Thursday, March 27, 2014
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Suns Hold Off Wizards For Fifth Straight Win

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[March 27, 2014]  WASHINGTON  Anybody expecting the Phoenix Suns to wilt under the glare of a playoff race might want to stop those thoughts.

Guard Goran Dragic scored 25 points and backcourt partner Eric Bledsoe had 23 as the Suns defeated the Washington Wizards 99-93 on Wednesday night for their fifth straight victory.

Swingman Gerald Green had 18 points for the Suns (43-29), who made 14 of 28 3-point attempts. Phoenix won for the sixth time in seven games at Washington and concluded a three-game road sweep despite nearly blowing a 25-point lead.

The victory moved Phoenix into a tie with the Dallas Mavericks for the eighth and final playoff spot in the Western Conference. Both teams are percentage points behind the Memphis Grizzlies, who played at the Utah Jazz on Wednesday night.

"You know, we don't care what other people think," said Dragic, who made 11 of 17 shots including three 3-pointers. "Before the season they were saying we're going to win 15 games."

Bledsoe also hit three from beyond the arc with his final one coming moments after his former University of Kentucky teammate, guard John Wall, made a layup to pull the Wizards within 93-90 with 1:30 remaining.

The Suns have won 13 games just since the mid-February All-Star break.

"I think we have a good team, great chemistry, everybody is liking each other and you can see that on the floor," Dragic said. "We've still got 10 games so we still have some tough ones to play, but why not. I think we have a good team to make the playoffs."

The Wizards have similar thoughts about their team, though recent results suggest otherwise.

Wall scored 29 points and center Marcin Gortat, traded by Phoenix to Washington before the season opened, had 17 for the Wizards (36-35). The Wizards returned home after 1-3 road swing.

"Embarrassing, I'll put it this way," Gortat said. "Nobody expected we're going to play like that. We just didn't perform."

Washington remains in sixth place in the Eastern Conference. The loss, combined with Charlotte's 116-11 overtime victory over the Brooklyn Nets on Wednesday, dropped the Wizards' lead to 1 1/2 games over the Bobcats.

The long-range attack started in the first half as the Suns sank 8 of 14 attempts from beyond the arc for a 54-44 lead, closing the second quarter on a 12-3 run. The halftime break didn't slow momentum as the Suns opened the third quarter by outscoring Washington 21-6 for a 75-50 advantage with 5:27 remaining.

"Just not playing defense. That's the key with us," Wall said of the Wizards' recent slide. "If you're not playing defense, you can't win."

Washington countered with a 17-2 run, entered the fourth down 10 points and trailed 83-79 with 8:16 remaining following Wall's three-point play. After Phoenix pushed the lead back to 12 points, Wall tallied eight straight for Washington before the crowd of 18,805.

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Green made 3 of 4 free throws following Bledsoe's 3-pointers. Phoenix hit 11 of 12 free throws while Washington finished 13 of 21.

Throughout the frantic final quarter, the youthful Suns avoided showing any nerves. They also snapped a three-game losing streak to Washington and split the season series.

"Everybody dialed in the last couple minutes and came up with some stops and got some good rebounds, played great defense  and we just made crazy shots," Bledsoe said.

Issues for Washington during its winning but choppy season have cropped again during its recent skid.

Earlier this season, veteran forward Al Harrington said the Wizards showed some mental weakness at times. Asked if he concurred, Gortat said, "Yeah, I'll stay behind his words. Sometimes we show that mentally we are weak and just not competing. That's it."

Wizards guard Bradley Beal suffered a right hip pointer late in the second quarter after landing on the court while diving for the ball. The No. 3 overall pick in the 2012 draft went to the locker room and did not start the second half. He returned midway through the third quarter and finished with eight points.

Shortly before Beal exited, the Suns started to pull away. Green scored 12 in the second quarter.

NOTES: G Eric Bledsoe had seven assists along with seven of Phoenix's 19 turnovers. ... Washington won the first meeting 101-95 at Phoenix on Jan. 24. ... Suns rookie C Alex Len played his first game as a professional in Washington, just a few miles from where he starred at the University of Maryland. ... Over his previous 10 games, Wizards G John Wall averaged 9.2 assists, but an NBA-worst 4.9 turnovers. ... Phoenix returns home to face the New York Knicks on Friday. Only four of the Suns' final 10 are at home. ... Washington hosts the Eastern Conference-leading Indiana Pacers on Friday.

[ 2014 Thomson Reuters. All rights reserved.]

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