Oubre's Hustle, Energy and Flair Leads Suns to Victory Over Hornets

Kelly Oubre Jr.
by Cody Cunningham

After winning close in their previous game, the Phoenix Suns found themselves in another nail biter on Sunday as the team tipped-off against the Charlotte Hornets.

Kelly Oubre Jr. led the way for the Suns the entire night with his electrifying offense, scrappy defense and overall energy on the court. The man known as Tsunami Papi brought the waves as the Suns looked to wash away the Hornets.

The game was a back-and-forth defensive battle that featured both teams attacking the ball and forcing turnovers. The Suns showed their resilience early on, overcoming a 14-point deficit in the first half as they entered the fourth quarter all tied up at 71. 

The Hornets struck first in the fourth, but the Suns responded quickly with a 10-2 run to take an eight-point lead with under seven minutes to go. But the biggest play of the night came in the final minute.

Just as it had been on display all game, Oubre’s hustle and determination just about sealed the win. The Hornets had trimmed the Suns’ lead to just four and needed a big bucket to stay in the game. Unfortunately, the 7’1” wing span of Mikal Bridges wasn’t going to let that happen. 

Bridges stripped the ball from Dwayne Bacon as the ball rolled into the backcourt with bodies flying all along the floor. In a desperate move, Bacon attempted to push the ball to a teammate, but Oubre intervened, picked up the ball and threw down a rim-shaker as Talking Stick Resort Arena erupted. 

“I just try to come out and give my heart and soul on this court each and every game,” Oubre said. “These fans are phenomenal. I honestly I can’t thank them enough for the energy that they give me personally, so I think that is what it was. The energy that we had going our way throughout the game.” 

That followed up with a Bridges’ dunk on the next possession closed out the victory for the Suns 100-92.

“Two games in a row we hold an opponent under 100 points, (that’s) really hard to do in the NBA,” Head Coach Monty Williams said. “I thought the last play where we got the steal and Kelly (Oubre Jr.) got the dunk, that’s who we are right now. Sometimes the effort and will of our players trumps the scheme and those guys just made plays at the end and we just did enough to win the game and had a good homestand.”

The Suns held the Hornets to an opponent season low 92 points after holding the Magic to the previous low of 94 in Friday’s win. This is the first time the Suns have held consecutive opponents to 94 points or fewer since two games from Dec. 29-31, 2016. Over these last two games, the Suns are allowing an average of 93.0 points while holding their opponents to 39.4% from the field and 25.0% from three-point range while averaging 9.0 steals and 6.5 blocks.

On the flipside, the Suns shot 50% from the field and improved to 7-3 when doing so. Their 14-point comeback was the second largest deficit they have overcome this season after coming back down 19 against Portland on Dec. 10. 

Oubre led all players in points (25), rebounds (career-high-tying 15), blocks (2) and tied for steals (3). This was his eighth game this season with 25+ points and his seventh double-double on the year.

“Kelly’s a guy who can play 40 minutes and you look at him and he doesn’t look tired at all. He’s got his legs on his shot,” Williams said. “He brings an edge every night and that’s who we are. We have to play with that edge. I don’t run a ton of plays for him, and yet he ends up with 25 points because he just plays hard and he’s learning to play with the group.”

Oubre joined Andre Drummond, Giannis Antetokounmpo and Karl-Anthony Towns as the only players in the NBA this season to record a game of 25+ points, 15+ rebounds, 2+ steals and 2+ blocks. He also became the first Sun to record such a game since Deandre Ayton did so at Brooklyn last season. Prior to Ayton, no Suns player had recorded a 25/15/2/2 game since Shawn Marion in 2007.

Speaking of Ayton, the Big Fella dominated off the bench scoring 18 points on 9-of-15 shooting to go along with 9 rebounds and 2 steals. Ayton has at least 9 rebounds in all nine of his games this season, becoming the first Suns player to do so since Maurice Lucas in 1982. 

Devin Booker closed out the game strong, scoring 10 of his 12 points in the fourth, including a three-point make to pass Channing Frye for sole possession of 6th place on the Suns’ all-time three-pointers made leaderboard with 595. He and Rubio both dished-out a game-high 9 assists as Rubio also added 10 points.

The Suns closed-out their five game homestand with a 3-2 record as they travel to Atlanta to tip-off against the Hawks on Tuesday. Be sure to catch the action on Fox Sports Arizona.

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