Alan Williams got another double-double and Tyler Ulis scored a career high to lead the Suns to an unexpected victory over the Oklahoma City Thunder despite another explosive night from Russell Westbrook.
Westbrook finished with a furious 48 points, 17 rebounds and 9 assists in a desperate attempt to win the game all by himself.
The Suns simply out hustled the Thunder after a sluggish start, taking big leads in all of the last three quarters.
Tyler Ulis worked the Thunder on both ends, with 14 points, 7 assists, 4 rebounds and 3 steals for a +17 on the night in only 20 minutes of play.
But it was Derrick Jones Jr. who won the hearts of fans for his spirited defense on Westbrook, however futile.
It was Leandro Barbosa’s three with 56.6 seconds left to put the Suns up 9 that sealed the deal. That was the Suns’ 28th assist of the night on 44 made field goals. Passing fools, I tells ya.
(Well, Russ made it interesting with a score then steal/dunk to make it 5 point game, but Bledsoe made a couple free throws on the next possession to make it 7 with 35.4 left and THAT sealed the deal.)
(Ok then Alexi Abrines got them back to a 5 point deficit with a pair of threes, but then Booker’s free throws REALLY sealed the deal.)
Suns win 118-111.
The Suns got 14-17 points from SIX different players. Old guys Leandro Barbosa (14 points, 2 assists) and Jared Dudley (7/5/5) had great nights as well in reserve.
Welp. A night after shooting 59% from the field, the Suns opened the game shooting only 17% (3 for 17 from the field) until the second unit guys started coming in.
Big Sauce, then Tyler Ulis made shots before Devin Booker made a big three and the Suns were suddenly back in the game.
After one, the Suns were down 28-23 but it could have been much worse. They ended the quarter on a 11-4 run. Booker led the Suns with 8 points.
The second unit finally pulled within one (could have been tied but LB’s toe was on the line on a three).
Norris Cole tried real hard to show up rookie Tyler Ulis, but Ulis was having none of that. Ulis posted 6 points, 2 rebounds and an assist in his first 7 minutes of the game as the Suns pulled within 1 at 32-31.
Re-enter the Russ.
But Tyler Ulis wouldn’t back down and soon he had a big 12/4/3 first half as the Suns led at halftime 58-55.
Another player who WOULDN’T BACK DOWN is Derrick Jones Jr. He pressured Westbrook into some bad plays and really riled up the crowd in a way few have this past few seasons.
In fact, DJJ got a standing ovation from the crowd as he checked out with his third foul (the last two baited by Westbrook because he was SO frustrated with DJJ).
Al McCoy Ring of Honor
Al’s ceremony was great.
The Suns raced out to a 12-point lead to start the third quarter while the Thunder tried to stay close.
Bledsoe and Booker both recovered from a combined 4/16 start to make 4/6 shots as the Suns kept the lead.
At one point Booker shook off Andre Roberson for a driving layup, then made a three in transition that forced a Thunder timeout.
But the Suns couldn’t keep their foot on the pedal, missed a couple shots while Russell Westbrook did not, and quickly the Thunder were back to within 79-76.
Still, the Suns made the plays and finished the quarter up 87-79.
Devin Booker had 16 points despite being smothered by Andre Roberson and checked by Alexi Abrines. He also added 7 rebounds and 3 assists. All by the end of the three.
T.J. Warren was BALLING on offense and defense, ripping rebounds away from Steven Adams a pair of times. He finished the quarter with 15 points and 7 rebounds.
We start the quarter with the Suns up 8 while Derrick Jones Jr. still has 3 fouls to give.
Tyler Ulis continued to dominate the game, keeping the Suns in the lead and even stretching it to 14 with great assists and pressuring defense.
With 8 minutes left, Ulis has 14 points (career high), 7 assists and 4 rebounds.
Russ returned to do his best to get the Thunder back into the game, but the Suns were having none of it. Well, to be fair, they couldn’t stop Russ at all, but they still kept their cool and kept the lead.
What is this team? Who are these guys? How fun are the Suns these days? Wow.
After Russ baited DJJ into another foul (this time on a three point attempt), Watson gave him a break but he really did frustrate Russ (who by that time had 42-10-7).
The Suns held on to win, sealing it on a Leandro Barbosa three pointer to push the lead back to 9 with 56.6 seconds left.