WASHINGTON — There’s a renewed belief around the Phoenix Suns. It’s no wonder why, the way T.J. Warren is playing.
Warren scored 28 of his career-high 40 points in the second half to continue a strong road trip, and the Suns overcame a 22-point deficit to beat the Washington Wizards 122-116 on Wednesday night.
“He just seems to be thriving with the attention that everyone pays to everyone else,” Suns interim coach Jay Triano said. “He has the ability to score and break guys down one on one, so we try to give him as much space as we can.”
Warren finished 16 of 22 (72.7 percent) from the floor also had 10 rebounds. A night earlier, he scored all 20 of his points in the second half of a 122-114 win at Brooklyn. Eight games into the season, he has posted two of the top four scoring games in his four-year career.
Devin Booker added 22 points to help the Suns improve to 4-1 under Triano, following an 0-3 start that led to Earl Watson’s firing.
“With everything that was going on we just had to look ourselves in the mirror and just realize that this is on us,” Warren said about the early upheaval.
The Suns tied a season best with 37 points in the second quarter, then followed that with 35 each in the third and fourth against a Wizards team that couldn’t regain their first-half intensity.
Bradley Beal scored a season-high 40 points for Washington. John Wall added 21 points, and Marcin Gortat had 13 rebounds for Washington, which was without starters Otto Porter (illness) and Markieff Morris (suspension).
The Wizards have given back double-digit leads in all three of their home games this season, though they won the first two. They also gave away an 18-point, third-quarter lead in of last Friday’s loss at Golden State.
“For us to sit here and act like we’re somebody, we’re not,” said Beal. “We haven’t proven nothing, we haven’t done nothing. So we’ve got to stay aggressive at all times. We’ve got to realize that we’re a targeted team.”
The Suns closed their deficit to 12 by the end of the second quarter, cut it to five early in the third, surged ahead during a 21-10 run that stretched into the fourth, and then rode Warren in the final stages.
Warren gave the Suns the lead for good, 109-108, when he absorbed Beal’s foul and converted a three-point play. He followed with baseline 3 made to make it a four-point game and a jumper to make it 116-110 with 1:29 left.
“It was me just cutting the basket and getting open layups.” said Warren. “Just me being T.J.”
COULD’VE FOOLED US
Triano suggested it’s been a steep curve to re-learn the NBA head coaching role. He also took the helm of the Toronto Raptors from 2008-2011.
“It’s a little hectic, a little bit different,” Triano said before the game. “I like basketball. I don’t like doing this (interviewing) stuff, the meetings with GMs, and agents and players. I love the Xs and Os.”
ACTIVE, BUT NOT
The Wizards activated Morris (sports hernia) for the first time this season in order to serve a one-game suspension for leaving the bench during a scuffle Friday night. He is expected to make his season debut against Cleveland on Friday night.
Suns: C Alex Len received a flagrant 1 for his foul on Jason Smith during the second quarter. He fouled out with 2:58 to play. ... Despite playing on the road, Phoenix led 38-30 in free throw opportunities.
Wizards: With Porter out, F Jason Smith made his second start for Washington. ... Wall received his first technical foul of the season for his reaction following a made layup in the second quarter. He was tied for second in the NBA last season with 15.
Suns: Return to New York to face the Knicks on Friday night. They won at Brooklyn on Monday night.
Wizards: Host defending Eastern Conference champion Cleveland on Friday night.