PRESCOTT VALLEY, Ariz. – Nobody should want to play the Northern Arizona Suns right now.
The Suns returned home from a four-game road trip Sunday and handled the team with the best record in the Western Conference, the Austin Spurs, 117-105. Winners of four in a row (tied a season-high) and seven of their last eight, the Suns improved to 20-19, marking the first time they’ve been above .500 since Nov. 13 (2-1).
Northern Arizona is now just 1.5 games back of a playoff spot with a month to go. The Spurs dropped to 25-16 and back into a tie for the first seed in the West with the South Bay Lakers. South Bay plays later tonight, however.
It didn’t look good for the home team early on. The Suns were ice cold to start the game, making just two of their first 14 shots and finding themselves in the hole 22-6 with 4:30 left in the first quarter. NAZ finished the opening frame on a 16-7 run to get back in it, and suddenly had the lead 37-36 halfway through the second quarter. That lead would build to seven by halftime.
Up 55-50, the Suns went on a 17-6 run to go up by 16 just four minutes into the third quarter. They held firm control of the game the remainder of regulation, even leading by 22 points in the fourth.
Archie Goodwin led the Suns with 22 points on 7-of-13 shooting, to go with seven rebounds and seven assists. He has scored 20+ points in five straight games. Over his last eight games, Goodwin is averaging 23.0 points on 57.8 percent shooting, 6.9 rebounds, 4.4 assists and 2.8 steals (NAZ is 7-1 over that stretch).
Phoenix Suns Two-Way forward Alec Peters bounced back to tally 21 points on 8-of-12 shooting, including 5-of-9 from distance, and five rebounds. It marked his ninth 20+ point game of the season, his first since Jan. 2.
Rahlir Hollis-Jefferson scored 17 points on 6-of-9 shooting, to go with nine rebounds and two blocks off the bench. He has scored 10+ points eight times over his last 11 games, including three times in a row.
Josh Gray responded from a team-record 42 points in the Suns last game at the Texas Legends on Friday with 16 points, six rebounds, five assists and four steals tonight. Mike Young notched 14 points on 5-of-7 shooting, while Danuel House finished with 13 points and seven rebounds.
Jaron Blossomgame led Austin with 21 points on 9-of-13 shooting and nine rebounds. He was one of just four to score 10+ points for the Spurs.
Darrun Hilliard, who had averaged 32.5 PPG in two contests against the Suns earlier this season, was held relatively in check, dropping 18 points on 7-of-17 shooting. Derrick White (17 points, six rebounds, four assists) and Livio Jean-Charles (14 points, nine rebounds) also reached the double-digit scoring mark.
This was Northern Arizona’s first win against the Spurs in team history, a team the Suns started 0-6 against.
The Suns remain home to face the team they are chasing for the sixth and final playoff spot in the Western Conference, the Reno Bighorns. That game will tip off at 6:30 p.m. MT on Tuesday. The Spurs head home for a four-game slate beginning on Friday against the Rio Grande Valley Vipers at 6:30 p.m. MT.