Suns 115, Bobcats 106, OT
PHOENIX (AP)—The Phoenix Suns keep winning. That’s about the best you can say for their uninspired effort lately.
The worst came Wednesday night, when they escaped with a 115-106 overtime victory over a Charlotte team at the end of a winless six-game road trip.
The Suns needed a career-high 32 points from Leandro Barbosa and 19 3-pointers—one shy of their franchise best—to send the Bobcats to their seventh loss in a row.
Phoenix is 8-1 since the All-Star break, but the record has been far more impressive than the Suns’ level of play.
“I’m getting kind of tired of coming up here and making excuses,” coach Mike D’Antoni said. “We’re not focused. We’re not playing hard enough.”
Steve Nash wondered about the Suns’ commitment to be a title contender.
“How long does it take to learn a lesson?” he said. “We’ve got to learn a lesson and be more committed to our goals, and take more pride in that.”
Barbosa saved the day.
The “Brazilian Blur” made a career-best seven 3-pointers in 11 attempts. He made two in the overtime, the first putting the Suns ahead for good 103-100 with 3:38 left. The second one put the game out of reach at 113-104 with 1:04 to play.
“I’m doing great on my shot right now,” he said. “I always try to do my best. I’ve been working a lot for that to happen, so it’s good.”
The Suns played the last 25 minutes without Amare Stoudemire, who was ejected after drawing his second technical foul with 8:10 left in the third quarter. Stoudemire has 14 technicals this season. Two more and he will be suspended for a game.
Stoudemire left without talking to reporters.
“He’s playing with fire now,” Nash said. “The first suspension is livable because it’s one game. After that it gets bigger every time, and we can’t afford that. Hopefully he doesn’t get any the rest of the year.”
Without Emeka Okafor for the sixth game, Charlotte made it extremely tough on the ragged home team.
“I’ve been on great basketball teams and good basketball teams,” Bobcats coach Bernie Bickerstaff said, “and on this last game, a lot of guys would mail in that game to get home, so I’m really proud of those young men. I really am.”
Ex-Sun Jake Voskuhl had 13 points and 13 rebounds for Charlotte.
“The last place you want to play in the last game on a trip is Phoenix,” Voskuhl said, “especially when you’ve lost five in a row. We came out and we competed tonight. We didn’t win but we competed. We played hard.”
Nash had 24 points and 11 assists for the Suns, but missed a driving layup with six seconds left in regulation. Shawn Marion matched his career best with six blocked shots, along with 16 points and 11 rebounds.
Raja Bell scored 18, going 5-of-11 of 3s. Phoenix finished 19-for-38 from 3-point range.
Charlotte played zone defense against the best long-range shooting team in the league.
“It’s personnel,” Bickerstaff explained. “Some things we do out of necessity. A drowning man will grab a razor blade.”
Using an ultra-small lineup that had Marion as their biggest player on the court, the Suns dominated the overtime, going 6-of-8, including 3-of-4 on 3-pointers.
Before that, it was dangerously close to the ugliest loss of the season for a Phoenix team that has the second-best record in the NBA at 47-14.
The Suns led by as many as 16 in the first half but went more than eight minutes without a field goal in the fourth quarter.
With the score tied at 98, Nash missed a driving layup with six seconds left in regulation, then Raymond Felton was called for an offensive foul with 0.4 left. Boris Diaw, back after missing nine games with back spasms, threw an inbounds lob to Marion, whose tip at the buzzer bounced off the rim, sending the game to overtime.
Stoudemire’s ejection came at the start of a 10-2 run that gave the Bobcats a 69-62 lead on Wallace’s breakaway dunk after Nash’s turnover with 6:44 left in the first quarter.
Referee Jack Nies called the first technical on Stoudemire just after the halftime buzzer. Bob Delaney whistled him for his second, for tossing the ball at Charlotte’s Matt Carroll, with 8:10 to play in the third.
Consecutive 3s by Bell and Nash triggered a 10-2 Suns’ run that put Phoenix back on top 72-71. Barbosa’s 3-pointer capped the rally, and it was tied at 79 ^Notes: The Suns are a franchise-record 25-4 against the Eastern Conference with one game left, March 16 against Detroit. … Phoenix’s 114-84 victory in Charlotte on Dec. 10 was the team’s most one-sided win of the season. … The Suns’ previous five victories over the Bobcats were by an average of 15.8 points.