On Thursday night, the Phoenix Suns pushed their record against the Eastern Conference to a robust 7-4 with a win over second-seeded Toronto Raptors at home.
Devin Booker scored eight big points in the final two minutes to provide the final cushion as the Suns completed a big win at home over the Raptors, 99-91.
The Suns held the Raptors and their #1 offense to their lowest point total of the season on the back of scrappy defense and solid rebounding, and then sealed the win with only five second-half turnovers while forcing 19 turnovers on the other end.
“We had too many mistakes tonight, too many turnovers, [and] couldn’t make shots. It was a little bit of everything,” All-Star Demar DeRozan after the game.
DeRozan and Lowry both finished with 24 points, but the Raptors as a team couldn’t bring the energy necessary to win a SEGABABA the way the Suns did.
Watch Booker vs. DeRozan here.
“They got it done,” DeRozan said of the Suns’ energy. “I don’t think they really felt this throughout the game. It still was close with us missing shots and turning the ball over. They did what they were supposed to do and they got the win.”
A night after allowing the Spurs a 13-2 run coming out of halftime, the Suns turned the tables on a weary Raptors with a huge run to stretch a 42-40 halftime lead into a 62-50 lead and then 76-62 margin in the third quarter.
The Raps came back a couple of times to bring the lead down to five points, but the Suns answered each time.
“It happened in steps,” Watson said, comparing Wednesday to Thursday night. “We realized last night we had a great opportunity. It was a great learning lesson for us to come out tonight in the second half and impose our will defensively.”
Watson still leans on P.J. Tucker and Tyson Chandler for veteran influence and consistent production, and still puts the ball in Eric Bledsoe and Brandon Knight’s hands as much as possible.
To close out the Raptors win, he needed Bledsoe (22 points, 10 assists, 5 rebounds), Chandler (13 rebounds) and Tucker (14 points) to hold the line until Booker got hot to score 8 decisive points on four possessions in the final two minutes to seal the win.
Another game, another Bledsoe circus shot.#WeArePHX pic.twitter.com/MdU3v7KZJa— Phoenix Suns (@Suns) December 30, 2016
Can't stop, won't stop. #WeArePHX pic.twitter.com/t5ZAlP0OEv— Phoenix Suns (@Suns) December 30, 2016
DEVIN BOOKER AND-1!!— Phoenix Suns (@Suns) December 30, 2016
Suns up 8 over the Raptors with 2:27 left to play. #WeArePHX pic.twitter.com/YW5qQIeUiy
“Yeah, it only counts down the stretch,” Watson said of Booker’s shooting woes before his late-game scoring flurry. “That’s just the truth about basketball. Anyone can hit a bucket in the first three quarters and about first 8 minutes of the fourth quarter.
“The last four minutes and the last three minutes (of the fourth quarter), that’s when the players step up. That’s when you kind of separate yourself from NBA and elite, and we understand that.”
Booker was pleased to be able to turn it around at the end when the Suns needed it.
“Just staying confident and staying with it,” Booker said. “I’ve had a stretch, obviously, I’m not shooting the best, but I just stick with it.
“My coach still trusts me, my team still trusts me. They’re setting good screens for me. Bledsoe is setting me up well, so I have the confidence in myself. They have the confidence in me and they started falling late.”
Booker finished with 19 points, 5 assists and 5 rebounds, while Bledsoe posted his fourth double-double of the season.
Here’s Bledsoe after the win.
Here he is getting a big block.
And now Alex Len with the rejection.
NO ✋#WeArePHX pic.twitter.com/URw227grtq— Phoenix Suns (@Suns) December 30, 2016
Here’s Watson’s full post-win presser.
FULL GAME HIGHLIGHTS!
Miss the game? Here’s nine full minutes of highlights where you can see Len’s block, Bledsoe’s block, oops to Chandler and Chriss, and Booker’s scoring flurry, among others.