This was a sloppy start to the season, as both teams were trying different lineups and such, especially the Suns.
The Suns struggled to make shots — similar to last season — but played much more spirited defense and kept themselves in it despite shooting just under 40% from the floor and under 20% on threes.
They just came up a little short. Yogi Ferrell made 6 of 9 threes and the Kings made enough shots to win.
Deandre Ayton was the story of the game though.
He came out like gangbusters, tallying 12 points, 8 rebounds and 3 blocks in his first 13 minutes of play. He was by far the best player on the floor.
He rolled his ankle late in the second quarter, but came back quickly to play and did not show a limp. However, his energy and activity level receded a bit from there on. Still, he finished the night with the first of many 20/10 games in his pro debut.
Oh and let’s talk about defense. Ayton PLAYED DEFENSE. He had three blocks in the first 8 minutes plus a few other stuffs and stonewalls.
And the best part? He didn’t commit fouls — only being called for one on the night — even after he got noticeably tired.
But the Kings got hot from outside and closed out the game.
Yogi Ferrell had 26 points (including 6-9 on threes). Willie Cauley-Stein had 14 points and 12 rebounds.
The Suns were led by Ayton 24/10/3, Josh Jackson 17/6/5 and T.J. Warren 16/4/1.
I got lucky!
The Suns started the same lineup I predicted this morning: Shaq, Trevor, Ryno, DA and Josh Jackson (for Devin Booker).
Word is the Suns vets, if not the whole starting lineup, will be limited to 15 minutes out of 48 while the backups play. I just can’t imagine limiting Shaquille Harrison or even Deandre Ayton to only 15 minutes. I think it’s more likely Tyson plays just 15 while Ayton gets 20-25 and Richaun Holmes gets the balance of the minutes in the pivot.
But I got the Kings lineup wrong: Marvin Bagley III is coming off the bench. The #2 overall pick is coming off the bench for the Kings, behind Skal Labissiere. Justin Jackson is starting in Bogdan’s place, with Buddy, DaFox and WCS.
Ayton loses it to Skal
Ayton blocks the first Kings shot - a three pointer, after getting switched onto De’Aaron Fox.
Ayton later got put in a blender on a nice double spin by Willie Cauley-Stein, but then got back at him for a contested catch in the paint and layup finish. But better physicality than he showed in summer league in getting that catch.
Ayton later had a nice pick and roll finish from Josh Jackson - I like this budding relationship here - on a hard pass through traffic, catching at his head and finishing with a hard slam on the move. NICE!
In fact, this just became THE REMINDER game after a summer of... something... where everyone forgot about him.
Ayton had 12 points, 8 rebounds and 3 blocks, plus a handful of foul-less stonewalls and contests at the rim. He was by far the best player on the court.
Other Suns who played well in the first half include Shaquille Harrison’s continued confidence and difference-making without ever taking a jumper. He had 2 points and 1 assist in the first half but made the Suns better anyway.
Trevor Ariza played well, driving and shlashing, and young Josh Jackson had some VERY NICE passes into the paint for scores to Ayton (2) and Chandler (1). I’m liking this passing version of JJ.
The Suns couldn’t shoot though, missing 10 of 11 threes in the half, thus relegating them to a deficit after two.
Dragan Bender was a whirlwind of awful, missing all five shots by a wide margin and generally having a very very awful bad day.
Yogi Ferrell lead the Kings with 13 points (5-7 shooting, 3-4 on threes) and the Suns were down 47-44 after a half.
Devin Booker comes out before the second half starts, and begins draining right-handed threes.
The Suns came out flat to start the second half, just not having that bounce they started with, and got down by 8 fairly quickly.
Deandre Ayton could be feeling the effects of a crazy first half and late-second ankle roll, but didn’t do a lot in those opening minutes. He only scored 4 points and grabbed 0 rebounds in the last 8 minutes of play spanning the half.
T.J. Warren and Troy Daniels provided some needed scoring and the Suns were quickly to within a bucket.
With Shaquille Harrison getting into a run of fouls (5) from being too aggressive, tonight’s backup Elie Okobo got some good run, with 8 points, 2 assists and 2 rebounds in his first 15 minutes of play.
The Suns biggest problem on this night was not being able to make (or even want to take) threes. Ryan Anderson, Trevor Ariza, Mikal Bridges and Dragan Bender simply didn’t have the range (team was 3-18 at the end of three), while T.J. Warren and Josh Jackson and Harrison just ran themselves off the line way too often.
Jackson and Warren scored inside though, tallying 22 points between them in three quarters.
Tied at 72 after three quarters.
The best part of the start of the fourth quarter was Josh Jackson passes.
The second best part was realizing that after that hot start and “lull” since then, center Deandre Ayton has directly contested at least a dozen shots (maybe a lot more than that) and committed only one foul versus 3 blocks and a deflection out of bounds. Even when tired, he doesn’t just make dumb fouls.