On the first night of the post-Monroe era, the Phoenix Suns jumped out to their biggest opening lead of the season (and maybe the decade).
The Suns jumped out to a 35-14 lead over the Dallas Mavericks, despite only three points from Devin Booker, before snapping back to earth with an ugly Isaiah Canaan ankle injury.
And I mean ugly. Don’t google ‘Canaan’ right now. I mean, it’s not as bad as googling ‘Fournier’ but it’s pretty bad. Don’t google either, k? Promise me.
The Suns recovered and handily beat the Mavericks for their easiest win all season.
Until late in the fourth, that is. The Suns had checked out mentally for most of the quarter, and the Mavericks pulled back into the game to just a 7-point lead with 3:16 to go.
But then Devin Booker scored four straight points, and then a Warren bucket put the lead back to 13.
Josh Jackson (21 points, 8 rebounds, 2, 2) and Marquese Chriss (15 points, 12 rebounds, 2, 1, 1) showed off a bit of Timeline action with their best games in a while. Even Dragan Bender showed some aggression, and made a pair of shots inside the three point line while pulling down 5 rebounds.
The Suns shared the ball very well on the night. All eleven players who took the court had at least one assist and 10 of them had at least one basket. T.J. Warren and Devin Booker shared the lead in assists (4) while Josh Jackson led in points 21.
The Suns held the Mavericks to 36% shooting on the night.
Welp. The Suns somehow looked like the better NBA team to open the game, with Devin Booker at point and Josh Jackson on the wing next to him.
Booker, Jackson, Warren and Chriss might be a good young lineup next year with any of Ayton, Bamba, Doncic or Young... or even Porter... or ANY of the top guys. Just slot them in with those four and that’s potentially a scary lineup.
Anyway, the Mavericks clearly did NOT come to play.
The Suns opened the game on a 23-8 run... have the Suns had a 20-6 lead or better in ANY game in the past few years? I am serious. Six different Suns players scored in that run, with 6 assists on 10 field goals.
The Mavericks are bad (worse record than the Suns) and were somehow playing even worse than that.
The Suns second unit extended the lead to as much as 35-14, including a pair of nice Danuel House threes. House had 3 rebounds and 2 assists along with his 6 points in just his first three minutes of play.
And then the awful happened.
Isaiah Canaan came down hard and his ankle twisted in a way it should never twist - shades of Gordon Hayward. Ugh. His season is definitely over. I feel bad for Isaiah, after getting back into the league and earning a good amount of playing time.
Now we get even more....POINT BOOK
Suns up 36-17 after one quarter, with 11 assists on 17 field goals.
Of course, you can expect a let-down from the Suns after their excellent quarter, and in the wake of Canaan’s ankle fracture.
Soon, the lead was just 44-36 as Dirk sank a pair of threes before Marquese Chriss created his own three-point play and Tony Buckets sank another to build the lead back to 49-36.
All 10 Suns players scored at least 2 of the first 49 points. Bender had the 2. Warren led the Suns with 10.
The Mavericks played their play into a chance to make it a 6-point halftime lead, but the Suns held strong on the Mavs final possession and then JJ made a shot at the buzzer.
Suns up 11 at half: 57-46.
Josh Jackson with 13 points, 6 rebounds and 2 assists in the first half. T.J. Warren had 10 points, which Marquese Chriss had 6 points and 7 rebounds, plus a pair of nice blocks.
Devin Booker only had 3 points and 1 assist, looking like a guy nursing bruised ribs.
Early in the second half Marquese Chriss collected his 100th steal, making him the 3rd youngest player in NBA history to collect 100 each of threes, steals and blocks. The other two? KD and LeBron.
Marquese Chriss now has 100 career steals, three-pointers and blocks at 20 years, 213 days old. Via @bball_ref , Chriss is the third youngest player ever to reach 100 of each with only LeBron James and Kevin Durant doing so younger— Phoenix Suns Stats (@SunsBballComm) February 1, 2018
Kobe Bryant is the only other NBA player who even got 100/100/100 before turning 21.
For those who think this is a BS stat, and that some guy like Tyrus Thomas (to whom Chriss has been compared recently, including by me), here’s a wider net of 90/90/90 before turning 21.
*note: Quese still has the rest of this season to pump up those numbers. Harkless and Wiggins never hit 100 of all three at any point before turning 21
Not bad, Quese. Not bad at all.
Meanwhile, the Suns spent the entire third quarter maintaining an easy 20 point lead... and Devin Booker still only had 6 of the Suns 78 points. SIX.
JJ, Buckets and Quese are kicking butt though. Chriss had 10 points and 10 rebounds, along with 2 assists, a steal and a block before collecting his first foul.
Back to the game.
Suns enter the 4th quarter with an 81-61 lead, and quickly stretch it to 85-61.