Portland was hot early, but the Suns were scorching late.
Phoenix overcame a 38-19 deficit after the first quarter behind a barrage of three pointers from Kelly Oubre and 33 points from Devin Booker (who took zero three point shots on the night).
Oubre scored 29 points and shot 7-10 from three point range. Kelly also had three very timely steals, including one that helped the Suns cut into Portland’s double digit lead seconds before halftime.
Booker led the Suns with 33 points and was 15-15 from the free throw line. He also added seven assists.
Ricky Rubio had a great second half and finished with 18 points and 13 assists.
DeAndre Ayton returned from an ankle injury, coming off the bench for just the second time in his young career, and pulled down 12 rebounds. He also had a big tip in bucket after an offensive rebound late in the game.
The Suns needed every bit of it and more to claw back in the game after getting embarrassed in the early going. The last three quarters of this game was the way this team needs to play all the time.
Damian Lillard matched Booker’s game high 33 points, but missed his last seven three point attempts after making his first five. Hassan Whiteside had 16 points and pulled down a whopping 22 rebounds in the loss. C.J. McCollum also chipped in 25 points for the Blazers.
Lillard put on a foudroyant display in the first quarter as Portland tried to step on the Suns throat early on. Lillard hit his first five three point attempts and scored 16 in the quarter as the Trail Blazers raced out to a 38-19 lead at the end of the first period. While Lillard was dominating on the perimeter, Whiteside was taking care of business inside with 10 first quarter rebounds.
For the Suns it was Devin Booker (10 points) and Kelly Oubre Jr. (seven) trying to keep their team afloat. Mikal Bridges was the only other Sun to score in the first quarter when he hit a pair of free throws with 1:53 left in the period. The Suns not named Booker and Oubre went 0-11 in the quarter.
After getting embarrassed in the first quarter, the Suns regrouped and outscored Portland 20-9 to start the second quarter and cut the lead back to single digits (48-39). The Blazers extended the lead back to 15 in the waning moments of the half, but the Suns hit two threes in the final nine seconds of the half to pull back within nine again (64-55) at halftime. Aron Baynes hit the first bomb, then Oubre stole the inbound pass and sank another.
It was a taste of their own medicine for Portland, who drained 12 three pointers in the first half (nine in the first quarter). Lillard finished the half with 23 points. Oubre led the Suns with 16.
A game that Portland mostly dominated in the first half was much more competitive in the third quarter. Oubre and Baynes once again hit back-to-back three pointers to get the Suns within four points (73-69) early in the period. Booker scored 10 points in the quarter to push his total to 25 on the game and Rubio also had seven points and five assists after a slow first half. Portland came back to earth with just one made three in the period, but still led 89-83 entering the final quarter.
Rubio continued to make his presence felt in the fourth quarter as he hit a three to help the Suns close within two (102-100) with 6:18 left, then recorded his 10th double-double of the season with an assist to Bridges moments later. With 3:31 left the Suns pulled within one (108-107) on Oubre’s sixth three pointer of the night. Then the Suns finally regained the lead (109-108) for the first time since early in the first quarter on a tip in by Ayton, who grabbed seven rebounds in the final period.
The nail in the coffin came by way of a Kelly Oubre Jr. three pointer with 43.8 seconds to go. It was Oubre’s career high seventh three pointer.
A few free throws from Booker, who was 15-15 from the line on the night, salted away a huge 122-116 win for the Suns.
The Suns (13-20) are now officially on a winning streak for just the second time this season. They will ring in the new year against the Lakers in Los Angeles on Wednesday.
Portland (14-20) also plays on New Year’s Day in New York against the Knicks.
Phoenix is now just one game behind the San Antonio Spurs (13-18) for eighth place in the Western Conference.