Chriss has 17 points, hot-shooting Suns burn Hornets

PHOENIX — The Phoenix Suns were 20th in the NBA in field-goal percentage, making 45 percent of their shots on the season. On Thursday night, they got hot.

Marquese Chriss scored 17 points and the Suns shot a season-best 59.7 percent from the field in a 120-103 victory over the Charlotte Hornets.

Chriss made 6 of 9 shots and missed roughly a full quarter after straining a calf early in the first quarter.

T.J. Warren added 16 points and eight rebounds, and Alan Williams had 16 points and 12 rebounds, including a layup with 2:46 to play that made it 114-99.

The Suns held the Hornets to 12 fourth-quarter points and got 53 points from their bench. Phoenix made 39 of 58 two-point shots, or 67 percent of those.

“Our second unit played phenomenal,” coach Earl Watson said.

“We’ve got to play consistent like that. Moving the ball, screening away,” Suns guard Eric Bledsoe said.

Leandro Barbosa also had 16 points, and Devin Booker had 15 points, nine assists and six rebounds. The Suns are 8-4 against Eastern Conference teams at home this season.

Kemba Walker led Charlotte with 26 points.

“We never got them under control. Penetration, transition, we let them play to their strengths,” Hornets coach Steve Clifford said.

The Suns lost their halftime lead briefly early in the third quarter, but went on an 11-0 run that featured Chriss’ corner 3 to take an 80-70 lead with 7:15 to play.

Phoenix led by as many as 12 in the third, but the Hornets whittled the deficit to two, 87-85, on Walker’s 3-pointer at the 2:53 mark.

The Suns led 94-91 entering the fourth after Marvin Williams was fouled by Booker with 0.4 seconds left and made three free throws.

Warren scored 12 third-quarter points.

Michael Kidd-Gilchrist’s six steals were a career high for the Hornets’ forward.

The Suns trailed by as many as 10 points in the first quarter but cut the Hornets’ lead to four by the time it ended. Williams had 13 points in the quarter for Charlotte.

After being behind for much of the first half, Phoenix took a 52-50 lead with Barbosa’s short bank shot with 3:22 left in the second quarter. Barbosa scored 10 points in the quarter after not playing in the first.

Walker had 18 first-half points for the Hornets, who trailed 61-58 at halftime after Phoenix made 13 of 19 second-quarter shots.

“We just play in spurts,” Walker said. “We’re not making those effort plays that need to be made out there, which is getting back in transition.”

TWO TAKEOFFS FOR ‘AIRPLANE MODE’

Derrick Jones Jr., the runner-up in the NBA dunk contest at All-Star Weekend, took flight early in the fourth quarter with an alley-oop jam off a lob from teammate Tyler Ulis. A few minutes later, the pair connected again for another lob that Jones, nicknamed “Airplane Mode,” threw down with his left hand. It gave the Suns a 105-97 lead with 7:43 to play.

GAME CHANGER

Ulis had eight points and a career-high eight assists in 23 minutes, the rookie from Kentucky earning praise from his coach. “Tyler Ulis changed the game,” Watson said, noting his defensive pressure and hustle to tire out Charlotte’s guards.

TIP-IN

The Suns played at home for the first time since Feb. 15. The All-Star break and three road games filled the schedule since then.

UP NEXT

Suns host Oklahoma City on Friday, when Al McCoy will go into the team’s Ring of Honor.