Even without Deandre Ayton, T.J. Warren, and Richaun Holmes available due to lower extremity injuries, the Phoenix Suns actually kept this one close versus the Portland Trail Blazers. The thing is, with one of the most inexperienced rotations league-wide, there will be plenty of head scratching moments to comb through usually.
Case in point, this sequence in the first half involving De’Anthony Melton and Quincy Acy. First, Jamal Crawford got Acy a nice open look at the basket off a pick-and-roll but he doesn’t even look at the rim before passing it out to Melton. Unfortunately, Melton doesn’t even look at the basket either as he drives then turns midair trying to find Acy in the corner. Easy turnover and points on the other end for Portland due to trying to make too much happen.
Again, with a young team, these moments are expected but they come back to bite you over a full 48 minutes of action. Another example can be found in the second quarter where Josh Jackson had no clue what he was doing on a drive before chucking up a shot that looked to slip out of hands before he got it back and found Dragan Bender for a nice dime.
In another lost season to player development like this one for Phoenix, currently 11-39 after this latest defeat, you have to find the positives where you can.
You know the drill by now with my recaps, Bright Side Of The Sun readers. I will relay my biggest winners (Thumbs Up) and losers (Thumbs Down) from tonight’s game.
Without further ado, let’s dive into it below.
Thumbs Up: Devin Booker’s First Quarter Scoring Binge
Without an uber aggressive 10-minute opening stanza from Booker, Phoenix likely never keeps it close like they did tonight. Booker poured in 18 points on 6-for-9 shooting, which included him taking advantage of numbers in transition opportunities once more. This has been a trend I’ve been noticing with Booker starting with his return on the Suns’ road trip last week.
Booker also was able to hit a few three-pointers, including a rare pull-up that he’s been struggling on this season, but cooled off significantly from there once Portland adjusted their defensive coverages on him.
Trail Blazers head coach Terry Stotts helped orchestrate a nice in-game adjustment on Booker, which included Maurice Harkless and Evan Turner taking turns hounding Booker off the ball. Then, Stotts sent multiple help bodies Booker’s way whenever he went inside the restricted area, so it was tough sledding over the final three quarters for Booker.
Booker’s main positive was helpful, but Portland’s adjustments led to his big negative from Thursday night’s loss.
Thumbs Down: Devin Booker’s Turnover Problems
Credit where credit is due with Stotts and his coaching staff for this one. Booker finished with six turnovers, tripling his overall assist production.
Whenever Booker was trying to maneuver and find his own teammates for open looks, either they weren’t converted or Portland made life difficult.
Not much else to add on this category, but this feels like the first game in awhile where Booker’s turnover were such a major negative in a single outing.
When there’s still no starting-caliber point guard on the roster, though, you can’t really blame Booker when he’s carrying such an absurd usage rate, especially without Ayton and Warren out there with him.
Thumbs Down: Dragan Bender
This was a swift 180-degree turn for Bender after his best two-game streak of his career versus Minnesota with back-to-back double-doubles. After an initial stretch of assertiveness taking five shots in the first quarter, the old Bender habits started to really rear their ugly head.
Within just a few minute stretch, Bender pulled off all of the following:
- Traveling violation when hesitating against incoming pressure
- stuffed at the rim on a drive attempt, but bailed out with a foul call
- Jusuf Nurkic continuously got to whatever spots he wanted on the floor against Bender, but just missed easy shots
- After all of these moments, I noticed Bender had his head down and talking to himself. The old Bender tendency of getting in his own head was happening before head coach Igor Kokoskov pulled him for Quincy Acy
As you can see, it looks like everything is back to normal on Bender Island. This week of action does prove Bender can at least stick around on the NBA level for another contract, though, since he somehow put up 17 points in this game too.
Like I mentioned in the game preview piece, I envision him either in Golden State or San Antonio by this time next year. Unfortunately for Bender, his time in Phoenix just ran out on him — and these maddening bouts with inconsistency won’t help his case.
Thumbs Up: Elie Okobo — Bench Spark Plug
Witnessing another blowout loss, it’s hard to really come up with another positive from this one but at least Okobo flashed some of his tantalizing offensive potential when De’Anthony Melton went down with a sprained ankle early in the second half. (Yes, another injury occurred with a Suns starter, which is the last thing you want to see right now with the current state of this team.)
Okobo scored nine of his 12 points in a quick burst during the third quarter. The No. 31 overall pick out of France still struggles with defensive consistency plus balancing scoring and playmaking within the flow of the offense, but it’s nice to see these types of sequences every now and then.
Well, that will do it here from Talking Stick Resort Arena. Once again, another blowout loss for the Suns as this gauntlet in the Western Conference won’t be easing up any time soon before the All-Star break.
Next up, Phoenix pays a visit to Denver tomorrow night to finish off their latest back-to-back.