The road-weary Washington Wizards started slowly, gained momentum, almost pulled even, but eventually faltered, as their fourth quarter comeback stalled and the Wizards fell to the Phoenix Suns 106-98 on Wednesday.
The Wizards (31-16) ended up splitting their West Coast swing, sandwiching wins against Denver and the Lakers with losses to Portland and the Suns.P.J. Tucker was the hero for the Suns, as the reserve scored 10 of his 12 points and grabbed seven of his 10 rebounds in the fourth quarter to stave off a furious rally — led by the Wizards’ reserves.
Goran Dragic led Phoenix with 20 points to lead five Suns in double figures. Otto Porter, Jr. and Marcin Gortat paced the Wizards with 14 points apiece.
Washington fell behind dramatically — and quickly — trailing 29-17 after one quarter and 54-39 at halftime, looking very much like a team that had spend much of the past week and a half on the road.
But the Wizards outscored Phoenix in the third quarter by three and you got the feeling if they could find a spark and go on a run, they might pull off a comeback despite entering the final frame down by 14.
That spark came from one of the least likely sources: Garrett Temple. Coach Randy Wittman inserted an all-backup lineup for much of the quarter, and Temple led the charge. He hit a jumper to start the quarter, assisted on a 3-pointer by Porter, and drove for a layup that made it 88-75 with 10:16 left.
Porter’s trey started a 14-3 run — ended by another Temple layup — that drew the Wizards back to within four points with 6:58 left.
Wittman pressed his luck, leaving the backups out there after they nearly pulled even, and it cost him. Phoenix scored the next eight points to push the lead back to 11 with 3: 42 left, and though the Wiz pushed back again, to draw within four again on Porter’s 3-pointer with 1:17 left, they couldn’t get over the hump.
Temple finished with six points just over seven minutes and was the only Wizards player in the positive on the plus-minus scale as plus-3. John Wall had 11 points on 5-of-16 shooting and seven assists. Bradley Beal was 5 of 15 for 13 points. Kris Humphries had 11 points and 15 rebounds.
The Wizards have a couple of much-needed days off before hosting Toronto at Verizon Center on Saturday.