Suns surge in 4th to top Hawks
PHOENIX -- The Phoenix Suns’ veterans kept their team in the game until their young stars overcame a tough night and put the game away.
P.J. Tucker and Jared Dudley scored 17 points each and Leandro Barbosa scored all eight of his points early in the fourth quarter when the Suns took the lead for good and went on to beat the slumping Atlanta Hawks 109-107 on Wednesday.
Brandon Knight scored 14 of his 23 points in the first quarter. Eric Bledsoe and Devin Booker, who were a combined 5-for-22 shooting in the first three quarters, scored 12 of the last 16 Phoenix points in the final four minutes to cap off the win.
“Myself and Tyson (Chandler) and J.D. (Dudley) are the veterans and we need to do our jobs and fill our roles,” Tucker said. “We need the young guys to be aggressive; and, once they are attacking, it makes everyone else’s job easier.”
Barbosa had missed 11 shots in a row and was scoreless over the previous 11 quarters before his layup with 9:48 left to play gave the Suns a 81-79 lead. He added three more baskets during an 11-0 run that turned a one-point deficit into a 94-84 lead, and Phoenix never trailed again.
“I called him into the coach’s huddle and said, ‘L.B., I need you to lead this young group in the fourth quarter,'” Phoenix coach Earl Watson said. “He looked at me and he said, ‘I got you,’ and the rest is history. He is a weapon that you can’t create, you can’t teach. His quickness to the rim and to get the elbow jumper whenever he wants it -- he played amazing.”
Dennis Schroder tallied 21 of his career-high 31 points in the second half and added nine assists for the Hawks (10-9) who have lost seven of the last eight after a 9-2 start.
Kent Bazemore recorded 22 points and Tim Hardaway Jr. had 21 for Atlanta, who played without leading scorer Paul Millsap (hip). Atlanta committed 15 of their 20 turnovers in the first half.
“My rookie year, I got my car popcorned -- when the car was clean, the smell was still there. That’s kind of what this feels like,” Bazemore said at the end of a 1-4 road trip. “We’re playing the right way, trying to do the right thing, but we can’t get it to go our way. It’s been a funky road trip from the beginning. ... It’ll be good to get back home, sleep in your own bed and get back at it.”
Dwight Howard finished with 17 points, a game-high 14 rebounds and six turnovers.
“Turnovers sometimes have been a little bit of a problem ... but we didn’t have enough to get it done tonight,” Atlanta coach Mike Budenholzer said. “Barbosa had a little stretch there that really hurt us, but I thought our defense on Bledsoe and Booker was pretty good.”
Atlanta got within a point twice down the stretch, the last time on two Bazemore free throws with 2:14 left. But Chandler had a tip-in and Booker hit a step-back 21-footer to make it 102-97 with 1:25 to go.
The Hawks fell behind 9-2 to open the game before answering with a 16-4 run -- Schroder’s jumper giving Atlanta an 18-13 lead with 6:22 left.
But the Phoenix bench flipped the game back in Arizona’s favor. Knight scored 14 points in the final five minutes of the quarter and the Suns outscored Atlanta 20-7 over that span to lead 36-27.
Atlanta committed 15 turnovers in the first half, and the Suns pushed the lead to as many as 14 in the second quarter, when a three-point play by Tucker made it 47-33. But the Hawks outscored Phoenix 15-3 the rest of the way, and a 3-pointer by Hardaway Jr. with 31.8 second left cut the lead to 50-48 at the break.
The Suns took that same two-point lead to the fourth quarter before Barbosa provided some daylight.
NOTES: Millsap has been dealing with muscle soreness since taking a fall against the Utah Jazz on Nov. 25. ... Suns F T.J. Warren missed his fifth straight game with a minor head injury. His return date remains indefinite. ... Dudley returned after missing one game with left foot soreness. ... Booker has 10 30-point games in the first 93 games of his career. The only players with 10 30-point games in fewer games are Blake Griffin (53) and Kyrie Irving (85). ... Atlanta entered the game with the NBA’s best defense per possession, with a rating of 97.5 per 100 possessions. They are ninth in overall defense, allowing 99.4 points per game. ... The Suns have won 45 of 62 games in Phoenix against the Hawks (72.5 percent). ... Bledsoe came into the game averaging 26 points, seven rebounds and 6.6 assists. The last Sun to average at least 19 points, five rebounds and five assists was Charles Barkley during his NBA MVP season of 1992-93.