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Suns top Bobcats to halt four-game skid

The SportsXchange

CHARLOTTE, N.C. -- It wasn't a thing of beauty at the end, but the Phoenix Suns still accomplished their goal on Friday night.

The Suns snapped a four-game losing streak and got a three-game Eastern trip off on the right foot by beating the Charlotte Bobcats 98-91.

They dominated the first three-and-a-half quarters and built a 21-point lead midway through the fourth but then got sloppy and watched the Bobcats get as close as five points in the final minute.

To forward Channing Frye, who led the suns with 20 points, it was frustrating to watch the sloppiness late but still satisfying to come out with a victory. The Suns are now 6-6.

"I'll take a win, but that was pretty sketchy at the end," Frye said. "We're young and we're still trying to figure out. But winning is winning and I'll take that any day of the week. They're a tough team, they play extremely hard, and I thought this was one of our more consistent games until the last three minutes."

The Suns led 84-63 with 8:04 remaining and were still up 92-75 with less than four minutes remaining but were outscored 16-6 from there.

They wound up committing 21 turnovers, which the Bobcats converted into 28 points.

"We've only played like 12 games and there's like nine new dudes and I think only two of us have ever really had extended minutes," Frye said. "I said before we ever went on the court that we're going to do some dumb things because we're still learning. So we'll just have to look at the film and continue to grow.

"But everyone plays hard, man. It may not look good all the time. It may not be pretty. But we're playing hard."

The Suns also got 17 points from forward P.J. Tucker, who was 6 of 6 from the field with three 3-pointeres. Guards Gerald Green and Goran Dragic scored 14 each, forward Markieff Morris scored 11 and center Miles Plumlee had 11 rebounds.

They played without guard Eric Bledsoe, their leading scorer, who missed his third straight game because of a left shin contusion.

"I think for 44 minutes we played really well," Suns coach Jeff Hornacek said. "Guys were helping each other out and we were moving the ball. We just have to keep emphasizing to get the ball to the first open guy. If we do that, someone is going to get an open shot."

The Bobcats, who were coming off a 95-91 win over Brooklyn on Wednesday, were out of sync the entire night and got booed for the first time all season at Time Warner Cable Arena. They finished shooting 41.6 percent from the field after being in the 30s most of the game, and they committed 18 turnovers.

Center Al Jefferson, who has missed nine games already this season because of a bone bruise in his right ankle, returned to the lineup for the first time in five games and the Bobcats clearly had trouble blending him back into the mix. He finished with nine points and six rebounds in 24 minutes.

"It was like we were a step slow all night and made a lot of mental mistakes and turned the ball over too much," Jefferson said. "I don't know, we just didn't have it tonight. But that's the good thing about this league, you don't have no time to feel sorry for ourselves. So we just have to get ready for tomorrow night."

Coach Steve Clifford pointed to the turnovers as the biggest culprit. The Bobcats had 11 of their 18 turnovers in the first half.

"We're not going to win games if we have 18 turnovers," Clifford said. "They had 14 fast-break points and I think six or eight of them were directly off of our turnovers. If we have low turnovers, we're going to be able to have a chance to win the game. If we turn the ball over a lot, we're not going to be able to make up the difference."

The Bobcats fell to 6-7.

NOTES: Suns coach Jeff Hornacek was one of three finalists for the Bobcats' coaching job last summer but wound up taking the Suns' job the day after interviewing in Charlotte. The Bobcats hired Steve Clifford shortly thereafter. ... The Bobcats started last season 7-5 and then promptly went on an 18-game losing streak. ... The Suns came into the game leading the NBA in fast-break points per game at 23.3 and had 14 on Friday night. ... The Bobcats came into the game ranked fourth in the NBA in scoring defense at 92.7 ppg after giving up 102.7 ppg and ranking 29th in the league last season. The Bobcats also ranked third in the league in steals. ... Suns C Emeka Okafor (herniated disc) and Bobcats C Brendan Haywood (stress fracture left foot) are both out indefinitely. ... The Bobcats will play at Milwaukee on Saturday night and then will return home for a three-game homestand against Boston, Indiana and Milwaukee next week. ... The Suns were opening a three-game road trip. They will continue on with games at Orlando on Sunday and at Miami on Monday.
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