CHARLOTTE, N.C. – Kelly Oubre Jr. refused to let Phoenix lose Monday night.

The Suns blew a 20-point halftime lead before Oubre’s heroics saved them in their 109-104 win before 11,221 fans at Spectrum Center.

Oubre scored 23 points, hitting back-to-back 3s to give Phoenix a one-point lead and then forced an inbound turnover by Charlotte.

Ricky Rubio was fouled and hit two free throws to put Phoenix up 107-104 as the Suns closed the game on an 12-0 run. 

Charlotte (8-14) outscored Phoenix 65-50 in the second half, but the Suns (9-10) ended a three-game losing streak thanks to Oubre’s late-game performance.

Down 104-99, Oubre hit back-to-back 3s, giving Phoenix a 105-104 lead with 19.6 seconds left.  

Phoenix was once again without Aron Baynes, who missed Monday’s game with a left calf strain. This is after missing five games with a right hip flexor strain before returning to action against Dallas.

He scored 17 points in Friday’s loss to the Mavericks, but sat Monday night with what Monty Williams described as just as much about soreness as being hurt.

So the Suns took precaution and didn’t play him. Phoenix went 1-4 in the five games Baynes missed with the hip injury, but escaped with a victory after leading 59-39 at the half on Monday.

Player of the game: Kelly Oubre Jr. 

Phoenix shot 9-of-42 from 3 with Oubre going 2-of-9, but those two makes proved to be the difference.

Then to force that turnover on the ensuing inbound play after Charlotte called a timeout following his second 3 with 19.8 seconds left?


Key moments

Fourth quarter: The Hornets battled their way back to taking their first lead in the fourth, 86-84, and increased that to five on Marvin Williams’ 3-point play.

The Suns responded with a 6-0 spurt to retake lead. Down two, Charlotte got back-to-back 3s from Williams and Terry Rozier to go up 96-92 with 4:50 left in game, forcing Monty Williams to call a timeout.

Then there was a huge call in which Marvin Williams released a 3 as the shot clock expired with Bridges contesting the shot. Bridges was called for a foul, but the play was reviewed to see if the foul came before the shot clock expired.

The ruling was Bridges fouled before the shot clock expired. Williams made all three free throws to put Charlotte a 99-92 lead with 3:33 left.

Down 104-97, Phoenix responded with a 12-0 run to end the game. 

Third quarter: Down 59-39 at the half, the Hornets reduced lead to seven as they had a 11-2 run in making the score, 68-61, with 4:20 left in the third quarter.

All four of their field goals in the run came inside the paint.

The two teams played even from there as Suns took a 80-73 lead into the fourth. Jerome finished the quarter with a bucket in the lane.

First half: Phoenix ended the first half on an 18-7 run in building a 20-point lead. Frank Kaminsky had four quick points on back-to-back buckets that led to Charlotte calling a timeout as the Hornets trailed, 55-37, with 2:28 left in the first half.

The Suns took their first double-digit lead on a 21-11 on the strength of a 12-2 run. Oubre scored half the points in the run all on drives to the rim.  

What did we learn about the Suns?

Before talking Oubre, let’s talk poise.

The Suns didn’t have it in their loss Friday to Dallas. Monty Williams said his team took a step back in that department.

A loss Monday night after having a 20-point lead would’ve been an even bigger step back, but the Suns found a way.

That’s a sign of resolve Phoenix needed after losing six of its last seven games.

Now back to Oubre.

The guy has no fear and Devin Booker’s trust.

Booker relayed a story about how Oubre missed a 3 late against Utah and how he texted him after the game that he trusted him every time with a shot like that.

A month later, Booker’s words came to life as he swung the ball to Oubre for that first 3. Then Rubio hit him with the second one.

Oubre is going to take some tough shots. He’s going to take some ill-advised ones, but he takes them regardless of the circumstances. Keep in mind Oubre has had a couple of games against the Los Angeles Lakers and Washington Wizards where he didn’t play well and sat most of the second half.

He had some low moments, but has the resolve to bounce back. He showed it once again Monday night in a game his team desperately needed him to deliver.

Devin Booker is out of rhythm right now from 3.

In his past six games, Booker has shot just 10-of-37 from 3. After going 3-of-10 from 3 Monday night, Booker, along with Tyler Johnson, went up Charlotte’s practice court and got up some shots.

Booker was once shooting 50% from 3. The even flow of the league doesn’t allow one to stay that hot from distance, but he’s clearly hit a cold spell.

So he took to the practice court right after the game to work on finding his rhythm. The Suns practice Tuesday afternoon in Charlotte before heading to Orlando for Wednesday’s game.

Speaking of Tyler Johnson, Williams didn’t play him as he went with rookie Ty Jerome for his first NBA game. He only scored four points and committed four fouls, but he had four assists, three steals and played solid.

Williams also played Jevon Carter, who hasn’t played nearly as much as he did to start the season. If Jerome shows improvement, wonder how Williams is going to use Tyler Johnson and Carter moving forward. 

And finally, Frank Kaminsky.

Boy, the fans were on him tonight. Only had 11,221 in the building, but they got loud when Kaminsky missed a shot or went to the line.

The noise level reached a higher level when he missed a dunk, but Kaminsky got the last laugh as he scored on the inside and had a huge offensive rebound of his own missed free throw that led to the first of Oubre’s back-to-back 3s in that final 12-0 run.

He had some bad moments. No question. He was also clearly dealing with emotions of facing his former team in its arena, but finished the game with 12 points, six rebounds, two blocks – and a win.

His smiles afterward were well-earned.  

Postgame quotes

“That’s what it was. We talked about poise and that’s what the showed tonight. (Assistant coach Willie Green) has been talking about it because he’s been in so many situations at Golden State. You’re never out if with a few minutes to go, whatever the case is, you got to play it out. Kelly steps up and hits two big 3s. The free-throw rebound (by Kaminsky) was huge. I think that was a five-point swing. Obviously as a coach, I’m not thrilled with what happened in third quarter. We scored 21 points. We just lost our way again. So for our guys, tonight is definitely a blueprint of what not to do in the third quarter, but I’m thrilled about how we started this trip off. Dealt with adversity. Played with poise down the stretch. I didn’t see any panic in our guys. For me, that’s a sign of growth.” – Suns coach Monty Williams.

“I was 0-for the whole game (from 3), but the confidence was there. Booker had confidence in me to swing it. I hit my first 3, which was a clutch one. And then defensively, it was just a defensive minded run we went on. It was all of us putting the right energy to start the game just to finis the game as well. It was amazing.” – Suns wing Kelly Oubre Jr.

“It feels great. I got a lot of emotions about this place. Some good. Some bad, but it’s nice to be able to see all the other guys that are still on the team. How well they treat me. How close we were and the relationships that I had with a lot of people here. It’s just really nice to come back and you got to talk your talk to win games and that’s what we did. I’m just really happy. We were going to leave here with a win.” – Suns forward Frank Kaminsky III.

Next game

Suns at Orlando Magic, Wednesday, 5 p.m., Amway Center. 

Have opinion about current state of the Suns? Reach Suns Insider Duane Rankin at [email protected] or contact him at 480-787-1240. Follow him on Twitter at @DuaneRankin.

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