Hornets rally from 21 down to beat Suns
PHOENIX — Credit the Charlotte Hornets’ bench for the team’s biggest comeback victory of the season.
The reserves ignited a 20-2 run to start the fourth quarter and Charlotte rallied from a 21-point second-half deficit to beat the Phoenix Suns 115-110 on Sunday.
“They did an amazing job,” the Hornets’ Dwight Howard said. “MCW (Michael Carter-Williams), Treveon Graham, just that whole second unit, their defense was great, their offense was amazing and I think that’s what won us the game.”
Nicolas Batum scored 22 points to lead Charlotte while Howard and Kemba Walker had 18 apiece. But none of them scored in the fourth, when the Hornets roared back.
Charlotte’s reserves outscored their Phoenix counterparts 45-27.
“We got some obvious phenomenal bench points,” Hornets coach Steve Clifford said. “Phenomenal.”
Over a 13-minute stretch in their comeback, Charlotte outscored the Suns 48-18.
“I think we just bore down on defense,” Howard said. “The effort was a lot better.”
Rookie Josh Jackson scored a career-high 23 and T.J. Warren added 21 for the Suns, who led 78-57 with 7:53 left in the third quarter. Devin Booker and Dragan Bender added 18 apiece.
Booker, already playing with bruised ribs, left the game with a left hip pointer with 6:53 to play. Phoenix played without forward Marquese Chriss due to a team rules violation.
The Hornets, opening a four-game trip through the West, outscored the Suns 20-2 to start the fourth quarter. Booker was hurt fouling Cody Zeller on a layup, and that three-point play capped the outburst and gave Charlotte a 106-96 lead.
Bender’s driving dunk cut it to 112-107 with 1:31 left before Graham sealed the win with a 3-pointer with 34.8 seconds to play. Graham scored eight of his career-best 15 points in the fourth quarter. Jeremy Lamb also scored 15 for Charlotte.
A 15-6 second-quarter run helped Phoenix build a 59-48 halftime lead.
Phoenix made four consecutive 3s — two by Booker, one by Warren and one by Bender — to take that 78-57 lead. Charlotte whittled it to 94-86 entering the final quarter.
The Suns turned the ball over the first three times they had it in the fourth quarter.
“We can’t do that. We have to be better with the basketball, make better plays,” Phoenix interim coach Jay Triano said. “Seven turnovers in the fourth quarter when it’s clutch time, good teams are going to ramp up their defense and you have to be prepared for it.”
Charlotte made of 25 of 29 free throws, Phoenix 13-of-13.
“We just let the game get away from us, complaining about a lot of calls,” Booker said. “They were getting to the free throw line, we weren’t. I think we all shot the ball pretty well, but the biggest difference was they were the aggressors and getting those calls.”
Hornets: Walker broke the franchise career record for 3s with 930, surpassing the record of 929 held by Dell Curry. ... After scoring a franchise-record 49 points in a win over Indiana Friday night, Charlotte scored 48 in the first half on Sunday. ... Charlotte had a 26-6 advantage in second-chance points. ... Howard earned his 700th career double-double.
Suns: Jackson had his fourth straight game of at least 20 points. ... Booker made didn’t shoot a free throw, so his string of consecutive makes from the line remains at 60. It’s a franchise record for a single season. The Suns’ overall record for consecutive free throws made is 74, spread over the 2006-07 and 2007-08 seasons. ... Phoenix made 15 3s (in 29 attempts), two off their season best. ... Suns made seven field goals and committed seven turnovers in the fourth quarter.
Suns officials would not use the word “suspended” in describing why Chriss would miss Monday’s game. General manager Ryan McDonough called it “a cooling-off period.” The team did not explain what Chriss did but ESPN reported he had a verbal confrontation with the Suns’ strength coach. The second-year forward has started 40 games this season.
Hornets: at Denver Nuggets on Monday night.
Suns: at Los Angeles Lakers on Tuesday night.