The Phoenix Suns were clearly the better team from top to bottom as they were able to defeat the Denver Nuggets last night 97-89.
The Suns were able to use the advantage of a line-up that just doesn't seem to have much of a drop off, if any, regardless of who was subbing in or out of the game.
In fact, it was the second and third units that opened up some of the biggest leads on the Nuggets players, by exploiting their advantage in having impact players on the floor at all times.
The Nuggets' one advantage was with their bigs. Jusuf Nurkic and Timofey Mozgov clearly had a big advantage on the Suns rotation of Miles Plumlee, Shavlik Randolph, and Earl Barron.
Denver also got a very good performance out of Danilo Gallinari, who looked like he was going to have a huge game after scoring 17 points in the first half. But he barely played in the second half, and it simply wouldn't have been enough to put Denver over the top either way, even if he had.
The Suns, on the other hand, got meaningful contributions from nearly every one of their players.
In all, the Suns played 16 of their 18 eligible players. Only two of them, Zoran Dragic and Jamil Wilson, really failed to make much of an impact. Even Shavlik Randolph who went scoreless on the night, was able to positively affect the game with his hustle, energy, and smart play.
This also jumps out at you when looking at the box score. While Denver had two players with more points than anyone else on the Suns, Phoenix had a much more even distribution of scoring...and they were getting it from everywhere.
Of course, this is only the preseason, and it isn't uncommon for teams to play deep on their benches. But these guys weren't just playing, they were playing very well.
I think this is going to be the true strength of the Suns this season. How will teams account for a starting back court of Eric Bledsoe and Goran Dragic, followed by the incendiary play of Isaiah Thomas and Gerald Green?
Suns head coach Jeff Hornacek gave some insight into questions like this, and many more in his post game press conference.
Here is what the coach and a couple of the players had to say about tonight's performance, and their thoughts on the team.
Post Game Quotes
On the effect of starting Anthony Tolliver
The first group with Anthony (Tolliver) moved the ball a little bit quicker....Anthony keeps it spread out. So, we'll continue to play with it and see what works best.
When Eric or Goran are coming off and (Tolliver's) spacing and you have a big guy down low, teams have to make decisions at what they're going to do. Are they going to give up a shot, or a lay-up. Our twos and threes are very good at getting to the basket, so it will make it tough on teams.
On the effect of starting P.J. Tucker
It was good for us last year (starting Tucker), with the energy right from the start of the game. You set the tone in the beginning. We'll see how that plays out. Obviously P.J. can't play in the first three games anyway, so Marcus or T.J. or whoever will have to fill in. But P.J. did a good job, and had 10 boards in the limited minutes that he had. He gave us a lift there.
When asked about figuring out how the line-ups will work, and what he's looking for in the preseason
The good thing is we have a lot of guys back from last year. Obviously without Channing we have to find out how we're going to fill that, whether it's Markieff or Anthony. Its not just worrying about starter minutes, it's our bench. Our bench is a big weapon. We have to find the combination. It may not be our best individual players on the court to start games. We have to figure out what's best for the team.
When asked about how T.J. Warren seemed to fit right in so easily
He got within the flow and he got offensive rebounds. When you're a scorer and you've got a knack for the ball, you might get two a game just off rebounds. Stuff like that is what T.J. knows how to do. We know he's a great scorer. When he gets rolling, just like any other scorer, he can fill it up.
Regarding T.J. Warren's three point shooting
He made two for four tonight. He's still working on that, it's a new shot for him. Throughout preseason he's made a couple, but I don't think his percentage has been that great. But he's also more of a game guy too (vs. practice).
On Isaiah Thomas and Green Green playing together
Those two guys are scorers. Isaiah knows the game and has a smart basketball I.Q. So when he knows he's got Gerald somewhere around...if we don't make the call, he does.
About Suns depth and how to fit players into rotations
We've got a deep bench. We've got a lot of guys who can play. You'd like to have a set rotation, but with these guys it's going to be more of a feel on who's playing well that night, and a group of guys who are playing well together will play longer.
On Goran Dragic and Eric Bledsoe
We wanted him to push it. He's very good at getting all the way to the basket. He and Eric are still working it out, even though they played over 40 games together last year. They had a pretty good feel last year. They know where the other guy is. Eric and Goran have a good relationship that way in mixing it up and (sharing the ball).
On Shavlik Randolph's play
What did he take, two charges I think? He knows how to play the game. He knows he's undersized, and he knows when that's the case he's going to have to hit guys earlier, beat them to spots if possible, and take charges. He's just a smart player. He took the first charge of the game then other guys started taking them.
On difference in playing tonight vs. Flamengo
I think the main thing was it's because we know the (Nuggets) players better than Flamengo. So we know what they can do. Plus our rookies played well, so that makes it good too.
On what it's like to play with Tolliver in the offense.
It's good. He's already demonstrated he can shoot. With him we're going to do the same thing as with Channing (Frye). Space the floor and give us some room to operate and find open guys. I think it's going to be great.
On fit and comfort with guards
Very much so. I had a taste of it in practice. I told Goran I might lead the league in three point shots attempted and made this year, because I'm going to get a lot of open shots. I told him every time I'm open I'm going to put it up.
On whether he's surprised at being so open in Suns offense
When I got here it was a little bit of a surprise, but now, that's what it's all about. That's why I came here. These guards are special, and they really put a lot of pressure on the defense to get to the basket. My man has to make a decision everytime. Sometimes it's a lay-up for us, and sometimes it's an open three.
On effect of injured hand
It's still a little stiff. The tape is really what keeps my pinkie from spreading out and really getting a good grip on the ball. So a couple of the shots I shot today I didn't quite have the ball gripped like I usually do, but I still was able to knock a few of them down.
On playing the four
That's where I'm most comfortable. I'm very comfortable playing around the basket and banging and boxing out. Obviously I'm undersized down there, but I just use my brain and try to play smarter. Playing the three is a little tougher running around screens and trying to guard those quicker threes.
Next up for the Suns is a road game against the Houston Rockets on Monday. That game will be an even bigger test than the one tonight, and we will hopefully start to get an even better idea of what line-ups work best, and who is going to get the most minutes and at what positions.
There are still a lot of questions left to be answered, and a lot of players to find time for on the court. Hopefully we will continue to gain a little more insight as the preseason continues.