Once again, the Phoenix Suns had a big lead late in the third quarter to a team they should be able to beat.
Once again, they gave up the lead in the beginning of the fourth with some awful play by a bench unit that had done well in the first half.
And once again, the starters who’d been so good the first three quarters just couldn’t buy a bucket as the Knicks stretched their lead to six points with just under three minutes left (101-95).
But then the Suns decided not to go down quietly this time.
Chandler tied the game with 1:46 to go on a pair of free throws created by his all-out effort under the basket.
Both teams missed shots from their on out, leaving the Knicks with the ball at 16.9 seconds left.
Could this be a Hornacek win at the buzzer against the Suns? Ironic, I’d say.
NOPE! At least not yet.
Chandler scored the first bucket of OT on another putback. But the Suns could not mount any consistent scoring and soon went down three on another KP three.
Chandler finished with 23 rebounds, topping 20 for the second straight game. He’s the only Suns player in franchise history with back-to-back 20-rebound games and he’s done it twice in 2 years at age 33 and 34. WOW.
Then Eric Bledsoe happened.
Bledsoe had his third straight 30+ point game, capping it off with a driving layup to take the lead at 111-110 with less than a minute left. After a Carmelo Anthony air ball (Tucker D FTW!), the Suns took over possession with only 6.0 seconds left.
SUNS WIN, 113-111 on smart plays at the end to secure the win.
Bledsoe finished with 31 points, 8 assists and 6 rebounds (plus 2 steals and a block). His second straight 30/8 game - also a first for his career.
The Suns started strong in this game, especially Marquese Chriss.
Chriss had some rough initial moments - allowing an easy back door jam to Kristaps Porzingis, then airballing a three and hesitating on a fast break finish.
But then Chriss settled down and poured in nine points (including a three pointer) and grabbed three rebounds before committing his first foul as the Suns went up 17-6 to start the game.
The Knicks started making shots after that, but the Suns still had the lead 31-25 after one quarter.
The second unit, led by Brandon Knight and his 11 points, took a 46-32 lead before the Knicks made their first three pointer.
The Knicks went on an 11-0 run, fueled by a pair of Porzingis threes, before the Suns stemmed the tide and took a 54-46 lead into halftime.
Marquese Chriss had a career high 11 rebounds at halftime, plus 13 points and a steal. Easily, his most active half of basketball in his career.
The Suns came out swinging in the second half, led by Marquese Chriss.
First, Chriss absorbed a hard foul by Porzingis after blowing by him to attack the rim. Then Porzingis ran over Bledsoe - should have been an offensive foul on KP - and Chriss retaliated with a shove that sent KP to the floor. A rumble ensued. Unfortunately, that meant that last of the good Chriss, who picked up his 5th foul and a T early and would have to behave himself the rest of the night. At least the Suns have a new bad boy.
Then it was Devin Booker’s turn to be a badass. He came across to stop Carmelo Anthony on a fast break layup. But he didn’t just stop Melo. He blocked him so hard Melo hit the deck and Booker just grabbed the ball on the bounce back up... and started a Suns break finished by Tyson Chandler.
The Suns soon went up 11 on the Knicks with a Dudley three to take a 73-62 lead.
At this point, I just hope the Suns can hold on. It looks a lot like Sunday’s 15-point lead on the Pelicans and the 10-point lead on the Wolves in recent home games late in the third quarter.
Through the end of three, the Suns held the lead thank to playing the old guys Tucker, Barbosa, Chandler and Dudley all together for a few minutes along with Brandon Knight. Clearly, Watson did not want this lead to disappear like recent home games. Maybe beating Hornacek meant something special.
Suns lead 85-73 after three quarters.
Carmelo Anthony 2-11 against mostly Tucker and Dudley so far. Courtney Lee and Kyle O’Quinn keeping the Knicks in the game with 26 of their 73 points.
Alan Williams and Dragan Bender get some time to start the fourth with the Suns clearly in the lead, and Dudley and LB to steady them.
Brandon Knight took on the big shooting duties but missed a couple before setting up a miss by Leandro Barbosa.
Soon it was an 11-2 Knicks run as the Suns just missed a bunch of open shots off good ball movement.
Lead down to 3.
Starters back in.
Lead gone a minute later.
So yeah it’s like the Wolves and Pelicans games.
The starters just made turnover after turnover, while the Knicks second (or third?) unit kept making big play after big play.
Soon it was a 3-point Knicks lead with the crowd screaming over a couple of Porzingis scores that perfectly define him: a contested, one-handed oop, followed by a side-step juke into a 18-foot jumper that swished clean.
Then a 4-point lead as Porzingis adds a long three pointer.
The bench-plus-Zing lineup for the Knicks ran their run to 24-8 over the first 8.5 minutes of the 4th before Hornacek called a timeout... and then brought Melo back to replace a highly effective Kyle O’Quinn.
The Suns had it down to 2 points, but then fumbled a rebound, that led to a bad foul AND A T from Tyson Chandler that gave the Knicks an unbelievable FOUR points on a critical possession.
Suns down 6.