Well, that was a nice win, to say the least. Even though they kept the Chicago Bulls within striking distance for most of the game, Phoenix put the clamps down when needed to get back-to-back victories.
On a night where Booker was trapped by Chicago’s guards constantly, a nightly occurrence now, others stepped up when need be outside of T.J. Warren, who continues to show his overall improvement on both ends one game at a time.
Even though rookie Lauri Markkanen put his best performance as a pro on display in front of many University of Arizona fans in attendance, the Suns were able to escape late.
The first sequence saw Phoenix get out in transition, and when that happens on 2-1 fast breaks it usually ends well. They are controlling the pace, but Chicago playing alongside them.
Lauri Markkanen is going to be a problem in the league. Had 5 points in the first five minutes and is an obvious mismatch for the likes of Monroe and even Chriss.
Greg Monroe continues to be a welcome sight with his post presence drawing some attention early. He found a cutting Warren for a beautiful find. His extra passes have led to a lot of open lanes down low.
Booker has seen a lot of time again initiating the offense, and once the likes of Jared Dudley returns from his injury him alongside Troy Daniels will bring amble spacing to a Point Booker lineups moving forward.
End 1st: Bulls lead the Suns 37-30
Chicago is shooting 56% from the field, 57% from 3-point range. Lopez, Markkanen, and Holiday already have 7 or more for the Bulls while Booker is only one for Phoenix.
Mike James has been the sparkplug the Suns have needed tonight with Chicago doing a good job denying Warren opportunities to advance. He has 7 points in his first five minutes with many coming on creation inside, including a nice little scoop layup over traffic.
Dragan Bender and Bobby Portis are battling down low. Portis has been trying to bully Bender on screens and inside and he’s getting the best of him thus far. After being stuffed at the rim, though, Bender did a nice job grabbing his own board and finishing with an up-and-under.
Booker took his breather for three minutes and he’s back out there with Phoenix down 4 halfway through the second quarter.
Markkanen is going to a problem, just give it a few years. His offensive game for a 7-footer is so advanced and a lot of what I saw at Arizona is translating earlier than I expected. He has already poured in 16 points at the half.
Warren caught a rhythm adding 8 points on 4-8 shooting in the second quarter. At the half, Booker and Warren have combined for 24 on 10-19, but they will probably need 25-plus to pull off this one with the way Chicago has been balanced.
Halftime: Suns lead Chicago 61-56
This time, whenever Booker touches it outside the arc, Chicago collapses a trap on him and are still daring Warren to beat them past 15-feet. Throughout this game, it’s been the Warren/Booker show but that’s how it’s been all year.
Chriss, however, has flashed some good moves he displayed this summer at Las Vegas Summer League. It’s not going down, but once it gets consistent it should add another wrinkle to his inside-out game.
Alongside Phoenix’s dynamic duo as of late, Monroe is starting to establish himself as the third option. He and Booker are also starting to develop a two-man chemistry on pick-and-rolls.
Monroe has a line of 8-5-4 in 17 minutes, been far and away best interior presence on either side.
After Chriss fouled Markkanen, who’s had a rough time with his perimeter-oriented offensive style, Booker then had a 3-pointer hit in his eye from Justin Holiday to cut the lead to 74-71 with 6:29 left in the third. Triano called a timeout because I think everyone was sensing a Chicago run incoming.
Josh Jackson, who’s only seen 5 minutes of run through the first 20 minutes due to Warren carrying the hot hand, checks in alongside Bender and James at the midway point.
Warren and Robin Lopez got into a scuffle, with officials assigning a flagrant-1 on Warren and a tech on Lopez. It’s starting to get a little bit chippy as the game has been closely contested throughout.
Jackson overthrows Bender on a 3⁄4 court pass, and he got visibly frustrated at himself for doing so. He had the right idea, but he zipped in there like an MLB closer.
The Suns’ No. 4 pick redeemed himself a few possessions later as James fed him on a drive-and-dish, then faked out Holiday on a pump fake who followed Daniels. It left Jackson still wide-open from the corner and then stared down Chicago’s bench the other way down.
End 3rd: Suns lead the Bulls 85-84
Interim head coach Jay Triano is rolling with his second unit to open up the fourth.
From their first moments, there was a sequence where Len stuffed Portis at the rim then Bender drove in and found Daniels in the corner with his off-hand. It was very pretty, to say the least, but Bender’s shot has been flat all night.
James with another high-degree difficulty of a shot, but he’s making it a knack for converting them. He has 13 alongside Daniels’ 14 points, which should be a nice sight to see for the Suns.
Phoenix’s bench has scored 44 in 40 minutes, and it’s by far been the second unit’s best group performance together.