What happened in the second half was nothing short of bad basketball. After building up a 21-point lead in the third quarter, Phoenix ended up falling to Charlotte.
Below, I will relay my positives and negatives from this loss.
Good: Aggressive Dragan is back! After scoring 16 points Friday against Utah, Bender had 8 points early. He was calling for the ball again after hitting his first few, but they didn’t find him. This is a welcome development to follow over these last few months of the season.
Bad: T.J. Warren defense. Nicolas Batum was being left open constantly from beyond the arc off of Warren’s mishaps on switches. T.J. did have a moment fighting for a loose ball midway through the second quarter. However, he settled down when matched up on Kemba Walker, bothering him noticeably a few times.
Good: Point Booker was in a groove. 4 assists in 5 minutes. In the first few minutes, two, in particular, stood out. Devin Booker hit Josh Jackson on back-to-back cuts. Booker at the point, when he’s aggressive, opens up so many lanes for wings like Jackson to operate. At halftime, Booker was on a triple-double alert with 7 points, 5 rebounds, and 6 assists.
Bad: This will continue to be a standout in the negative department until it’s fixed this offseason. It’s becoming more apparent on a game-by-basis that a big like Deandre Ayton, Mohamed Bamba, and Jaren Jackson Jr. makes the most sense for this roster. Luka Doncic and Trae Young are the go-to picks to address the scoring need, but those big men could provide both if developed correctly alongside the rest of this core.
Good: Consistent T.J. returned on the other side of the ball. After an awful outing against Utah, Warren returned to his usual form offensively. In the first half, he had 13 points on 5-8 shooting. When he’s in a groove, his offense perfectly flows into their system. It’s become more and more obvious that Warren is a major catalyst to this offense humming at full strength.
Bad: The Suns started to get complacent with a wider lead. In the third quarter, Phoenix led by as many as 18 points but led by Kemba’s 13 points over that span, Charlotte only trailed by 8. Far too often do teams have great comeback attempts against Phoenix. Charlotte then brought it to within 1 to start the fourth. Yikes. Charlotte ended up taking the lead and never looked back. Complacency led to their second-half demise.
Good: Hello, Danuel House! Not only did he put Cody Zeller on a poster, but he slammed a thunderous one home again in the fourth quarter. Midway through the fourth, House has 5 points, 2 rebounds, and a block in 9 minutes.
Booker ended up going to the locker room in the fourth after Cody Zeller hit his ribs on the way up on a dunk. Booker tried for a possession, then yelled over to Triano saying he couldn’t go.
Knowing the competitor Booker is, he will be against this, but he really needs to take an extended All-Star break and sit a few games. He’s looking exhausted, and you can’t take the chance of making this injury even worse.
This season continues to spiral for Phoenix, and this collapse is the latest result.