Masking the persona of a teenager attending their high school prom, the Phoenix Suns came out anxious and overeager in the first half against the San Antonio Spurs. As expected, Popovich’s pupils operated their system with the ease that we have grown accustomed to, while Phoenix pressed their way to poor shot attempts.
By the time the smoke cleared and the teams made their way to the locker room, the Suns boasted a forgetful 30 percent shooting percentage, two air balls, a set of missed dunks, and a handful of confused looks en route to 51-40 deficit. It seemed that each mishandled possession lead to more sphincter tightness, and a snowball effect was instituted.
The second half proved to be a different story, with the Spurs cooling off on the outside thanks to a more in-tune Suns defense. A fierce flurry of fastbreaks ignited the crowd, and led to the game opening up in the Suns’ favor.
In a night when the Spurs left most of their team back home, it was almost a formality that Phoenix would come out victorious. (Despite even their best efforts to give away the game late.)
Some assorted observations:
- To no one’s surprise, Devin Booker set the pace on offense, pouring in 19 points in 24 minutes. Perhaps the most positive development of the night was his knack for getting to the line — eight times to be exact — on a consistent basis by way of the post. There will be an initial uneasiness about his implementation into the starting lineup, but it becomes apparent very quickly that he belongs.
- My favorite offensive set: Jared Dudley and Tyson Chandler set tandem screens for Eric Bledsoe at the top of the arc. Bledsoe will likely go to Chandler’s side, setting off a domino effect in which Chandler slices the defense with the threat of a lob while Dudley pops out to the three-point line to either use his gravitational pull to open up space or create an open look for himself. This sequence will be especially dreadful to defend when P.J. Tucker and Booker are stationed in each corner.
- Kawhi Leonard looked more than comfortable in a post Tim Duncan world, contributing 17 points in 20 minutes while pulling up for threes and being the fulcrum of the Spurs offense. Good luck to the rest of the league.
- The juggling of minutes between the three guards is a work in progress, with Brandon Knight and Bledsoe especially having to get accustomed to an evolving substitution pattern. Coach Watson looked to sub Knight in for Bledsoe from the outset. It will be interesting if that trend continues moving forward.
- I’ve never seen someone so anxious to high five his teammates than Dudley. Nice to have him back home.
- The super-sized front court featuring Alex Len, Marquese Chriss, and Dragan Bender was a little awkward, but that is what the preseason is for. The defensive potential could be tempting, yet the offensive shortcomings could outweigh any defensive gains.
- Chriss is more likely to make an impact on a game in comparison to Bender because his role is easier to identify. The dude can jump out of the gym, and has enough energy to wreak havoc on the glass and in transition. A timely jump shot to keep the defense honest and we are in business.
- IT’S THE PRESEASON, so I’m going to shut up.
Here is a link to the box score of the game for those of you that were unable to view the stream online.
Cheers to basketball taking back over our lives!