WASHINGTON – Deandre Ayton had 20 points and 16 rebounds in an efficient 24 minutes and the NBA-leading Phoenix Suns rebounded from a streak-ending loss to beat the short-handed Washington Wizards 95-80 on Saturday night.
Ayton, playing his third game since returning from a sprained right ankle, and the Suns bounced back from a loss Thursday night at Atlanta that ended their 11-game winning streak.
Phoenix led by 25 before the midpoint of the second quarter, 27 at half and 36 in the third quarter. The Wizards set offensive season lows — and the Suns defensive bests — for points in a quarter (11 in the second), half (33 in the first) and game.
“We were locked in, especially in the second quarter, when we really started closing in our defense,” Ayton said about a period in which the Suns held the Wizards to 4-of-21 shooting from the floor and 0 of 9 from 3-point range. “We were counting (our stops). It was fun out there.”
Chris Paul added 14 points and nine assists for Phoenix, Cameron Johnson and Mikal Bridges each scored 12 points, and Devin Booker had 11. At 42-10, the Suns moved 2 1/2 games ahead of Golden State for the league lead.
Montrezl Harrell scored 15 points for Washington, and Aaron Holiday had 11. The Wizards have lost seven of eight as the they fight to stay in condition for a play-in spot. Three-time All-Star guard Bradley Beal sat out because of a left wrist injury.
“I think at times when things get tough, we give in a little bit,” Wizards coach Wes Unseld Jr. said “You get away from some of the things and start short cutting routes, you don't own your spots, and that really stagnates the offense.”
After trailing 8-2, Phoenix outscored the Wizards 46-15 during a run that stretched into the second quarter, coming to an end when Johnson's baseline feed from Paul made it 48-23. Washington trailed by at least 21 until late in the fourth quarter.
“We feel like whoever we're playing on any given night, as long as we be who we are and do what we're supposed to happen,” Paul said. “I think we have that kind of confidence and have built that over the season.”
TRAVELING HOME COACH
Suns coach Monty Williams grew up in nearby Oxon Hill, Maryland, and had a group of family and friends in attendance. He said that coaching in your hometown is different than playing in it.
“When you're playing, you want to play well in front of your family. When you coach, I want to coach well for my team,” the Suns coach said. “I'm not coaching well for my family because they don't even know what I'm doing, if it is deemed ‘(coaching) well.' They're just happy to see you.”
Ayton played fewer than 30 minutes for a third consecutive game after missing seven with his injury, but this time it was due to game circumstance and not load management.
“At this point, we’re going to start playing him his normal minutes so he can get back into a groove,” Williams said pregame.
Suns: Committed their first turnover on JaVale McGee’s errant pass with 10:20 to play in the second quarter. ... McGee received a technical with 2:05 left in the third quarter. He had 10 rebounds.
Wizards: Have lost their last five at home and have been held under 100 points in four of their last six overall ... C Thomas Bryant started after missing a victory Wednesday night in Philadelphia because of a sprained ankle.
Suns: At Chicago on Monday night.
Wizards: Host Miami on Monday night.