Earlier in the day, news broke that the Suns best three players would miss the Saturday night preseason tilt against the Portland Trailblazers. The shorthanded Suns would have to face the full strength Conference Finalists at the Moda Center in front of their rabid fans without the services of Ricky Rubio, Devin Booker or Deandre Ayton.
Prior to the game, the Suns announced that they would start Jevon Carter at point guard. Yes, that Jevon who was a throw-in to the Jackson/Melton trade last summer, who is rated lower on the point guard scale than likely anyone the Suns started last year at point, and who is probably unlikely to make an improved Suns roster.
During the game, Portland shooting guard C.J. McCollum was incredible, playing 31 minutes while shooting 10-17 from the field (including 4-7 on threes). Fellow guard Damian Lillard had 18 points in 30 minutes. Off the bench, reserve big man Zach Collins had a great all-around Suns-killer game of 16 points, 7 rebounds and 5 assists. As a team, Portland made 37% of their threes and 53% of their shots overall.
The Suns, meanwhile, sat most of their firepower and hoped to get some production from a ragtag group that had made barely 20% of their threes this preseason and had very little inside presence without Ayton.
The Suns are toast, right?
The Suns won this game going away, almost never relinquishing the lead as they poured in a team record 24 three-pointers using a lot of weaves, cuts and five-out offensive sets!
- rookie Cameron Johnson: 4-6 on threes
- power forward Dario Saric: 3-3
- power forward/center Frank Kaminsky: 4-7 (along with 8 assists!)
- backup guard Tyler Johnson: 4-6
- Kelly Oubre Jr.: 3-5
- Mikal Bridges: 2-4
- center Aron Baynes: 2-5
All in all, the Suns made 24 of 45 threes — mere hours after I posted an article that they weren’t taking nearly enough bombs for my liking. 11 different players took at least one three pointer. Glad they listened (haha)!
What. A. NIGHT!
Check the highlights here.
Over and over, the Suns center pulled Hassan Whiteside out of the paint to have to contest a three, which opened the inside for cuts, weaves and kicks inside out. This same offense can include Booker, Rubio and Ayton, of course, with Ayton becoming available for open threes just like Saric, Frank and Baynes got.
Can’t wait to see how all this unfolds this season.