Is it even a surprise at this point? The Phoenix Suns were blown out once again, this time by 17 versus the Oklahoma City Thunder. With tonight’s loss, Phoenix has lost 8 of 13 games by 17 or more points. That’s embarrassing to say the least.
At one point, Oklahoma City was up by nearly 30 points before they put on cruise control early in the second half. However, Mikal Bridges wasn’t just quitting out there — trust me, we will get to him later — and helped spark a run led by Jamal Crawford off the bench to trim their lead down to only eight.
From that point on, though, OKC put their foot on the gas pedal all the way until it was back up into the 20-point range again with just over two minutes left.
As you all should know by now, my usual game recap goes through my ‘Thumbs Up’ and ‘Thumbs Down’ with analysis. After another Suns defeat, let’s roll through them.
Thumbs Up: Mikal Bridges
Trust me, we’ll get to the negatives — plenty to parse through in this one — but Bridges proved once more why he should be receiving around 25 minutes per game from here on out. Maybe even in January, he’s in the starting lineup.
Bridges has proven to be a legitimate two-way asset for Phoenix, hitting three-pointers while doing dirty work on the other end helping start fast break opportunities. And it’s easy for me to say at this point that Bridges is better than Josh Jackson and rightfully took all of his minutes. He brings it, and guys like Devin Booker and Deandre Ayton feed off that.
Even with a tough matchup one-on-one with Paul George sometimes, Bridges held his own on the way to 13 points, 4 rebounds, 3 assists, 1 steal, and 2 blocks in 26 minutes. As usual, whenever Bridges logs significant minutes, he led the Suns in plus-minus at +13.
Head coach Igor Kokoskov’s best lineup, which should be their starting unit, features Bridges. Trotting out Booker-Bridges-Ariza-Warren-Ayton is their best chance at winning games with the right blend of shooting and defensive versatility.
Thumbs Down: Effort
What an embarrassing start to the game. No energy at all in the first half, which saw Oklahoma City pounce. Paul George, Steven Adams, and Dennis Schroder had their way all night versus the Suns’ defense, or lack there of.
Ayton was letting everyone have whatever they wanted near the rim. He watched players drive right past as if he was a fan himself while they soared in the air for dunks. It was quite a sight to behold, and a trait I noticed far too often when watching him last season at the University of Arizona.
Ariza also was guilty of this early. He had some lackadaisical efforts on help defense, which led to easy baskets by the Thunder. Booker is on this list, too.
As you can tell, not a great job at improvement on that end as of late.
With San Antonio coming to town on Wednesday, will the Suns bring some energy at the beginning or not? So far, the answer has usually been no.
Thumbs Down: Trevor Ariza
Phoenix gave Ariza a FaceTime call at 9:01 AZ time at the start of free agency on June 30 (July 1 EST). They prioritized him over every other target, which resulted in a quick agreement at $15 million for one year.
So far, it’s been a signing that hasn’t produced.
Ariza finished Monday’s tilt with OKC with only 8 points while notching some other box score statistics. For some reason, Ariza has been wildly inconsistent hitting his three-pointers. After a 2-6 performance, Ariza is shooting 34.2% from deep overall.
Like I mentioned earlier, his main issue has been a lack of consistency with his motor. Far too often has someone defeated Ariza with a simple one-step blow-by move, while he jogs behind them.
Bridges and Warren have outplayed Ariza, and it hasn’t even been really a debate through this 13-game sample size.
Thumbs Down: Isaiah Canaan
If there was ever a game that encapsulates the Suns’ dire need at point guard, this definitely was it. Canaan has quickly proven, as most us already knew, that he’s not a starting-caliber point guard. He’s a solid backup, but nothing more.
Canaan played 23 minutes while tallying up 1 point and 3 assists while going 0-3 from the field.
Unless Kokoskov is ready to pull the plug on his point guard rotation and go with Booker flanked by wings, there’s no answers until interim general manager James Jones finally makes a trade to fix it.
Fire up the trade machine, Bright Side readers, because this rotation isn’t functional and it’s quite honestly hampering Booker, Ayton, and the rest of this young core.
Thumbs Up: T.J. Warren
If the Suns weren’t off to this horrendous start, Warren might be getting some sleeper consideration as the NBA’s Most Improved Player. Warren proved his three-level scoring package is for real, and he added more tonight: 21 points, 6 rebounds, 2 steals, and 1 block on 10-14 FGA.
The Ryan Anderson experiment didn’t go well, but in his place steps in a new Warren, a player who can now consistently hit three-pointers. Heading into his fifth season, the North Carolina State product was a sub-30 percent shooter from deep throughout his career. It’s an awesome step of growth, the biggest we’ve seen from any Sun so far.
There’s no doubting that Devin Booker is the best player on the Suns. However, the most consistent is T.J. Warren.
In another disappointing blowout, Warren’s impact still shined through as he’s displaying noticeable two-way improvement.
The hill to climb up has become even steeper for the Suns following Monday’s loss.