Wow, I didn’t expect that finish. And I don’t think anyone else really did either.
Somehow, someway, the Phoenix Suns went into Milwaukee defeating the Bucks on a game-saving turnover forced by Deandre Ayton on Giannis Antetokounmpo. Then, when Devin Booker couldn’t get free on the final play, Jamal Crawford took it himself and made the game-winning shot with 0.8 seconds left. Khris Middleton made the game-winning three-pointer for the Bucks, but it was past the timer going off.
Giannis isolated Ayton. He just held his own and forced a game-saving turnover in a tie game. pic.twitter.com/G7YMnp7JEG— Evan Sidery (@esidery) November 24, 2018
Devin Booker couldn’t get free of Bledsoe and Jamal Crawford drained the shot with 0.8 left. pic.twitter.com/qpSzqD2fMg— Evan Sidery (@esidery) November 24, 2018
Bright Side Of The Sun readers, you know the drill by now when it comes to my recap format. I will go through my ‘Thumbs Up’ and ‘Thumbs Down’ from tonight’s stunning victory for the Suns.
Thumbs Up: Devin Booker
Point Book seems to be working well, isn’t it?
Booker finished tonight’s game with 29 points, 4 rebounds, and 7 assists on 13-26 FGA while facing some super aggressive on-ball defense through most of the night on Eric Bledsoe and Malcolm Brogdon. On top of that, Booker only had three turnovers. I would be stunned, especially after this game, if Igor Kokoskov didn’t roll with him stating at point guard until further notice.
The Suns’ franchise player was the driving force behind their key runs both in the the third and fourth quarter when they desperately needed to swipe back momentum from Milwaukee. Whenever Booker left the floor, Phoenix was an absolute disaster.
Booker finished with the team’s leading plus-minus of +14 and some inspired defense, racking up three steals of his own.
If it wasn’t for him, as it is most nights, the Suns come nowhere close to winning this one.
Thumbs Down: Isaiah Canaan
Canaan only played 17 minutes tonight, but he was a major net-negative tallying up 0 points. He went 0-5, including four of those being misses from beyond the arc.
For some reason, Kokoskov continued to use the 2-man lineup of Canaan and Crawford, even though it almost cost them the game.
There’s not much else to say about Canaan at this point. Four games in a row now where he’s the worst player in the rotation.
Here’s hoping it clicks for the coaching staff, because rookies like Elie Okobo and De’Anthony Melton are not developing when they don’t get to grow through their mistakes.
Thumbs Up: Richaun Holmes
It’s a familiar theme with Richaun Holmes, but his nonstop hustle and energy are paying huge dividends for the Suns whenever he’s logging minutes. Tonight, Holmes tallied 12 points, 4 rebounds, 2 steals, and 1 block in short order while also not missing a shot (4-4).
Plenty of Holmes’ minutes were when either Canaan or Crawford were on the floor, bringing down his plus-minus, but his impact was definitely felt.
If there’s a priority list for the Suns this offseason, re-signing Holmes to a team-friendly contract for 3-4 years should be on there, possibly in the top five.
Thumbs Down: Containing Giannis
At one point this game, I thought Giannis Antetokounmpo was going to break the NBA record for most dunks in a game. His first seven makes were all dunks, because nobody on the Suns’ roster could stop him. They tried Warren, Ariza, and Bridges but no one had a chance. Luckily, Ayton held him on the last possession when it mattered most.
Antetokoumpo finished with 35 points, 11 rebounds, 3 assists, and 1 steal while going 14-16 from the field. Inexplicably, Bucks head coach Mike Budenholzer didn’t go to his star player on the second to last possession and had him sit in the corner instead.
Nobody in this league can really contain Giannis, and it was the Bucks’ own doing why they lost that game. Keep feeding The Great Freak and good things will happen.
Luckily for the Suns, they went away from him late.
After seeing Giannis tonight, though, I definitely should have considered him more for MVP this season. My preseason favorite was Kawhi Leonard, but Antetokounmpo is well on his way to snagging most of the votes with how he’s performing right now.
Thumbs Up: Igor starting Bridges
Kokoskov finally went back to Mikal Bridges starting alongside Booker in the backcourt. Following Monday’s game in Philadelphia where both were feeding off one another, Canaan was placed back in on Wednesday with opposite results.
Well, after seeing the way Bridges held his own once more while finishing second to Booker for being the team’s leader in plus-minutes — a regular occurrence for the No. 10 overall pick at this point — he should be starting every game from here on out.
Unless a trade is made to fill the point guard hole, Booker and Bridges need to be playing together as many minutes as possible.
Bridges only had 4 points and 3 rebounds, but his impact isn’t shown all on the box score. His smarts and in-game intangibles are already turning into a valuable cog on this young roster.
Remember, Bridges is actually a few months older than Booker is.
Heading into Friday’s matchup in Milwaukee, Bridges, as a rookie, led the entire league in on/off point differential. That’s an absurd stat, and one that will continue to hold with his on-court impact.
Trust me, there were plenty of other positives from this game outside of the ones I have mentioned, including Ayton’s night overall, but I definitely thought I was going to be writing a recap where the Suns were blown out. Instead, the Suns willed themselves to a victory over one of the best tams in the NBA.
From here, let’s see if the Suns can build momentum. This type of outing is one where it should be a huge stepping stone, but we shall see on Monday when Phoenix faces off against Detroit.