Got to give credit where credit is due.
The Phoenix Suns players and coaches hated how they played on Tuesday night in an embarrassing, lackluster defeat to the springy Brooklyn Nets, and they responded with their best effort of the season.
“We understood that we had to come out with the right mindset, with aggressiveness,” coach Igor Kokoskov said.
Only a herculean performance from Kyrie Irving saved the Celtics from their fifth loss of the season and instead handed the Phoenix Suns their ninth.
The Suns stormed out of the gate and won the first quarter by their widest margin of the season, 32-13. This, against the league’s top-ranked defense.
By halftime, the Suns had slightly increased that lead to 20 points, at 55-35, and even with just under four minutes to go, they still held onto a 14-point lead.
This, over last year’s top-seeded Boston Celtics, a crew that even this year came into the night with the league’s top defense and a three-day “rest” in Phoenix after their loss on Monday to the Nuggets.
Devin Booker was not only sublime on offense (38 points, 9 assists) but was also hustling on defense. Deandre Ayton was contesting shots at the rim. Trevor Ariza was locking up, in turns, Jaylen Brown and Jayson Tatum.
And T.J. Warren was a veritable whirling dervish on both ends of the court. Warren had a season-high 29 points to go along with 8 rebounds.
THIS is the Suns team we all hoped to see.
Oh you’ll see all over Bright Side and other outlets how the Suns lost that 14-point lead and crumbled under Kyrie’s pressure.
“You know, we just ran out of gas,” coach Igor Kokoskov said. “We were fatigued, tired.”
The Suns missed all eight three-pointers they took in the fourth quarter, after making 10 of 22 before that. Four of the Suns starters played more than 40 minutes each, the most minutes these guys have played all year. And that was a hard-played 40, too.
You could tell in the fourth that the guys were running on fumes. But the lead seemed safe. Until it wasn’t, and then it was too late to have wondered if maybe a sub or two could have helped.
But the fact that the Suns were even THERE with a 14-point lead in the fourth quarter HAS TO BE recognized.
Thank you, Suns. We needed that.
“We got to play our next game even harder,” Booker said.
Watch the highlights now. Feel free to stop them just before the end of regulation, though.