The Phoenix Suns just couldn't grab their defensive rebounds, and that's a death knell for this team. The Wizards cleaned up the glass then made big shots to win at the end.
The big question of the night was whether the Suns could follow up a dominant performance against the league's elite with a strong effort against a middle-of-the-road team.
"It's easier to say," coach Hornacek said before the game, "than it is to actually do that."
The Suns came out scoring well, but didn't bring their big-boy pants for defense by giving up 30 in the first quarter (a 120-point rate) to a normally plodding team (18th in pace) that scores only 98.8 points per game.
Scoring slowed down but so did the Suns heart rate, to the point where they gave up the ball way too many times (18 by the end of the third) and gave up too many offensive boards (15 to the Wiz by early 4th vs. on 19 of their own defensive boards).
Somehow though, the Suns found themselves within inches (a Dragic fast break miss) of tying the game with 6 minutes left.
And then within a couple feet of taking a lead (Tucker fouled on FB, but missed free throws).
And then the Wizards hit big shots.
The game started off as a contest of the centers. Washington ran a lot of offense through Marcin Gortat while the Suns seemed to want to find Miles Plumlee. On the defensive end, both centers were tested early on drives.
In the first six minutes, Gortat had 2 points, 1 rebound, 2 blocks and a turnover. Plumlee had 4 points, 1 rebound and a block. But they touched the ball on nearly every possession.
Channing Frye and Nene had a contrast of styles, with Frye hitting four 3s in the opening minutes off pick and pops while Nene had several scores in the paint. Nene had no interest coming out on Frye to the three-point line.
The game started to become a seesaw battle of threes, with Washington making their first three 3s while the Suns made 5 of 8 overall.
The Wizards stayed hot from the perimeter all quarter, leading 30-29 at the end of one. Game seems familiar... when have I seen this before... Suns giving up lots of points at home... oh yeah, the LAST time the Suns wore those orange shirzees (gave up 110 to Dallas in a loss a week ago).
Suns down 29-30 after one
Markieff Morris started out hot, getting the Suns first 7 points of the second Q, but then he had a couple of bad possessions trying to post up from too far out.
Nene enjoyed himself more in the second quarter, as Markieff was much more willing to post up than Frye. Still, the Suns took a lead on overall better play than the Wizards ragtag second unit. If you want to know why the Wizards are just 20-21, look no further than this Wiz second unit (even with a couple starters in there).
When the Wizards starters came back in though, they went on a run to take the lead back. The Suns couldn't keep a handle on the ball while the Wiz got all the shots they wanted in a nice run (including 6 straight points by Gortat) to take a 48-47 lead with 2:46 left.
The Wizards were able to stay close with the Suns in this half with very active transition D along with good offensive rebounding. But the transition D failed the Wiz in the final seconds of the half as the Suns scored on three consecutive fast breaks to take a 6 point lead into halftime.
Suns lead 57-51 at half despite shooting 59% vs. the Wizards 48%. Suns will have to buckle down on D to win this game.
The Suns started out the second half as if the game had already ended. Lazy cross-court passes and poor defense led to the Wizards taking a lead by mid-quarter, opening on a 17-6 run.
The Wizards took the Suns out of their easy offense by switching a small forward, like Ariza, onto Frye to protect Nene and Gortat in the pick-and-pop. The Suns didn't make them pay though by getting the ball to a faster guy on the wing against a center. Green and Tucker just weren't providing the necessary juice.
Trevor Ariza was really making his presence felt in the second half deflecting and denying passes to disrupt the Suns passing game. John Wall was doing the same with his length, while Nene and Gortat manned the paint.
Again I say, this game reminds me of last Friday in these orange shirseys. How many more Friday home games this season? Sheesh.
After only committing 11.5 turnovers per game this month, the Suns had 11 at halftime and 7 more in the third quarter alone. Holy Schnykees!
The third quarter couldn't end fast enough, yet there was a Suns foul just before the buzzer to give Gortat two more free throws before the clock turned zero.
Suns down 76-82 after a 31-19 Wizards quarter. The Wiz' Trevor Ariza has 21 points, 4 rebounds, 2 assists and 4 steals. After three.
The fourth started okay, with a Markieff Morris three point play. But that was it, really.
The Suns just could not pull down rebounds. At the nine minute mark, the Suns had only pulled down 19 of 34 available defensive boards. They had 19, while the Wizards grabbed 15 of their own misses. That's barely more than half, folks. League average is 75%.
No wonder it was an 8 point Wizards lead with 9 minutes left. If the Suns could just stop turning the ball over and start getting defensive boards - ie. wake up - maybe this could be a game.
Sure enough, the Wizards let off the gas a bit and the Suns went on a 6-0 run to pull within 2 while Wall and Ariza rested.
The Suns almost tied the game on a Dragic one-man fast break, but he missed a contested layup and no other Suns ran down the court to clean the glass. Nene put the lead back at 4 on the next possession.
Later, the Suns had a chance to take the lead on an open three by Green, but he missed. The Wizards got two more offensive rebounds on the next possession, drew a foul and pulled back to a 4-point lead.
Then the Suns tied it and had a chance to take the lead on fast break, but Tucker (who got the steal) didn't pass to an open Dragic, instead drawing the foul. He missed the free throws, of course. That's karma calling you out for not passing to an open guy. Beal made a three on the other end.
Dragic got the Suns to two on a pretty between-the-legs pass to Plumlee, but then Beal hit a short jumper on the other end. Four points again.