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Suns eager to keep finding groove vs. Hornets

Jan 22, 2023; Phoenix, Arizona, USA; Phoenix Suns forward Torrey Craig (0) against the Memphis Grizzlies in the second half at Footprint Center. Mandatory Credit: Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports
Credit: Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports

There are several reasons for the Phoenix Suns to be stocked with newfound confidence.

But taking it slow in that category is advised.

“I don’t want to get happy on the farm about all that stuff,” coach Monty Williams said. “I think this group has to play together a bit more. It just takes time to get a team rhythm. Once we do, I think we can be pretty good.”

After losing 12 of 14 games, Phoenix is riding a three-game winning streak and will look to continue building momentum when the Charlotte Hornets come to town on Tuesday night.

The Suns’ victories have come by a combined 12 points, with the most recent win being a 112-110 decision against the Memphis Grizzlies on Sunday.

“It just goes to show you how hard it is to win in this league,” Williams said. “When you can win close games like that, I think it gives you confidence. When you can build that, especially with so many guys playing in different roles, I think it builds your team.”

Charlotte has won two games in a row twice this season, but a 120-102 loss at Utah on Monday kept the Hornets from their first three-game winning streak of the season.

The glaring issue for the Hornets was the discrepancy from beyond the arc. Utah hit 16 shots from 3-point range, while Charlotte attempted only 16 treys and made two. The Hornets ended up with the fewest made 3-pointers of any NBA team in a game this season.

“Sixteen is still a small number, but they built their defense on taking threes away,” Charlotte coach Steve Clifford said of the Jazz. “We had 66 points in the paint. I felt like we did a good job with the majority of it. We played a lackluster first half and we were lucky to be that close.”

The Suns hope to be getting in more of a groove with point guard Chris Paul back. In his first game in more than two weeks, Paul posted 22 points in 38 minutes Sunday against Memphis.

“I just played him way too many minutes,” Williams said. “But we needed somebody to orchestrate a little bit. Chris was Chris. He was a guy who can just manage certain situations.”

The Suns seemed to have cleared one hurdle with Paul back on the court.

“When you come back from any injury, you never know how it’s going to feel until you actually play five-on-five,” Paul said.

The Suns are trying to make the best of every situation as they wait for Devin Booker to return to action from a groin strain. Plus, they will once again be without center Deandre Ayton, who is out with a non-COVID illness.

The Hornets likely will be without guard LaMelo Ball (ankle and wrist injuries) and Cody Martin (knee soreness) in Phoenix as they both sat out Monday night.

Guard James Bouknight and center Kai Jones were both called up from the G League on Sunday, and Jones logged four points in four minutes against Utah. Bouknight didn’t play, though Dennis Smith Jr. provided 15 points off the bench.

Of the Hornets’ 13 victories, eight have come on the road. Tuesday’s game in Phoenix is the last stop on a four-game trip.

The teams will meet again March 1 in Charlotte, N.C.

–Field Level Media

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