When a team comes out and gives maximum effort, said team has a way better chance of winning when they do so. Well, tonight, the Suns showed up and put together one of their best efforts in 2018 but it didn’t matter as again fumbled away a double-digit lead with less than 6 minutes left to fall 106-104 to the Trail Blazers.
Below, I’m going to relay the usual game recap style of my positives and negatives. As you might imagine, there were actually many on the good side that came away from this surprising Suns victory.
Before I even realized it, Devin Booker wasn’t even mentioned but he once again had a strong offensive output finishing with 30 points, 9 rebounds, and 3 assists. Booker was cold for 1 1⁄2 quarters but regained his composure early in the second half to help carry Phoenix.
The Suns weren’t able to hold off the potent Portland duo of Damian Lillard and CJ McCollum, who combined for 61 points. Dame Dolla completely took over late and made a game-winner with 0.9 seconds left.
Good: This should be an automatic for any professional basketball team, but in terms of simply trying harder, Phoenix obviously was doing so. After sleepwalking through the first 6 minutes last night against the Clippers, they definitely were dialed in this time around. Especially on defense, it was apparent from the first few rotations even those still have a ways to go in terms of timing. Good job, Suns, you kept tonight’s game competitive unlike most of their performances as of late.
Bad: Rotations from Jay Triano sort of caught me off guard tonight. I understand the small-ball lineups going against an offense with guard firepower like Portland possesses with Damian Lillard and CJ McCollum, but for Josh Jackson and Marquese Chriss to not crack above 8 minutes is rather ridiculous. They did see more minutes in the second half, but the staggering of some players confused me.
Jackson had a strong showing last night compared to his teammates, while Chriss put together his best on-court moments over the past few weeks.
Triano seems to be riding the T.J. Warren wave until the bitter end, who don’t get me wrong is a great scorer but has continued to show a lack of playmaking improvement. Warren did have another strong night offensively plus showed some defensive flashes on McCollum/Lillard at points but his best role long-term is a microwave scoring 6th man.
Good: A positive Marquese Chriss sighting, welcome back! Even though he only played 8 minutes in the first half in favor of a small-ball lineup with Daniels, he displayed way better sequences. In those 8 minutes, Chriss tallied a 3-5-3 line with 0 fouls. It would have been nice to see how Chriss could have kept his positive momentum going if he was given consistent minutes in a game like this one.
Good: Shaquille Harrison only had a few sequences tonight but it awfully impressive to me. I’m actually really liking his fit and his defensive profile gives him a shot to maintain his roster spot if Phoenix chooses to do so.
On the night, Harrison tallied up a stat line of 2 points, 3 rebounds, and 1 assists in 8 minutes.
Bad: While this is a good development for Harrison on his 10-day, this is rather grim for Ulis. He was held out last night but was fully healthy and ready to go, as Triano told the media pregame.
As has been the case throughout this season, Ulis is nearly unplayable if he doesn’t have his shot going. All year long, that’s been the case and it’s made him regress way back towards the mean compared to his strong finish last April. If Ulis has already been replaced in the rotation by Harrison, that’s worrisome. We shall find out soon enough if Harrison continues to be in his place.
As Brendon and I have talked about on Locked On Suns, Harrison actually has a unique profile I want to see expanded upon moving forward. The question now is whether Harrison remains above Ulis in the rotation until his current deal expires. That will end up saying a whole lot in terms of his future here.
Good: Aggressiveness from Elfrid Payton returned after being overly-passive against Los Angeles on Friday. Early Payton was able to capitalize on the spacing and drive to the rim for easy buckets. If we continue to see that compared to Friday’s version, there should be many positive moments created by this new backcourt duo with Devin Booker.
Payton finished with his second double-double as a Sun in his fifth start.
Good: This is way more in the “Good” category than I have written for any game this season, isn’t it? Well, they deserved it, especially Chriss. What a bounce-back effort from him tonight.
He ended up with 5 points, 7 rebounds, 3 assists, and 2 steals.
Keep having performances like this, Marquese, and all of this chatter will die down. Consistency is an area each member of this young core will need over this final stretch.
Bad: Damian Lillard is cold-blooded in crunch-time moments. Simple.