For the third straight game, this time in the comfy confines of Talking Stick Resort Arena, the Phoenix Suns put together another strong performance through four quarters. After two road trips where they kept it close in New Orleans and pulled off their only victory in February against Memphis, Phoenix once again made Oklahoma City work for it all 48 minutes.
We saw Devin Booker and Josh Jackson both send Paul George into oblivion on separate plays in the first half. Booker nearly pulled off a James Harden type of finish as George’s legs buckled on a crossover while Jackson sent him through the spin cycle. I think Jackson’s move was by far my favorite of the night if I had to pick between them both.
Speaking of Jackson, who will be discussed more, later on, had another strong outing in T.J. Warren’s return. Jackson went back to the second unit but saw plenty of run alongside Booker and Warren.
With the way Phoenix’s young duo of Booker and Jackson looked the part once again. That in of itself should make many Suns fans happy for what’s to come in the future, albeit in a nail-biting defeat.
Good: Booker has looked the part once again of a franchise star as he controlled the pace in the first half. He had 21 points, 4 rebounds, and 8 assists on 9-12 field goals, but that’s considered a looter in a riot by some? Alrighty then!
On the night, Booker finished with 39-6-8 on 16-28 FG and continued to look the part of a man who will receive a max extension this summer.
Bad: There weren’t many negative areas of Phoenix on this night, but one was related to their schematics. Too many times was Elfrid Payton isolated by Carmelo Anthony or another Thunder frontcourt player. And far too often did nobody roll over to help as he was posted back into the basket.
Good: Josh Jackson is looking oh so special. Let it be known that I have been driving the Jackson train compared to other local media all season and have stayed in the conductor’s seat of this train. I’ve thought it since Kansas, but Jackson has the making of being an elite two-way prospect.
With the way his offense is blossoming — his spin move on Paul George literally had me so close to walking out of the media section for a second. An absolutely filthy move pulled off by him, and it led to another strong showing.
Whether it’s Jackson starting at small forward and Warren at power forward, something needs to happen. He’s an energizer off their bench, but he’s becoming too valuable to leave off the floor.
In total, Jackson tallied up 19-5-4 on 8-13 FG in 25 minutes but also 5 fouls.
Bad: This is me nitpicking here for this one, but Marquese Chriss once again was ball-watching often. That’s been an Achilles heel for Chriss all season, and that area seems to still bother him. Chriss looks where the ball is and it allowed their shooters to leak out to the corners for open 3s, which they hit twice on him.
After quickly getting T’d up, Triano pulled him for the rest of the game as he tallied only 13 minutes. Yikes.
Good: Payton was much more aggressive in the second half attacking the rim, playing off Booker very nicely. When Booker was deferring to Payton, he put his head down and went to the rim constantly. It's progressed to see how Payton and Booker continue to mesh together as a starting backcourt.
Good: When stat mining around for numbers recently, I stumbled upon 4-man lineups that showed a trend I never noticed over the past few weeks. The top five lineups featuring Len actually have their best net rating and that’s due to his presence on defense. Surprisingly, he has been the underrated aspect there.
After seeing Booker and Jackson have huge nights in back-to-back outings, I’m getting the feeling of drafting a big (Deandre Ayton, Mohamed Bamba, Jaren Jackson Jr.) and signing some veteran free agents then Phoenix has something cooking.
Staying competitive with the Thunder, even this time in a loss, was a step in the right direction this time around.