The Phoenix Suns played this game in three different acts.
They started out with active hands (12 first half steals) and built a 20 point halftime lead.
Then they relaxed on defense, fell in love with the three and nearly threw away the game.
Then came Kelly Oubre Jr. to the rescue.
Oubre helped the Suns rally from seven points down with a minute to go and pull off a comeback victory after blowing a 20 point lead. He hit a pair of threes, after starting off 0-7 from deep, and forced two turnovers in the deciding moments of a huge 109-104 win.
That was a HUGE win.
The Suns move to 9-10 on the season and avoid slipping further down the standings after a 1-6 stretch marred by injuries was threatening to undo the positive momentum of their 7-4 start.
After allowing 116 or more points in five of their last six games the Suns were much stingier in the first half, giving up just 39 points to the Hornets. Charlotte kept fighting and put up 65 in the second half when they almost won the game.
Aron Baynes was sidelined with a left calf strain, but at least there was a Ty Jerome sighting. Jerome, a rookie from Virginia taken 24th in the 2019 draft, made a floater running down the lane for his first points as a pro then beat the buzzer for a bucket at the end of the third quarter. Those third quarter points were sorely needed as the Suns were fighting back a valiant push from the pesky Hornets.
With the score tied 9-9, Phoenix used a 12-2 run to pull ahead 21-11. Kelly Oubre Jr. and Mikal Bridges combined for 10 of the 12 points by the Suns. Phoenix never led by less than six for the rest of the first half and pushed the lead to a game high 20 points on two occasions.
The Suns 59-39 lead at halftime was their second largest lead at the half this season. They led the Golden St. Warriors 72-46 back on October 30th.
With the Hornets trying to mount a comeback in the third quarter, both Miles Bridges and PJ Washington were sent to the bench with four fouls. Despite that, Charlotte continued to push and got back to within seven at 68-61. The Hornets got as close as five later in the quarter before the Suns settled for the 80-73 lead headed to the final quarter. Charlotte outscored the Suns 34-21 in the third period.
The start of the fourth quarter gave the Suns a chance to regroup, but instead the Hornets took the lead 86-84 early in the period. Charlotte opened up their biggest lead of the game 99-92 before Dario Saric came up with a big three point play to pull back within four with 3:19 left.
After Bismack Biyombo made one of two at the line Ricky Rubio got the Suns back within three on a driving layup, but moments later the Hornets were back up by seven.
Things were looking pretty bleak, then Oubre took things into his own hands. After Frank Kaminsky missed a free throw, the Suns got the offensive rebound and Oubre hit a three. Suns still down 104-102. Then Oubre blocked Biyombo on the other end. Then Oubre hit another three. Suns regained the lead 105-104. Then Oubre forced a turnover with 15 seconds left, leading to a pair of free throws by Ricky Rubio. Suns ahead 107-104.
A missed three by the Hornets and a pair of free throws from Devin Booker sealed the game.
Booker finished tied with Oubre with a game high 23 points. Saric has 16 points and 10 rebounds. Rubio chipped in 13 assists.
Marvin Williams led the Hornets with 22 points and was 10-10 from the free throw line. He was instrumental in the Hornet’s second half comeback. Devonte Graham had 15 points and 13 assists, but was just 5-19 from the field.
The Suns only had 8 turnovers in the game compared to 19 for the Hornets.
The Suns were 9-42 from the three point line. That includes Oubre’s two daggers to close out the game. Phoenix was 7-40 (17.5%) up to that point.
Next stop on the Suns road trip is at the Orlando Magic (8-11) on Wednesday night,