Dominant defense helps Suns ease past Wizards

Phoenix improved to 42-10 with the Saturday night victory


Michael Tipton

Devin Booker was the big story on Thursday against Denver, scoring 43 points.

The Phoenix Suns bounced back from a loss to the Atlanta Hawks with a convincing road win in D.C.

Phoenix won its 42nd game of the season on Saturday, beating the Washington Wizards 95-80 on the strength of an improved defensive performance.

The Suns got off to a hot start and led by 12 after the first quarter, punctuated by an alley-oop from point guard Chris Paul to center Deandre Ayton. The visitors turned up the heat defensively in the second quarter. The Wizards scored only 11 points in the quarter, and at one point Phoenix enjoyed a 15-0 run on the way to a 27-point halftime advantage.

“We were locked in, especially in the second quarter, when we really started closing in our defense,” Ayton said after the game.

The Wizards’ Kyle Kuzma attempted to spark the home team to life in the second half, but the Suns’ team defense remained strong and smothered any serious comeback attempt. Paul and the Suns widened the gap to 34 points going into the fourth quarter.

“We feel like whoever we’re playing on any given night, as long as we be who we are and do what we’re supposed to…I think we have that kind of confidence and have built that over the season,” Paul said in quotes carried by the Associated Press.

Coach Monty Williams subbed out Paul and shooting guard Devin Booker to allow them some rest with the result well in hand. Though center Montrezl Harrell and the Wizards showed some life in the fourth quarter, outscoring Phoenix 29-10, the Suns won comfortably to stay two-and-a-half games ahead of the surging Golden State Warriors in the Western Conference.

The Suns’ need for a defensive resurgence came after allowing 124 points in the defeat to Atlanta on Thursday. Despite shooting only 40 percent from the field, the Suns withstood a quiet 11-point night from Booker through holding Washington to 80 points on 35 percent shooting from the field.

“We were counting (our stops),” Ayton said. “It was fun out there.”