The Phoenix Suns have not treated the home crowd to many fantastic finishes in the past year. So when the last several minutes unfolded with big shot after big shot, from both teams, you had to appreciate the experience.
It started with P.J. Tucker, on his way to a career high 23 points along with 11 rebounds and 5 assists, draining consecutive corner threes off kick-outs from Brandon Knight dribble penetration that turned a tie game into a six point lead and a timeout call by the Wolves to regroup.
And it ended with Devin Booker and then Mirza Teletovic hitting huge shots to close the deal. Watch the highlights here. For those of you who missed the game, you've got to see this.
All three big men had 11+ rebounds in the game, as the Suns outrebounded the Wolves by 22 for the game. Alex Len and Tyson Chandler both had 11 rebounds.
"It was hitting the glass, that was the thing, we were controlling the glass," Tucker said. "When we control the glass, I think like 90-percent of the time, we're in the game. If we're not winning, we're fighting for the win. With me, Alex, and Tyson a lot of times, it's hard (to get a rebound) playing with two centers down there."
During the timeout after P.J.'s big threes mid-fourth, the Suns game ops crew took advantage of a rare opportunity to keep the crowd going with the driving beat we all remember so fondly from the Nash (and winning) days.
Media ribbed Tucker about his coast-to-coast fast break including a spin move to shake off a defender.
"That was 2003 P.J. right there," Tucker said, warning us not to expect that from him again. Yet, in the second half, Tucker made another defender-shaking spin move in the half court to leave Andrew Wiggins on his heels.
The game ended on three consecutive big shots. Luckily for the home team, the Suns made two of them including Mirza Teletovic's game winning three with 1.2 seconds left.
First, it was Devin Booker's three-point play to give the Suns the lead with 9.2 seconds to go.
Zach LaVine, who had 28 points including a big three to tie to late, reached out to foul Booker before he started his drive, but waited too long and let Booker get past him. Booker was able to gather and make the shot as LaVine grabbed his arm.
"He said he was told to foul me," Booker said later.
Booker was happy to get another chance in the crunch after dribbling the ball into traffic and losing it on a drive the possession before.
"I had a terrible turnover and I felt like I needed to make it up for our team," Booker said. "Earl had the confidence in me and drew it up for me, so that gives you confidence, once you know your whole team and coach has that same confidence in you. I made a big shot and then Tele(tovic) came back down again."
Here's a little bit of Booker's interview.
Mirza Teletovic was the one with the game winner, cutting around a screen to catch the inbound pass, check the time, dribble once, set his feet, turnaround and let it fly all in about 3 seconds.
"I didn't want to give them another chance," he said of adding the dribble to extend the play.
"It is how I drew it up," Watson said after. "But Telly had to put in the dribble. It's just Telly. He's going to add something extra to everything. We knew spur of the moment, creating in the moment, we knew that Telly can come off, he's really good at coming off down-screens and turn, pin-down actions."
Teletovic was definitely open. The Wolves didn't have anyone to match up with Teletovic in terms of size and perimeter quickness.
"We tried to put our best guys on Teletovic," Wolves coach Sam Mitchell said. "Teletovic, he's got some size on him."
While Mitchell wanted most of the time to have Wiggins or Prince on Teletovic, it was Karl-Anthony Towns defending Mirza on that last play. After a switch, it ended up with Wiggins on Alex Len and KAT on Teletovic. Game over.
"He was running away from the basket and he put it up," Mitchell said. "I thought it was good defense. It's the NBA, guys, he makes shots."
Watson had some fun explaining how Teletovic responds to play calls, and why he did not hesitate giving Mirza the ball when they needed a quick shot.
"Telly being Telly," Watson said with a laugh. "If you draw up a play for Telly or anyone else, if it touches his hands, he's shooting it. The play could be for him to catch it on the pin-down and swing to the other side, it's not going to get all the way through."
Listen to Watson after the game.
Teletovic heard of Watson's comments, laughed, shrugged and said, "Pretty much. I have a lot of confidence."
Here's Teletovic's interview.
Two different Suns veterans - Tyson Chandler and Mirza - mentioned the word "process" last night after the Suns win, showing that they are starting to take to heart what Earl Watson is preaching.
"We're embracing the process," Watson said of enjoying the win in front of the home crowd. "We enjoy the win, it's great for the fans, but we understand what we have to build and it's not going to happen overnight and it's not going to just change the course of our season just by winning one game. We have to be consistent and commit to the process and surrender to where we are, and continue to build without using buzz words, but actually putting in the work."
Marc Spears of Yahoo! tweeted this the other day.
Regardless to Suns outcome, interim coach Earl Watson has gained strong respect from players. Two said consensus is players want him to stay— Marc J. Spears (@SpearsNBAYahoo) March 13, 2016