Suns Get Big Win Over Thunder
Just days earlier, the Suns had vowed to "scratch and claw" through the final two weeks of the regular season in hopes of making a playoff push.
The game-clinching sequence against the Thunder on Sunday provided a picturesque example of what that entailed.
Phoenix was up 115-112 with less than minutes remaining. Kevin Durant, the league's leading scorer, started his drive toward the middle, starting from the right angle.
Sensing an opportunity, Eric Bledsoe darted in and stripped the ball away. He raced down the other end, but his layup was blocked by Russell Westbrook. Derek Fisher scooped it up for OKC, but P.J. Tucker pounced, stripping the ball away and guarding it voraciously until a foul was called.
Possession saved, free throws forthcoming and game essentially clinched, Tucker exploded with emotion. His yells punctuated a night that saw the Suns overcome the 55-19 Thunder to keep their playoff hopes alive.
"I have no idea what happened," Tucker said when asked about the in-game celebration. "That's just raw emotion."
The Suns used that and a vintage offensive performance -- 122 points on 58.4 percent shooting -- for their second win in a row over a Western Conference playoff team, all for the chance of joining them in the postseason.
"Our guys kept fighting," said Suns Head Coach Jeff Hornacek. "They kept fighting and putting the pressure on them. We tried to get a little more aggressive in the fourth quarter...credit goes to our guys for finally getting some stops at the end of the game that allowed us to win."
The victory, combined with Memphis' loss to San Antonio earlier the same day, puts Phoenix in eighth place. They are one game ahead of the Grizzlies and a half-game behind Dallas for seventh place.
Kevin Durant had just made a pair of free throws to put the Thunder up 112-111 with 2:39 left when Hornacek inserted Markieff Morris for Miles Plumlee.
The move paid off. Phoenix went to Morris twice in the post, and he rewarded them with a driving layup and a pair of free throws to put the Suns up for good.
HIGHLIGHT OF THE NIGHT
PLAYER OF THE GAME
In the span of one game, P.J. Tucker held Kevin Durant to 13-of-28 shooting (including just 4-of-15 from three) and still had enough energy to score a career-high 22 points on the other end of the floor.
The Suns' "emotional leader" (so dubbed by Hornacek after the game) added seven rebounds, three assists, two steals and two blocks.
PHOTO OF THE NIGHT
QUOTE OF THE NIGHT
"Sometimes you have to play on your instincts." -- Suns Head Coach Jeff Hornacek
TWEET OF THE NIGHT
STAT(S) OF THE NIGHT
24: the number of points to which Phoenix limited Oklahoma City in the fourth quarter after giving up 38 in the third.