The Phoenix Suns won their opening preseason game on Monday, 91-86. They allowed themselves to fall into a 11-point first half hole, but burst out of it to open the third quarter with a 12-point run and never let the lead go.
Watch the whole game here. Courtesy of the Suns.
The Phoenix Suns looked bad in the opening quarter. Despite playing their long-term starting five and top four backups, they shot under 30% in the first quarter and ended the stanza down 30-20.
You’d think that would be acceptable against a Spurs team loaded for a deep playoff run in the starting five, but of that group only Kawhi Leonard came to Phoenix. He spent most of the night flanked by the Spurs third to fourth unit, many of whom will likely spend a lot of time with the D-League team. The rest of the Spurs starters are still on prescribed rest after their summer was interrupted by the Olympics.
The best Suns highlights were basically wrapped up in moments of trying to get Marquese Chriss on the Sportscenter Top 10.
Chriss missed two of his first three dunks by somehow overdunking. But it was Tyson Chandler who had one of the biggest of the night.
Stay tuned for an even better dunk from any unlikelier source...
Bad start to good finish
Coach Earl Watson wouldn’t dwell on what failed in the opening quarter.
“It took time for that rhythm to build and we knew the second half would be better than the first,” he said.
Sure enough, the Suns opened the third quarter on a 12-0 and led for most of the remainder of the game. While the Spurs went even deeper into their bench, the 12-0 run occurred with Kawhi Leonard on the floor and basically the same unit that took the early lead. So there’s progress. I guess.
“The second half was really big for us,” Watson said. “Especially to start the (half) out with nine straight stops. T.J. Warren led it by closing up the gap with Kawhi, basically getting in his chest and forcing him to make plays instead of coming off the pick ‘n roll without any pressure.”
Listen to Watson here.
High Five Counter
The funniest part of Watson’s interview was Watson’s reaction to our own Owen Sanborn’s simple comment about high-fiving each other between plays. Watson gave Owen a look, and then admitted they are actually tracking high-fives this year as a sign of enthusiasm.
Maybe that’s the new criteria for winning the Dan Majerle Hustle Award? Or maybe it’s a new award to rival the Majerle?
Watson made himself sound quite serious with his response, but I’m 99% sure he was the having the most fun trying to convince us it’s true. Makes little sense that the team would track high fives.
I mean there’s serious questions that must be asked. Do low fives count? How about knucks? Or just meaningful gazes? If the team gives credit for jumping highest in celebration of a made shot, Jared Dudley is in serious trouble.
I am assigning Owen to get to the bottom of this. It’s his season-long assignment.
We got some quick interviews from Devin Booker and T.J. Warren. Wasn’t much to talk about, considering the low pressure in the game and the lack of real preparation and game planning by either team.
Still, it’s good to hear the guys talk.
Devin Booker scored 9 points in the opening minutes of the third quarter to help the Suns pull out of 12-point halftime deficit with an array of power moves to the basket.
“My teammates were just telling me to be more aggressive,” Booker said. “Instead I was being passive and they know what I was capable of so they just told me to be more aggressive and it opened up a lot of things.”
Booker finished with a team-high 19 points, and didn’t play most of the second half while the younguns got a lot of run.
T.J. Warren made everyone forget about his broken foot the skyest highest power dunk off of a back door feed from Alex Len. It was a thing of beauty.
Warren started out tentative, both on defense (assigned to Leonard) and offense, often leaving his shot a bit short. But in the second half, Warren warmed up and got aggressive and looked a lot more like the Tony Buckets we like to see.
“I feel great,” Warren said. “Eight months feels like a long time. Felt good to get out there and compete with my teammates and get the win.”
And now hear him talk about it. Listen closely, he’s a low talker.
It was an ugly game (60 turnovers between both teams), but the Suns won anyway thanks to the Spurs not really bringing a lot to the table in terms of players.
- The Spurs made 7 of their first 11 threes, but only 4 of their last 14
- The Suns spent most of their time getting to the rack, taking just 11 three-pointers all game vs. 38 free throws.
- Sloppiness: The Spurs out-TOd the Suns 30 to 28. Ugly.
- Jared Dudley’s athletic hands got three steals in the opening quarter, and his slow-mo effort at tracking down a loose ball full court was a thing to remember as he just never could catch up to it before diving into the seats to stop it from trickling off court.
- Marquese Chriss finished with 10 points on 3/7 shooting, with at least two misses on dunks.
- Alan Williams is a stat machine, with 8 points, 7 rebounds and 3 blocks in the fourth quarter.
- Archie Goodwin bull dozed his way to 10 points and 2 steals in the fourth.
- Tyler Ulis was all over the map in 13 minutes: 0 points (0 for 3), 5 rebounds, 3 assists, 2 steals and 5 turnovers. Ulis helped the Suns close out the game with a late steal, though he contributed to a brief Spurs comeback effort with the turnovers.
- The Suns shot just 37.8% for the whole game, buoyed by their 32 free throws and bad shooting by the Spurs (40%).
The closing quote is Earl Watson on Devin Booker, who spent most of his time working in the paint for scores on Monday, rather than settling for long-range bombs.
“He loves the low-block,” Watson said. “That’s his spot. He’s really dominated that spot, he’s focused on that spot, and he’s a multi-dimensional player offensively. Defensively, he’s making strides. He understands that defense is most important.”
Booker is the future. Everyone else is just vying for minutes around him.