On Sunday night, the Phoenix Suns managed to stay within two points of the two-time NBA Finalist Golden State Warriors into the final minute of the game on Sunday night before succumbing to the Warriors 106-100.
Coming into the season, the Suns knew they’d be facing a lot of losses because of all the young players in prominent roles, many veterans coming off long-term injuries and a relative rookie coach.
“Game three with a young squad,” Suns coach Earl Watson said. “Have a chance to beat OKC on the road, have a chance to beat Golden State at home, I think we’re right where we need to be. Now of course we want to win those games, so the competitive nature of you is pissed-off. You want to win, you’re competitive. But overall, seeing the big picture, we have to continue to get better.”
So, losing is okay right, as long as the guys play hard? Players and coaches are happy with the effort and progress?
“I don’t believe in moral victories,” Suns coach Earl Watson said after the game. “I love our guys no matter what, but every loss takes a piece of our souls. We understand that. The pain is deep.”
Watson is begrudgingly accepting losses because the Suns have zero expectations this season. Every win is an unexpected gift, while every loss just needs to be softened by all-out effort and togetherness.
Here’s the whole Watson postgame.
Watson is mixing and matching lineups left and right, going 11 players deep and only one five-man combination playing more than 12 minutes together over the span of three games. Watson’s best three players are guards, and he’s tried many times to play them together but the results have been a net-negative so far.
Some of that failure could be influenced by Devin Booker’s toe injury. He’s been nursing a sore big toe for weeks, but felt it flare up considerably in the first half of Friday’s game and was noticeably limping on Sunday against the Warriors.
“Devin’s tough,” Watson said. “If you watch him, he’s been limping around a lot. He has no excuses for anything. He goes out there and plays. As his coach, I understand how much we need him to be efficient, and he has to be healthy to be efficient.”
Listen to Booker here - he makes no excuses for missing wide open shots, and says he just has to play through it.
The Suns best scorer against Golden State, once again, was T.J. Warren. After dropping 30 on Oklahoma City Thunder on Friday, Warren scored 26 against the Warriors. He often had to trade scores with Kevin Durant (37 points), but both teams switched a ton on defense so they weren’t exclusive.
As usual, Warren was understated in his post game interview.
“I’m just going to continue to do what I do best,” he said to the scrum. “Which is score and try to defend as much as possible.”
This is the first time in Warren’s career he’s posted back-to-back 20-point games.
Eric Bledsoe once again gushed about Tony Buckets.
“He’s just playing the game,” Bledsoe said. “He’s just playing the way he plays. He’s getting a lot more minutes out there, he’s getting comfortable.”
Asked if he could keep this up, scoring 20+ every game...
“Just continue to stay aggressive,” Warren said of his offensive role. “My teammates like I said are doing a good job of finding me, I just want to continue to do what I do and just score the ball and play defense.”
The Suns offense is still struggling to find it’s rhythm (ranked 27th in the league after three games), so they often have to break down and just give it to Warren to make a play. So far, he’s been delivering.
Bledsoe spent the whole night chasing Stephen Curry around screen after screen, and generally did a good job containing Curry though Steph still scored 28 points on 9-17 shooting.
At the same time, Bledsoe had to be the Suns second leading scorer, putting in 21 points and dishing 6 assists.
Bledsoe played part of the game in a jersey with his name spelled wrong.
The Suns misspelled Bledsoe’s name on his jersey. https://t.co/ACxFnb5dyv pic.twitter.com/qhOylBlM46— Hardwood Paroxysm (@HPbasketball) October 31, 2016
For his part, Bledsoe made a good joke about it.
Bledsoe on why his jersey spelled wrong in first quarter: "i guess I gotta play a full season. They forget about me."— Dave King (@DaveKingNBA) October 31, 2016
See the whole Bledsoe interview here.
At least he’s consistent
Apparently, teenager Marquese Chriss likes a particular stat line: 7 points and 4 rebounds. That’s been his final box for each of the first three games of his NBA career.
Chriss also likes to collect technicals. He’s gotten T’d up the last two games, including last night after a strong score inside when the game was on the line.
“I’d rather him speak instead of swing,” Watson said of Chriss. “So, give and take, but when you come into this league and you’re young and you’re playing the top teams, sometimes you have to let them know who you are. And, he understands that very clear. But tying the score, we don’t want it. But, I’d rather have a guy I have to bring back then a guy I have to push forward.”
The Suns can’t dwell on the 0-3 start. They play in Los Angeles tonight against the Clippers, making it three straight games against teams projected to be top-4 seeds in the playoffs next April.
Watch for all the Clips/Suns coverage from contributor Geoff Allen tonight!