Tucker's Defense Clinches Suns Win over Warriors
The vast majority of basketball players want the ball in their hands for a chance at a clutch shot.
P.J. Tucker wants nothing more than to guard that guy.
The Suns’ veteran forward got his chance in the final minute of Sunday night’s game, when a pick-and-roll switch left him on Warriors guard Stephen Curry with less than a minute remaining and Phoenix clinging to a two-point lead.
Curry tried a handful of his trademark dribble moves and shot fakes, only to see Tucker remain centered and grounded. After picking up his dribble, the Golden State shooter was forced into a contested jumper, which fell far off the mark.
A few trips to the free throw line later, the Suns secured a 106-102 win, their fifth in a row.
While Suns Head Coach Jeff Hornacek had already instructed his players to switch all screens on that particular play, Tucker admitted to wanting that particular matchup if the opportunity arose.
“I want the last-second defense, no question,” he said. “I called the switch on that so quick. I love those moments, for sure.”
“We knew that P.J. he loves those challenges,” Hornacek added. “He loves to take on the best guy. He knew that [Curry] was going to shoot and he made a great play of not falling for the fake. He had the size and the length on him. It was just a matter of not falling for his pump fakes. He just made a great play right there.”
Phoenix also benefitted from yet another stellar night from its budding backcourt. Eric Bledsoe and Goran Dragic (45 points, 12 assists, nine rebounds, seven steals) held serve against one of the more celebrated guard tandems in the league in Curry and Klay Thompson (49 points, 10 assists, seven rebounds, three steals).
"For this game, facing one of the best 1-2 punches in the game right now, it was a challenge," Bledsoe said. "We definitely feel good about ourselves."
Perhaps the most impressive was the Suns’ unwillingness to relinquish control after a back-and-forth first quarter that saw 11 lead changes. Phoenix led the entire way after that, but saw the Warriors cut a 13-point deficit to two and, later, come back back from an eight-point hole to tie the game.
Each time the Suns responded, led by Bledsoe (24 points, eight assits, eight rebounds), Dragic (21 points, 4-of-4 3FG) and Channing Frye (20 points, 5-7 3FG).
“We’ve been keeping our composure all season through the ups and the downs, the turnovers or missed plays or whatever we haven’t done,” Bledsoe said. “I thought we did a good job of moving on to the next play.”
Phoenix will test its five-game winning streak on Wednesday when they host the Spurs (19-4).