Suns bench came alive in 4th quarter in win over Jazz

Dana Scott
Arizona Republic

The Suns second unit's Jock Landale, Ish Wainwright and Damion Lee were fourth-quarter catalysts in the Suns 113-112 win over Utah on Saturday, again showing the difference the Phoenix bench has made in recent weeks.

It was the Suns' fourth consecutive win, second game of their back-to-back home wins after beating Detroit on Friday, and the Jazz's fourth straight loss.

The one-point victory was the same margin that the Suns' by at Utah on Nov. 18 after Damion Lee missed a contested 3 attempt at the end of regulation.

Phoenix's second unit posted 20 points to Utah's 39, and three Jazz backups were in double figures (Malik Beasley's 14, Nickeil Alexander Walker's 12, and Talen Horton-Tucker's 10). All five Suns' starters were in double figures to pick up much of their scoring load, including their top two in Ayton's game-high 29 points with his career-best 21 rebounds, and Devin Booker's 27 points.

Through the first three quarters, the Suns bench only put up 10 to the Jazz's 26. But the Landale, Wainright and Lee made big offensive plays in the fourth quarter's first six minutes to give them a lift, and then Phoenix held the lead for the rest of the tight game.

“It’s all about competitive advantage. You don’t really know, you’re just trying to throw guys out there that can help you in certain areas," Suns coach Monthy Williams said aftere the game. "We felt like Jock could go out there and finish around the basket. If they switched, we know he has the ability to punish smaller guys. With Ish, it was just about physicality.

"When we played in Utah, I can just remember being on the plane thinking to myself we didn’t give ourselves a chance to win by not being bigger and physical. And we’re not bigger height-wise, but Ish is one of the few guys that, you know, he’s not the tallest guy but he’s got some size on him and he uses it well."

Phoenix came back from being down 10 after the first quarter, and the game's scoring margin didn't exceed five between the second quarter's five minute mark through six minutes left to play.

Nov 25, 2022; Phoenix, Arizona, USA; Detroit Pistons forward Kevin Knox II (20) passes the ball against Phoenix Suns guard Damion Lee (10) in the first half at Footprint Center.

After Landale didn't play in Suns' previous three games (coach's decision), he returned and made a sudden impact for their offense and the Footprint Center crowd in just over five minutes at the start of the final period.

“I mean in games like that, the last six minutes are just about guarding the ball and getting the rebound and guys knocking down shots. It’s not plays, it’s not schemes, it’s just will and we’ve been in these situations before, but we’re building a bit of a base with the guys who are new with us," Williams said.

Before Landale got in, Suns big Bismack Biyombo (two steals, two assists, one block) was the backup for Deandre Ayton (29 points, career-best 21 rebounds) through the first three quarters. Landale finished with four points, one rebound and an assist. Both of his shots put the Suns ahead by one and two at 10:13 and 9:41, respectively.

“I told him I need your energy. I knew when you get in this thing you're going to turn this up. I need that energy," Ayton said. "He had the loudest five minutes I have ever seen.

Right after the Jazz tied the score at 87-87 following Landale's second shot, Wainright (six points, three steals, two rebounds) hit his second from the perimeter at 9:17.

“However way possible, if he throws me in, I know it’s for a reason. He called my name and I was ready, stayed ready," Wainright told The Republic in the postgame. "But for my coach to call my name and throw me in, as a two-way (contract player) in his second year means a lot. It boasts my confidence up, so it boosts the team’s confidence because Coach believes in me, trusts me a little bit more.”

When Beasley tied the game again with a 3 on the Jazz's next possession, Mikal Bridges (16 points) scored a layup to answer Beasley's shot, Alexander Walker countered Bridges' shot with his fourth from deep, then Landale made a kickout pass to Lee (eight points, three rebounds, one assist) and hit his second 3 near the eight minute mark. That put the Suns ahead, 95-93, and they held the lead through the rest of the game.

“I just felt like we needed some type of injection," Williams said. "It wasn’t like we weren’t playing hard. We just needed a bit of a boost, but you never know. I told the (Suns) coaches, I’m like, ‘It looked good because it worked.'"