The Phoenix Suns really didn't want to go into the Heat game on Friday on a 10-game losing streak. No way. They didn't need to give Goran Dragic, Gerald Green and Amare Stoudemire any more ammunition than they already have for the next two days at East contender Miami Heat come to town for a Friday game. Ugh. That's gonna be bad.
But for tonight, all the Suns ills are cured.
Okay, not all of them. But at least the players can talk about a win for the first time in weeks.
And head coach Jeff Hornacek finally earned his 100th win as Suns coach.
The Suns exorcized demons from behind the three-point line, making 18 of their first 30 shots from distance and 19 overall. The Suns didn't play much defense, or score many points in the paint (24) or get many second change points (3) but their shooting was plenty good enough.
Kemba Walker turned it on late for the Hornets, but it wasn't enough.
P.J. Tucker sealed the game with a three pointer to put the Suns up 7 with just 54.2 seconds left.
Four Suns had 17+ points: Brandon Knight (18, with 7 assists), Devin Booker (17, with 10 rebounds), Mirza Teletovic (19, with 8 rebounds) and T.J. Warren (17).
Teams keep trying to see how many of their starters they can sit and still beat the Suns. This time its the Charlotte Hornets.
The Hornets upped the ante to three starters being out, with Nicolas Batum, Michael Kidd-Gilchrist AND Al Jefferson all out. Batum was a late scratch with a right toe sprain. He's been out a couple games and clearly the Hornets thought they could afford to go without him.
Let's see if the Suns can exceed their first-half point total on Sunday by halftime tonight. That's our first indication they aren't complete zombies.
And they're off to a good start! The 11 points the Suns scored in the opening 3.5 minutes looked positively silky compared to Sunday, so there's that.
Yet the Suns defense remained absolutely atrocious, allowing the Hornets to make 6 of their first 8 shots, with three of them 3-pointers. There was no defense being played at all.
The Suns did not grab their second rebound of the game until nearly 6 minutes had passed.
But at least the Hornets were playing nearly as bad on defense! Six minutes in and the Suns have TWENTY points. Two shy of their first-half goal! It's almost as if scoring more than 22 points in a half is... easy or something.
Hornets call a quick timeout to figure out what the heck they are doing wrong and then went on a 7-0 run to take back the lead before the Suns found their shooting stroke again. They broke the 22-point mark soon after, and even finished the first quarter with 34 points!
Eight different players scored for the Suns in the first quarter, only Alex Len didn't put up a shot. Devin Booker somehow led the Suns with 4 (of their 10) rebounds in that first quarter.
Jeremy Lin had 13 points on 5-7 shooting in the first quarter for Charlotte. Lin has been scoring 12 points per game on 42% shooting all season, soooo... like I said, bad Suns defense.
The second quarter for the Suns began much better. It helps that most of the Hornets bench unit had to the start the game because so many starters are out hurt.
The Suns built a 14-point led midway through the second quarter (50-36) before the Hornets clawed back into the game.
The Suns had a great sequence where Jon Leuer strongly blocked a Hornets shot into the ground, then the ensuing loose ball fight was won by Tucker who dove to save the ball, got it to Knight who drove down the floor and flipped the ball to an open Ronnie Price in the corner for a HUGE three.
The crowd rewarded the Suns with a huge ovation. Love to see the anticipation as the shot went up, and then finally to see a shot go DOWN there.
Suns by 8 at halftime, 60-52.
The Hornets opened the second half with a three pointer, but the Suns maintained a lead.
The worst thing to happen was P.J. Tucker stepping on P.J. Hairston's foot (or doing something real funky) and being unable to put weight on his leg afterward. Paul Coro later said it was a knee to Tucker's thigh.
The Hornets went real small for a bit to try to loosen up the game, playing Kemba Walker and Jeremy Lin with Troy Daniels. They were shooting only 42% for the game at the time.
With the small lineup, the Hornets were able to keep scoring with the Suns and finally broke through to a lead when the Suns went into a complete funk while the Hornets hustled their way to several consecutive trips to the free throw line.
It's like the Suns suddenly got stuck in mud, and the Hornets just took advantage.
The Suns found themselves down 5 before Mirza Teletovic ended the quarter with a pair of threes to give the Suns back the lead.
Suns up 86-85 after three, having made 14 of 23 threes.
They opened the fourth with 7 straight points (2 by Mirza, 5 by Knight) to take their 8-point lead back before the Hornets called timeout.