The front office of the Phoenix Suns may have quit on this season, but the men who continue to take the floor for the team most certainly have not. While Robert Sarver and Ryan McDonough chase lottery balls, Tyler Ulis, Devin Booker and the rest of the Phoenix Suns continue to chase victories. They are outmanned and outgunned on a nightly basis, yet they continue to fight.
Two nights ago, Devin Booker put up 70 points and turned a 26 point deficit into a 10 point loss. Tonight, it was a team effort as Phoenix, trailing 25 points at one point in the second half, clawed their way back into within 4 points with 4:36 left in the fourth quarter.
Unfortunately for the team (though not for their lottery standing), that wasn’t enough for them to overcome their early offensive and defensive woes. Despite the loss, T.J. Warren and Alan Williams managed double-doubles (21 points, 10 rebounds & 11 points, 11 rebounds respectively). Warren also chipped in 4 steals on the defensive end. Devin Booker ended up with a respectful 23 points on a less than stellar 7-17 shooting night.
I don’t expect Phoenix will break much new ground as the season winds to a close. This team minus Eric Bledsoe and Tyson Chandler just doesn’t have the weapons to defeat full-strength NBA squads. The front office is committed to the tank, which puts the guys actually taking the court in a rough spot. They will lose again and again despite their best efforts. As good as Tyler Ulis is, he doesn’t have the tools to match up with Kemba Walker for 40 minutes. Alan Williams is great, but gives up a lot to guys 3 and 4 inches taller than him. Marquese Chriss continues to impress, but is still not quite ready for primetime. When the offseason mercifully comes, one can only hope the Suns find themselves stronger for their struggles, and not demoralized.
Perhaps the Phoenix Suns were actually expecting Devin Booker drop all of their points in Charlotte. The offense could find no rhythm in the opening minutes as the Hornets raced out to a 22-3 lead in the game’s first five minutes. The onslaught continued as their lead expanded to 30-7. Phoenix found a little bit of life, mustering 18 points by the end of the quarter. Unfortunately, Charlotte mustered 38 of their own.
Why were the Suns so bad in that 1st quarter? 7 turnovers for 15 Hornet points didn’t help. Shooting a meager 38.3% from the field, while giving up 56.5% was a bad choice as well. That hot shooting by Charlotte extended to the arc as they buried 4 of 7 three-pointers, led by Marvin Williams who got all 9 of his points from deep to lead the Hornets.
I would love to say the second quarter is when Phoenix turned things around. However, they did not. They did manage to cut into the Hornets lead for a bit, getting it down to 10 points behind some quick scoring by Alan Williams, who had 6 points in the quarter. Devin Booker showed some signs of life after an ice cold first quarter, finishing the half with 10 points.
Nothing Phoenix did on the offensive end was enough to make up for their shortcomings on the defensive end. By the end of the half, Marvin Williams, Nic Batum, Kemba Walker and Cody Zeller were all in double-figures for the Hornets. The Suns closed the quarter by giving up a 3-pointer to Walker at buzzer to go into the half trailing 69-47.
This Suns team, man. They play ugly, ugly, ugly basketball. And then BOOM, they make it a game. To whit: the Hornets took their largest lead of the game 2 minutes into the second half, 74-49.
Phoenix promptly responded with a 17-2 run to get the lead down to 10 points (76-66). Devin Booker and Marquese Chriss finally found some rhythm. After some back and forth, a T.J. Warren follow of his own miss got the Suns within nine points. Unfortunately that was the high water mark of the third quarter for Phoenix. Charlotte responded with a 19-10 spurt of their own to go back up 98-80 at the end of the 3rd quarter.