The Phoenix Suns throttled the Hornets Sunday night en route to a dominant 137-106 victory. On the evening of Devin Booker’s return, Phoenix offered emphatic support for their place atop the league standings.
This game was a bloodbath from the tip. Great ball movement (20 first-half assists) and shooting helped Phoenix build what was at one point a 29-point lead, and the Suns led 69-47 after two. The Hornets’ unenviable combination of atrocious shooting and ambivalent off-ball defense helped to supplement the Suns’ commanding lead.
Any hopes of a comeback were quickly dashed by the Suns’ dominant third quarter. Phoenix’s combination of scorching offense and straight-jacket defense helped Monty Williams sit his starting lineup for the entire fourth quarter, where the Suns’ reserves (notably JaVale McGee) continued to make Charlotte’s life miserable.
The Suns shot 56.8% from the field and 48.8% from three, while the Hornets shot a dreadful 35.4% and 22.2%, respectively. Phoenix won the rebounding battle (57-43) while distributing 35 assists against 17 turnovers. All of the starters scored between 14-16 points, and JaVale finished with 19 points, seven rebounds, and a block on 9-10 shooting.
For the Hornets, Miles Bridges impressed all night long. He finished with 26 points, five rebounds, and two steals on 10-16 shooting. LaMelo Ball contributed nine points, 10 rebounds, seven assists, two steals, and a block, while Kelly Oubre chipped in 18 off the bench.
Paul, Book (!!!), Mikal, Jae, and DA starting for Phoenix. Ball, Rozier, Hayward, Miles, and Plumlee starting for the Hornets.
The Suns are moving the ball and playing hounding defense early on! Back-to-back threes by Jae and Mikal kicked things off, and the starters are suffocating the Hornets. Charlotte is 1-9 to start the game, including 1-6 from three. DA has a couple of early trips to the free-throw line, as well as four boards. Book is 0-3 from the field thus far, but his defense, passing, and energy are on point. With 7:52 left in the first quarter, Suns up 11-3.
The Hornets struggles from the field continue, but they continue to let it fly from deep. LaMelo Ball cannot buy a bucket to start this game, as he is 0-5 from the field and 0-3 from three. For Phoenix, the CP3-DA pick-and-roll is already causing issues for Charlotte, and created space for an easy Mikal bucket. Unfortunately for the Hornets, Book has back-to-back makes as well, including his first bucket back!
Deandre has been everywhere in the first quarter, including catching a lob from CP3 and finishing a putback in short order. James Borrego wants another timeout, Suns are up 24-9 with 5:14 left in the quarter.
Reserves are starting to enter the game, with the Cams entering for the Suns and Kelly for the Hornets. A Cam Payne three and JaVale putback are followed by a PJ Washington bucket to finally stop the bleeding for Charlotte. The Suns are rolling in this one! A Kelly Oubre two persuades Monty to use his first timeout of the night, but it seems procedural. Suns are up 31-13 with 1:54 left.
A couple of threes from Landry Shamet and Cam Johnson help the Suns end the quarter as strong as they started it! After one, Phoenix is up 37-15. Deandre Ayton has been the biggest standout thus far, with nine points and nine rebounds. Gordon Hayward’s five points lead Charlotte, but no other Hornet has more than two.
The second quarter begins with a lull, with each team scoring one basket apiece through the first three minutes. Most of the Suns’ starters begin to check back in, punctuated by a Book three to get the scoring rolling again. It looks like CP3 got bumped or grabbed on the wrist, which induces a Valley-wide lump in the throat. Thankfully, he alleviates a bit of the worry by responding with a three of his own. LaMelo Ball hits his first three of the night, quickly followed by a timeout. Suns are up 51-22 with 6:36 left in the half.
As the second quarter rounds down, Miles Bridges is starting to turn up the heat offensively. He is up to 13 on the night. It might not matter, though, because the Suns keep canning threes and getting layups. DA has already registered a double-double, and Book and Mikal are in double-digits as well. With 1:42 left in the half, the Suns are up 63-40.
The Hornets are starting to find their footing offensively, but are lost on defense. Big threes by CP3 and Jae help send the Suns into halftime with a 69-47 lead. A bunch of stats could help explain the score, but perhaps the biggest is the discrepancy in outside shooting. The Suns are 12-21 (57.1%) from three, while the Hornets are 4-22 (18.2%). Deandre Ayton finished the half with 13 points, 10 rebounds, and two blocks, while Book had 10 points, Mikal had 11, and Chris Paul chipped in eight assists.
Miles Bridges has been the brightest offensive spot for Charlotte, and although LaMelo Ball is struggling from the field (2-9), he has made a handful of really nice plays. Overall he has nine points, seven rebounds, four assists, and two steals. If Charlotte wants to come back, however, they are going to need to revamp their defense at halftime.
The Suns (and Hornets) are back to more of the same to start the second half. A pair of threes by Book, a pair of buckets by CP3, and a Jae trey have Phoenix up 82-59 with 7:59 left in the third quarter. Charlotte is 0-5 from three to start the third quarter, and it appears they are doing their best to get Deandre his first career 30-rebound game.
Miles Bridges is trying his best, but the Suns are blowing this one open. Bridges is up to 21 on the night, but the Suns’ balanced onslaught has overpowered this young Charlotte squad. Each of the starters (and JaVale McGee) are now in double figures. Phoenix continues to shoot the cover off of the ball. With 2:32 left in the third quarter, the Suns are cruising. It is 101-67.
The Hornets ended the quarter on a 7-0 run, but this goose is cooked! Suns up 108-80 after three, and fans are preparing for Ish Wainright isos.
A JaVale McGee oop helps kick off the fourth quarter, aka the JaVale McGee Show. A few possessions later, Cam Johnson and McGee flash their wonderful chemistry, this time with JaVale feeding Cam. Elfrid throws JaVale an oop on the very next possession, which he finishes through contact. After making the free throw, he steals the inbounds pass and makes a layup. Hornets timeout with 8:35 left. Suns up 117-81, JaVale for MVP.
After the timeout, Jalen Smith and Nick Richards enter, respectively. I think it is fair to assume James Borrego and the Hornets have conceded at this point. Back-to-back Charlotte buckets are followed by consecutive Landry Shamet threes.
Both teams emptied their benches relatively early on in the fourth quarter, and it was nice to see the Suns’ starters get some well-earned rest. As the final buzzer sounds, the scoreboard reads 137-106. Suns win!
Player of the Game
Tonight was a dominant wire-to-wire performance from the best team in the league. While there are a few players who deserve recognition (hello Mikal, JaVale, CP3) and it was wonderful to see Book back on the court, it was Deandre Ayton who stood out the most. DA keyed the Suns’ first-quarter explosion, and he set the tone on the defensive end. His final stat line was solid, but his energy and intensity from the jump were exceptional. Ayton finished with 15 points and 15 rebounds on 6-10 shooting. He also recorded three rejections, none as sweet as this denial of LaMelo Ball.
The Suns head to Los Angeles for a Tuesday showdown with the Lakers (16-15). The game starts at 8:00 PM AZ time.