Phoenix Suns fans mercilessly booed new Wizards forward Markieff Morris all night long in his return to the valley, from the starting intros to every time he touched the ball. But with Brandon Knight out (groin), Morris came in with the better team and eventually won, 106-99.
The Wizards couldn't put the Suns away the whole game until they amped up their defense and intensity on both ends in the fourth quarter to pull ahead for good.
John Wall led the Wizards with 22 points, 10 assists and 8 rebounds and some very physical defense on Devin Booker in the closing period. Markieff Morris had the game of his Wizards career so far, posting 21 points and pulling down 9 rebounds. I'm sure the Wizards are wondering why he can't do that every night. He's been putting up 11 and 5 for them so far. Sound familiar?
Bradley Beal had 21 points and 5 assists, while Marcin Gortat had 11 and 11. Jared Dudley had 3 points and 4 fouls.
For the Suns, Tyson Chandler had a tough game but played a ton of minutes due to foul trouble by Alex Len. Chandler got a double double but was largely ineffective in the 4th.
Mirza Teletovic had a HUGE double-double with 24 points and 12 rebounds. P.J. Tucker also had a double-double with 18 points and 10 rebounds.
Devin Booker had 14 points on 21 shots. Beal and Wall did a number on him, and when he was open he just missed. Backup guards Archie Goodwin and John Jenkins combined for 17 points and 4 assists in 30 minutes.
Markieff Morris was booed in his introduction and his first two touches of the ball (1-for-2), and cheered on the miss. Both were long twos form the left angle, his favorite non-contact spot.
The Suns started Ronnie Price, who helped set the tone with intensity at the outset. The Suns were crisp, making their first two threes and 5 of 10 shots overall. P.J. Tucker had 7 of the Suns first 13 points.
Ronnie Price had 4 assists and 2 rebounds in the opening minutes to stake the Suns to a 19-11 lead.
Keef was booed at least six different times by then, missing 3 of 4 shots. He was booed even on passes.
The Wizards got back into the game on some John Wall scoring. Wall made 4 of his first 5 shots, including 2-2 on threes for 10 points.
The Wizards quickly pulled to a tie 21-21 on a bit more hustle on their part and a few open misses by the Suns. Devin Booker and Mirza Teletovic both missed open threes and close shots.
At the end of one, John Wall led the Wizards with 12 points and 3 assists. Devin Booker led the Suns with 9 points.
Suns up 26-25.
The Suns opened the second quarter with Archie Goodwin at point, John Jenkins at the two, and Chase Budinger at the three. Watson said pregame their hustle would determine extended playing time.
Archie started the quarter with some good hustle plays and bad hustle plays. Basically he was Archie Goodwin at full speed, which is better than Archie at half-speed but still a struggle. Goodwin had 4 points, a couple missed defensive assignments and two bad passes after three minutes.
Jared Dudley had a great assist on a touch pass to Beal, so good that Dudley was running back down the court with three fingers in the air before Beal even caught the ball (and made it).
After the Wizards tied the game at 32-32, the Suns went on a 9-2 run to take a 41-34 lead. A few moments later, John Jenkins converted a three-point play. By then the four bench guys scored 23 points together. Great minutes from them.
The Wizards starters came back to get them back in the game, and they got it tied 48-48 before the Suns got a couple of breakaway scores to take a halftime lead.
Mirza Teletovic led the Suns with 11 points (though only 5 of 13 shooting) and 7 rebounds filling in for foul-prone Alex Len. Ronnie Price had 5 first half assists, while Archie Goodwin had 3 assists along with 6 strong points in drives.
Devin Booker, playing the role of shooting guard to a T, missed a number of jumpers and finished the half with 9 points on 11 shots, and had 0 assists. Tyson Chandler often got caught flat-footed on offense and defense, but played 21 minutes due to the Wiz big front line and Len's foul trouble. He finished with 5 points and 10 rebounds.
For the Wizards, Markieff Morris had 11 points and 5 rebounds, but almost missed a breakaway slam that rattled around and dropped in. John Wall had 16 points on 6-10 shooting with 4 assists.
Suns up 52-50 at half.
Suns fans get the first-half game ball for mercilessly booing Keef every time he touched the ball. The boos were especially loud during Keef's free throws. Good work, Suns fans!!!
The Suns came out strong to start the second half, basically on the back of Ronnie Price again. The Wizards stayed in the game, though, but I really like the Suns effort (as long as it wanes in the final minutes, of course).
The Wizards made five three-pointers in the third quarter (two by Keef), but the Suns kept it close.
By mid-third, Keef had 19 points and 7 rebounds - his best game as a Wizard since being acquired. He also had a nice block on P.J. Tucker's two handed slam attempt.
At the end of three, the Suns took a two-point lead when Devin Booker turned on the jets on a drive to score for the first time since the first quarter.
Suns up 79-77 after three.
The Suns bench unit showed well in the fourth quarter too, just like the first half, this time against some of the Wizards starters. Remember, the Wiz HAVE to win this game to stay in the playoff race.
The Wiz eventually turned up the defensive pressure on the backup Suns and scored six straight to take an 89-86 lead.
Soon the Wizards lead was 96-88 as John Wall did his best impression of Chris Paul defense - bodying Booker and slapping hard at the hands, arms and ball. He got away with it for the most part.
The Suns would not go away, but the Wizards closed it out.