe had 22 points, four rebounds and seven assists while Knight poured in 19 points to go along with five rebounds and five assists.
But once again, the Suns didn't execute when it mattered. The Suns scored four total points in the final four minutes of the game. Those points came from a Bledsoe free throw, a Knight free throw and a Bledsoe layup. What were some of the mishaps that occurred during that time?
With three minutes left, the team failed to get a shot off in time and turned the ball over due to a shot clock violation.
With two minutes left, Tucker committed a loose ball foul (his fifth), sending the Wizards to the line at the other end. The next possession, Ronnie Price chucked it out of bounds for another turnover. A possession later, Tucker traveled.
Near the end of the game there was even a puzzling delay technical called on Phoenix, as Morris, Teletovic and the Wizards' bigs played a game of musical chairs at the free-throw line.
The Suns' late-game offense didn't appear to consist of much more other than squeezing as much out of Bledsoe and Knight as possible by letting them scramble around picks set at the top of the key. Unsurprisingly, the Wizards countered quite effectively on defense.
Jeff Hornacek also continued to tinker with rotations, opting to go small at the end of the game. Alex Len only played 15 minutes, as Bledsoe, Knight, Morris and Tucker were paired with Ronnie Price for much of the fourth quarter to create a three-guard rotation.
There were some silver linings to the game. For instance, the Jon Leuer acquisition still seems great in hindsight. Leuer started in place of Morris at power forward and scored 13 points on 6-of-7 shooting in just 22 minutes. Booker and Warren combined to shoot 9-of-15 off the bench and chipped in 19 points.
For the Wizards, the win was all about Bradley Beal. The 2012 first-round draftee had a terrific game, posting 34 points, nine rebounds and five assists on 12-of-23 shooting from the field.
Additionally, the Wizards actually managed to outrebound the Suns 41-35 despite being without most of their bigs. Humphries, Gortat, Nene and Gooden all sat out, and yet Washington found rebounds from unusual suspects—seven from Porter, six from Gary Neal, nine from Beal and five from Wall.
Seeing as this is yet another late-game collapse, perhaps Jeff Hornacek should start to feel his seat warming up. I'll leave the discussions over Hornacek's future for the comment section, but I would imagine that the organization is at least beginning to talk about it.
I'll leave you with a stat. Since Jeff Hornacek took over as coach, the Suns are 33-43 in games in which they are either ahead or behind up to 3 points in the final two minutes of games. Given that, overall, the Suns are 95-89 in the Hornacek era, it seems strange that they have such a worse winning percentage when it comes to closing out close games. With a sample size of 76 close games under Hornacek's belt, how much can still be blamed on luck?