In sync offensively and in one of their best runs in years, the Phoenix Suns will look to expand their horizons when the Charlotte Hornets pay a visit to the desert Wednesday.
Led by Devin Booker and veteran Chris Paul, the Suns have won three consecutive games, nine of their last 10 and 12 of their last 14 with weapons aplenty beyond their dynamic guard duo.
Already a rebounding force, the Suns have implored big man Deandre Ayton to be more aggressive offensively, while the forward trio of Mikal Bridges, Cameron Johnson and Jae Crowder all have been productive.
Frank Kaminsky, a late role-player addition to the roster before the season began after playing in Phoenix last season, has been in the starting lineup each of his last nine games and the Suns have won all of them.
While Booker leads the Suns with 24.7 points per game, Paul makes all the pieces flow together, with 16.6 points of his own, to go along with 8.5 assists and 4.5 rebounds. Even at age 35, he has shown an ability to pick up his offense when needed, or to transition back to a ball distributor to keep others active.
Even with all that offense, the Suns are trying to explore their defensive side, holding down the Portland Trail Blazers on Monday in a 132-100 victory. That came two days after holding the Memphis Grizzlies to 97 points in a road victory on Saturday.
"It's been great communication amongst the team, amongst the coaching staff; everybody's locked in," Booker said. "... Obviously it's not always going to be like this. We're not always going to make all the shots, but our defense is something we can rely on and it's (done) well for us."
Since an overtime victory over the Miami Heat on Feb. 1, the Hornets have gone 4-5, including two defeats to the Utah Jazz when they failed to contain one of the best teams in the Western Conference. The Hornets fell 132-110 at Utah on Monday, after losing 138-121 to the Jazz at home on Feb. 5.
Unlike the Suns, defense is not something Charlotte has been able to lean into. In their last four defeats, the Hornets have allowed their opponents to score an average of 130.5 points per game.
The Hornets gave themselves a chance against the Jazz on Monday, leading by 11 points in the third quarter before the game turned. Charlotte trailed 91-90 heading into the fourth quarter before Utah scored 41 points over the final 12 minutes, mostly by going 11-of-16 from 3-point range.
"Toward the end of the third we lost our way a little bit, we could not score, and we could not set our defense," Hornets head coach James Borrego said. "That's the challenge with a young group is when you're not scoring -- can you come back and still have the same intensity (on defense)?"
The Hornets lost Gordon Hayward in the fourth quarter after he aggravated a previous right-hand injury and is listed as questionable for Wednesday's game.
--Field Level Media