The Phoenix Suns defeated the Charlotte Hornets 133-119 on Friday night, powered by Devin Booker’s 35 points. It marked the return of Bradley Beal from injury for the Suns, while the Hornets dropped their 10th straight game.
Booker and Nurkic carry Suns offense
In his first game back after missing over a month with a hamstring injury, Bradley Beal eased back into action with 6 points and 7 assists in 26 minutes (1). The Suns didn’t need him to shoulder the scoring load, as center Jusuf Nurkic poured in 24 points on 12-14 shooting and Devin Booker went off for 35 points on 13-21 from the field (2).
The Suns moved the ball well all night, racking up 34 assists as a team. Point guard Chris Paul dished out 15 assists to facilitate the offense. Phoenix’s big three of Booker, Beal and Paul all started together for just the fifth time this season, and their combined playmaking helped the Suns shoot 56.8% from the field (3).
“It felt good to be back out there with my guys,” Beal said after the game. “I was just trying to get my legs back under me and not force anything. I knew Book and Nurk would have big nights.”
Hornets continue slide amid injuries
The Hornets have now lost 10 consecutive games, tied for the longest skid in the league this season. They are missing LaMelo Ball (ankle), Gordon Hayward (hamstring) and Cody Martin (knee), leaving their rotation extremely shorthanded (4).
Terry Rozier led Charlotte with 25 points, although it took him 23 shot attempts to get there. Second-year forward JT Thor provided a nice boost off the bench with 16 points on 5-8 shooting. No other Hornet scored more than 13 points, as this injury-ravaged team simply lacks enough offensive firepower right now.
Charlotte actually led 31-28 after the first quarter, but they just could not keep up once the Suns starters re-entered the game. Phoenix used a 41-point second quarter to take control and never looked back from there. The Hornets allowed the Suns to shoot nearly 60% from the field in that decisive second period.
“We just don’t have enough bodies right now,” said Hornets head coach Steve Clifford. “Our guys played hard but we wore down because of our lack of depth.”
The Suns (16-15) finish off a back-to-back set by hosting the Toronto Raptors on Saturday. They will be looking to win consecutive games for the first time since mid-November when they had a five-game winning streak. After shaking off some early season rust, this talented Phoenix team seems to be gelling at the right time.
|vs. Toronto Raptors on 12/30
|at Brooklyn Nets on 12/31
Meanwhile, the reeling Hornets (7-23) won’t play again until Sunday when they visit Kevin Durant and the Brooklyn Nets. Charlotte desperately needs to get healthy if they want to turn things around and make a push for the play-in tournament in the East. They currently sit four games back of the final play-in spot.
“We know things look bleak right now, but once we get some guys back I think you’ll see a different team,” said Rozier. “We just need to stick together.”
This was the first of two meetings between the Suns and Hornets this season. They will play again on March 3rd in Charlotte. If the Hornets stars return for that next matchup, they could pose more of a threat. But on this night, Booker and the Suns had too much firepower en route to the double-digit win.
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