Warren leads Suns past Wizards
WASHINGTON — The Washington Wizards were reminded that NBA games aren’t won in the first quarter. They also received a close up look at Phoenix Suns, who have gone from turmoil to terrific.
TJ Warren scored a career-high 40 points and grabbed 10 rebounds as resurgent Phoenix overcame a 22-point deficit for a 122-116 win over Washington on Wednesday.
The Suns (4-4) have won three of four games since firing coach Earl Watson on Oct. 22 after a 0-3 start and benching disgruntled guard Eric Bledsoe.
Bradley Beal scored 40 points for the Wizards, and John Wall had 21 points. Washington (4-3) led 108-106 on Beal’s 3-pointer, but Warren’s three-point play put Phoenix up for good with 3:44 remaining.
Devin Booker scored 22 for the Suns, but none in the final 19 minutes. Phoenix didn’t lack for offense thanks to Warren, who sank 16 of 22 shots from the field.
“It feels great,” Warren said. “I understand I’m still a young player, still getting better. I’m going to continue to get better. It doesn’t stop now.”
Early foul trouble and the absence of starting small forward Otto Porter Jr. (illness) had the Wizards sending an array of defenders Warren’s way.
“We relaxed,” Washington coach Scott Brooks said. “You give a team confidence and it’s hard to turn it off. We couldn’t stop Warren. Backdoor, his right hand, offensive rebounds. He was having his way with any of our players that were guarding him.”
With the Wizards focused on Booker, Warren hit 11 of 12 shots and scored 28 points in the second half.
“I was really surprised,” Washington said about Washington defenders leaving him space. “Usually guys know if you give me a little bit of space, it’s always a bucket.”
Phoenix only scored 15 points in the first quarter but combined for 72 points in the second and third quarters. Down 90-87 entering the fourth quarter, the Suns took their first lead at 92-90 on two Tyler Ulis free throws.
Washington, considered a contender for the Eastern Conference title, also blew double-digit leads in its first two home games but held on to win.
“We just stopped being aggressive,” Beal said. “We thought it was going to be easy. We thought they were going to give up. “This is a long game, a long game.
“We have to realize we’re a targeted team. Teams want to beat us. Until we get that in the back of our heads, we’re going to continue to play this way.”
Despite the early turmoil, Phoenix is rising up under interim coach Jay Triano. The Suns let an 18-point lead slip away Tuesday at Brooklyn before closing with a 24-8 run for a 122-114 win over the Nets.
The Wizards returned home after splitting a wild four-game Western Conference road trip that included several blown leads, a feisty matchup with the Golden State Warriors and 110-93 rout over the Sacramento Kings on Sunday that started with a 13-0 run.
Washington also started strong against Phoenix. Beal had 11 points in the first quarter and the Suns shot 5 of 22 from the field as the Wizards led 32-15.
The margin rose to 22, but the Suns pulled within 64-52 at halftime and 66-63 less than three minutes into the third quarter.
“I think (the Wizards) looked at it as we were on a back-to-back and they were going to run right at us, and they did (early),” Triano said. “But our guys, I was pleased we responded after getting down, taking a hit, we played well.”
The Wizards entered forcing a league-high 19 turnovers per game. The Suns committed only 10.
Booker scored 34 and 32 points during the first two games of the road trip. He has never scored 30 or more points in three consecutive games. Phoenix’s leading scorer had 13 of his 17 first-half points in the second quarter.
Mike Scott scored 12 points for the Wizards, who shot 44.6 percent from the field. Scott’s contribution was needed because of Porter’s absence. Porter is averaging 18.7 points and a league-high 2.7 steals.
Phoenix hit 49.4 percent of its field-goal attempts.
NOTES: Suns G Eric Bledsoe remains away from the team, which apparently is attempting to trade him. ... Wizards F Markieff Morris, out since Sept. 22 after hernia surgery, will make his season debut Friday against the Cavaliers. Morris served a one-game suspension Wednesday for leaving the bench during a Friday tussle between Washington G Bradley Beal and Golden State Warriors F Draymond Green. ... Phoenix hit 31 of 38 free throws. ... Foul trouble for Washington’s starting frontcourt had F Kelly Oubre Jr. and F Jason Smith play only a combined 38 minutes. ... Phoenix returns to New York for a Friday meeting against the Knicks before concluding its five-game road swing Sunday at the San Antonio Spurs.