Phoenix was determined to leave its fans with a win in its final home game of what has been a very disappointing season.
Josh Jackson and Jamal Crawford combined for 63 points in leading the Suns to a 133-126 overtime win Friday night over New Orleans before a crowd of 16,410 at Talking Stick Resort Arena.
“Just whatever it took,” Crawford said. “With it being a trying season, fans need something to hold onto. What better way than in our last home game? You saw the energy after the game, everybody’s still there and it felt good. It was a good win. Whatever it took.”
Phoenix (19-61) will still close out this season with its second-worst record in franchise history even if it wins Sunday at Houston and Tuesday at Dallas, but wasn’t trying to end its home schedule with a loss.
“It was a must-win for us, especially for the last home game,” Suns forward Dragan Bender said. “We wanted to win this game for the fans and give them a little hope.”
Jackson fell one point shy of tying his career high with 35 points while Crawford went for a season-high 28 as Phoenix won without leading scorer Devin Booker, who has been shut down for the rest of season after rolling his left ankle in Wednesday’s loss to Utah.
“We all knew what we needed to do,” Jackson said. “Felt like we had a really good talk before the game on things we needed to do to gets us the win. Rebounding was one. Communication and just playing a full 48 minutes. We knew it was going to be times where they threw a punch and the thing was going to be how we respond to that. I’m really proud of us.”
Phoenix overcame a 15-point, second-half deficit and had a chance to win the game in regulation, but Crawford missed a tough three at the buzzer.
The Suns proceeded to outscore New Orleans, 16-9, in overtime as Jackson accounted for half of Phoenix’s points on 3-of-4 shooting. He went 2-for-2 from 3 with his second one giving Phoenix a 129-121 lead with 1:23 remaining.
“I’ve always heard some of the best shooter say just keep shooting like you’ve been making them all,” said Jackson, who shot 5-of-8 from three for the game. “You can’t worry about any misses just because it’s going to affect your next shot.”
Julius Randle scored a team-high 31 points for New Orleans (32-48) while Ian Clark added 24 with 16 coming in the first quarter.
“Too many mistakes, not playing hard enough so that led to them making a comeback,” said Randle as New Orleans gave up 17 points off its 15 turnovers.
Winning its last two games against New Orleans, both in overtime, to split the season series, 2-2, Phoenix committed a season-low seven turnovers, had 12 steals and tied a season-high for blocks with 11 Friday night.
The 7-footer Bender greatly fueled that final stat with a career-high seven blocks.
“He’s very humble about trying to figure out and realize, he doesn’t know how much 7-1 is 7-1,” said Kokoskov about said Bender, who had a double-double of 11 points and 10 rebounds to go along with a season-high six assists.
“In Europe or here, it’s the same. So he’s got to use that. Trust his size. Trust his presence, lean into chest. Use his length.”
The Suns also got a career-high performance from Ray Spalding. Making his first career start, the rookie forward posted 21 points and 13 rebounds in 29 minutes.
“Just doing what the team needed me to do,” Spalding said. “Just contribute in a role and I did the best I could in whatever minutes I was given.
Spalding’s previous career highs were eight points in that wacky overtime win in New Orleans and five rebounds at Sacramento.
“Before the game, I told him to go out and play his game,” Jackson said. “We’re all NBA players. I don’t think if you couldn’t play in this league you would be here. Just come out and play your game. He wasn’t nervous at all.”