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Suns bookend season with home wins, get career-highs from multiple players

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It’s just all the other games in between that were bad.

NBA: New Orleans Pelicans at Phoenix Suns Joe Camporeale-USA TODAY Sports

If you found it in your heart to attend the Phoenix Suns home finale on Friday night, you were treated to a really fun fan experience that included a win over a conference rival. Just like opening night, right?

Fans were loud and raucous, and the players got a chance to cheer each other on — some to season and career highs — while coming back from a 15-point second half deficit to force overtime and then close it out decisively in the extra frame.

Watch the highlights here, to see who really stepped up for these Suns.

Jamal Crawford, who dropped a season high 28 points along with 7 assists, says they wanted to “give the fans something to hang on to” after a trying season.

The Suns will finish the year with their second-worst record in franchise history and only their third 60-loss season out of 51.

But watching that thrilling comeback made us all forget about this awful year for moment, (and made them stop chanting “We-want-Jim-mer”).

The Suns scored a season-high in points (133) and were the first team in franchise history to record 10+ blocks (11), 10+ steals (12) and commit less than 10 turnovers (7). This from a lineup of guys who have never played these kind of minutes together before. The Suns had nearly 4:1 assists to turnover ratio (27-8), probably the best ratio we’ve seen in Phoenix in many years.

Social media was alight with fans demanding to bring potential free agents Dragan Bender, Jamal Crawford and the non-guaranteed Ray Spalding.

Why?

Take a look at the stars in this game:

Josh Jackson

The second-year guard scored a season-high 35 points, including a career-high five three-point makes and 15 total field goals made. Jackson also tossed in 9 rebounds, 5 assists and 2 steals.

“I don’t know why,” he said of having his best games in April. “It’s always like, at the end of the year. Hopefully I can do it at the beginning (next time).”

Jackson had 36 in a late-season game last year, and now 35 in the home finale this year.

Now watch how he got those 35 points.

Dragan Bender

The third-year forward posted one of the rarest box scores in the league this season with 11 points, 10 rebounds, 7 blocks and 6 assists. No Suns player has posted 10/10/6/6 in 24 years, since Danny Manning did it in 1995. I’ve never witnessed such an aggressive Bender before in my life!

“It’s great,” Bender said of the standing ovation he got from fans when he left the game for the final time (fouled out on another block attempt that looked pretty clean).

Ray Spalding

“Enjoy the moment,” Spalding said of getting the start, which he found out about just a couple hours before tip.

The rookie forward got his first career start and hustled his way to 21 points (mostly on put-backs), 13 rebounds, 3 steals and 3 blocks. At his apex, he looks a lot to me like Steven Hunter, who Suns fans might recall had a nice career as a high-energy rim runner in the mid-2000s.

“I’m really proud of him,” Jackson said of Spalding. “That’s big, that’s really special.”

Jamal Crawford

“Since the moment he came in, me, him and T.J. had a special thing going on,” Bender said of Jamal Crawford and T.J. Warren this season. “He’s a great guy, the person he is. He came in and kind of changed the whole culture around here.”

Crawford returned the love to Bender, just as he’s done all year. “He’s one of my favorite people.”

Crawford lives in the same building as Bender and rookie Mikal Bridges, and has been locker-neighbor to T.J. Warren all year. I’ve often heard the other pups like Devin Booker, Deandre Ayton and Josh Jackson hang out as well. The group of them spend a lot of time together off the court, which lately includes Ray Spalding too.

“Jamal Crawford and T.J. Warren have really taken me under their wing,” Spalding said.

Jamal stayed humble all year, despite the trying circumstances of a losing team and frustrating environment. Jamal’s friend, T.J. Warren, has been out for more than 30 games with a “sore ankle” that flares up whenever he puts heavy pressure on it. But the two of them apparently have been great personal mentors to the youngest players on the team.

Other highlights

  • Rookies De’Anthony Melton and Elie Okobo combined for 15 points and 5 assists in 50 minutes of play
  • Troy Daniels had 14 points off the bench, including 4 three-point makes
  • Mikal Bridges had one of his little-of-everything games, including 9 points and 4-each on rebounds and assists, along with a steal and a block
  • The Suns had 68 points in the paint, 14 three-point makes, 21 fast break points
  • Phoenix was missing an entire starting lineup and their best big off the bench

Next up

The Suns now have a 19-61 record with two road games left against playoff-positioning Houston (Sunday) and then record-tanking Dallas (Tuesday). Phoenix could end up finishing with a 20-win season after all.

Players will clear out their lockers and do end-of-season interviews on Wednesday.