For the Phoenix Suns, after short-lived playoff aspirations a few weeks ago they have fallen back down into orbit. They have now lost eight of their last 10 games after Friday night’s blowout defeat at the hands of the New York Knicks.
Below, I’m going to relay my thoughts from it, in terms of positives and negatives. As Brendon originally coined when he debuted this game recap style earlier in the season, there really is no better way to examine all of this young talent assembled in the Valley. As expected, this contest saw much more ‘Bad’ compared to ‘Good’, so to say.
Good: We saw interim head coach Jay Triano change up the starting lineup, as he promised postgame in Indiana. Triano went unconventional, rolling with Devin Booker at point guard alongside Troy Daniels.
After the first sequence, we have seen Booker share a lot of ball handling duties with the likes of Josh Jackson, Daniels, Tyler Ulis, and Isaiah Canaan already. Booker started and closed the first half while doing the same in the second half but more often, I would say. As I will explain later, Booker ended up ejected which is only the second time in his career that has happened.
Bad: We already knew Greg Monroe wasn’t a great defender but Enes Kanter’s torching of him, especially in the first half, proved it.
Monroe is a slow-footed big who has trouble keeping with ones who can get out and run. Kanter did just that early and often. At the end of the first half, Kanter already was up to 19 points on 8-9 shooting.
These types of games prove that Monroe is nearly unplayable with these Suns if they want to look for consistent defensive performances.
Good: Jackson continues to show that ever since his DNP-CD Jan. 3 against Atlanta, it seemingly woke him up. Jackson’s strong month of January continued, as he began with 1
As Jackson let us in on, he and Triano have weekly film sessions now to go over his game. That has seemingly opened up a new-look Jackson, one with even more confidence than he already gave off to us.
My favorite Jackson moment came when he was matched up one-on-one against Doug McDermott. Jackson was unable to beat him to the rim, so he reset and took McDermott back off the dribble and finished. That’s significant progress compared to where we sat about a month ago where Jackson would still be way too overaggressive.
Bad: It’s a good thing Marquese Chriss made his return to the starting lineup after missing his last six with a hip flexor, but he, as expected, saw limited minutes at a time. In Chriss’ first 10 minutes, he was 1-9 for only 3 points alongside 3 fouls, an area to always monitor with 2016’s No. 8 overall pick out of Washington. Chriss ended his night like other Suns, looking at the referees asking for calls and getting frustrated in the process. Emotions continue to get the best of the league’s youngest rotation.
Bad: To add more to Phoenix’s lack of rim protection, it’s becoming a problem in each and every game. Yes, Tyson Chandler is one but he’s also ripe in the tooth as far as consistent defensive production in that area goes. (Chandler was out of Friday’s game with an illness right before tipoff.) Teams are starting to figure out they can just drive it at will and odds they will convert around 45-50% of those occasions. That especially is the case whenever the Suns allow transition opportunities. As is the case many of times for Phoenix, New York was able to convert those regularly.
Bad: The Suns started to lose their composure early in the third quarter. After only being down by 4, New York immediately busted it open to a 14-point deficit in three minutes. This was helped by the fact Phoenix only scored one basket while also seeing Booker receive flagrant and technical fouls on him nearly back-to-back possessions.
After this, referees started calling this game tightly, with any sort of contact drawing a whistle. Dragan Bender picked up three of them in a few minutes off of simple bumps off screens on Kristaps Porzingis and Jarrett Jack. With four minutes left in the third, Kanter and Booker got into it. This led to double technicals and, in turn, a Booker ejection. The lead at this point was nearly 20 for New York.
Over their next five games, Phoenix will play Houston, Memphis, Dallas, Utah, and Charlotte. That’s easily a defining part of their schedule, as they will reach a murder’s row type of stretch from February-April. Should the Suns make a trade deadline move or have the tanks began to roll out once again?
Let me know in the comments section below, as this game turned out to follow a similar script but definitely not lacking in drama.