Some assorted thoughts from tonight’s game:
- Devin Booker was shooting daggers for much of the game, picking up right where he left off last night. He did a great job of changing up the way in which he was getting his shots -- flying off of screens towards the elbows, darting to the basket, and even taking mismatches off the dribble.
- Not to be outdone, Eric Bledsoe showed no side effects of a possible knee problem, leading the charge on offense when Book needed to be spelled. The improvement of Bledsoe’s jumper has gone completely under the radar, and it has gotten to the point where he will bring the ball up in transition and pull up for three Steve Nash style. Combine that with his ability to knife into the paint against just about anyone, and the Suns should feel fortunate to have a player of his caliber spearheading the offense.
- Derrick Jones Jr. was tasked with picking up Damian Lillard full-court early on, and after some initial expressions of frustration from Dame, the returns on this ploy were lethal ... for the Blazers. Lillard — seemingly pissed off by Jones’ presence — exploded for 28 first half points, piercing the lane, getting to the line, and pouring in a trio of three-pointers. Despite the results, I like that Coach Watson is giving Jones that sort of responsibility — it could speed up his development as a “3 and D” wing.
- One of my favorite tidbits from every game: watching the speed and gusto in which Jared Dudley inbounds the ball. There are times when he claps at the official to push the pace, and other times he may even throw in a hop or two like an anxious little kid. As always, it’s about the little things for Daddy Dudley.
- Marquese Chriss is a joy to watch, but it hurts that he gets into foul trouble in just about every game he plays. Some of it is not on him, as the situations he is being thrown into (checking Jusuf Nurkic in the post, for instance) purposely stretch his ability as a defender. Nurkic boasts more girth than Chriss, so he has to attempt accommodate through a series of swipes. As with Jones, the fact that Chriss is getting a strenuous assignment is what the point of the youth movement is, but you would hope that his prone to fouling would subside.
- The way Tyler Ulis facilitates the pick-and-roll reminds me of Chris Paul. Now, it would be ambitious (and unfair) to proclaim Ulis as the next Paul, but the way he manipulates defenders, roams the mid range, and utilizes temp with each dribble has some of the same undertones. You can tell that understands the game at a high level despite his age. Cool to see him crack the crunch time five more often.
- Alan Williams’ touch on those little push shots in the lane is remarkable to me. Coach Wastson spoke about how he didn’t have it in his game at all a few summers back, but it has developed the more and more he has worked on it. He also lead a fastbreak tonight, just another chapter in the ballad of Big Sauce.
- All in all, this game could have gotten out of hand pretty early on, but Phoenix fought back in the second half and kept things interesting until the very end. For a team that went with a youth movement, keeping the game competitive against a team that is going balls to the wall to get into the playoffs is admirable.
Tough loss tonight. Here is a box score for those interested.