The Phoenix Suns could not make a shot for a long time, but still took the lead in the third quarter thanks to hustle, timely defense and aggressive offense. They played fast — faster in the half court than I’ve seen since I began covering the team in 2012 — and the results eventually turned in their favor.
When the threes finally began to fall (7 of 10 to bust out to a 25 point lead), the Suns pulled away to win their opener for the second year in a row, this time over the Sacramento Kings by a wide margin,
The Suns outscored the Kings by 34 points in the second half and are now 7-7 in home openers at TSR Arena, 27-25 overall in 52 home openers as a franchise.
The stars of the game ended up being Ricky Rubio and the second unit. Rubio nearly had a triple double in his Suns debut (11 points, 11 assists, 6 rebounds and 4 steals), while backup point guard Jevon Carter played tough defense and made 3-4 threes.
In all, Monty Williams played 10 guys and all 10 guys had 5+ points, with Devin Booker leading the way at 22 points (most of them in the 4th) and 10 assists. Kelly Oubre Jr. had 21, along with 8 rebounds. Deandre Ayton was very active with 18 points and 11 rebounds (and FOUR blocks!!!!).
Great first game!
And GREAT JOB SUNS FANS. You mercilessly booed Trevor Ariza — and I mean, MERCILESSLY — while cheering the Suns effort all night long.
Suns win! Suns win!
Opening Night Starters
Out for Suns: rookies Cameron Johnson (strained calf), Ty Jerome (ankle)
Out for Kings: Harry Giles
The game started with the Ayton winning the tip to Rubio, running down the court to the rim, to fumbling the catch on a half-court alley oop from Rubio.
Ayton does have a big wrap on his left hand, spanning the wrist and palm, which probably contributes to his catching deficiencies.
Then Saric and Booker misses threes, but Rubio got a layup, had a great feed to Oubre for a dunk and then Ayton made a jumper.
Suns up 6-2 even after fumbling the first three possessions.
They took a 13-7 lead with the Kings only getting jumpers (and missing most) while the home team drove the ball hard at the rim, made crisp passes and got open threes (made one) as a result.
Great start here!
The Suns then let the Kings go on a 7-0 run by missing something like 18,000 straight shots. The Kings run got to 11-2 before a group of four backups and Booker got some mojo back. The Suns went back up 22-20 on a three by Booker and then a scramble-jumper by Jevon Carter (I don’t know what to call it, but it went in).
Trevor Ariza made a banked-in three and got heavy boos. Love it.
But the backup Suns started to flub it again, and the Kings took a 29-25 lead after one. The Suns last two offensive possessions ended in offensive fouls. Suns were outscored 22-12 after taking that 13-7 lead.
With Rubio back on the floor, the Suns offense looked a bit better but overall they were struggling to finish plays at the speed they were playing — which was very fast in the half court. The players and ball are rumblin, bumblin, stumblin around. Lots of missed shots, dropped passes.
Halfway through the second quarter and the Suns are 2-13 on threes. All open. All catch-and-shoot. Most with no defender even charging.
Meanwhile, Buddy Hield makes his third and the Kings are 5-12 on them.
That’s why the Suns down 50-39 right now. 4:26 left in the half.
They hung tight the rest of the way through all-out hustle, trying to keep up without being able to make any shots.
The Suns missed 14 of 16 three point attempts in the first half, FOURTEEN OF SIXTEEN but still are only down 59-54 at half and Buddy Hield going off for 22 points (5-8 on threes).
Halftime: 59-54 Kings
- Deandre Ayton: 10 points (5-8 shooting), 6 rebounds and 1 block
- Devin Booker: 5 points (2-6, 1-2 threes), 5 assists
- Ricky Rubio: 7 points, 4 assists, 3 rebounds
- Kelly Oubre Jr.: 10 points (3-10, 0-4), 4 rebounds
- Dario Saric: 7 points (2-5, 1-4), 3 rebounds
- Frank Kaminsky: 5 points (2-4, 0-2), 2 rebounds
Let’s see if Devin Booker can get it cooking at all in the second half. He can’t be the fifth leading scorer on the team...
The Suns still found themselves not quite being able to finish plays for the same reason as the first half — trying too hard, playing extra fast and just generally missing open shots.
Then finally Devin Booker engaged. He busted ass on defense and offense, helping tie the game at 62-62 with the crowd really into it.
The Suns finally took the lead 66-64 on a Rubio drive to the hoop, and then 68-64 on an Oubre fast break drive and finish.
THE CROWD IS LOUD. LOVE IT.
A lot of this was spurred by Rubio forcing a pair of turnovers that excited the crowd after a questionable referee call, and seemed to get the whole team to settle into a better rhythm while staying at that break neck speed.
The Suns are 2-18 on threes but have the 70-67 lead.
OMG, The crowd booing on Ariza’s free throws. HAHAHAHAHAHA.
Finally, the lid came off the rim from deep. To the delight of the crowd, the Suns made their next three triples — Baynes (1) and Carter (2) — and suddenly the lead is up to 10!
Suns lead 83-73!
After a dead ball, for the first time in I don’t know how long, the Suns fans collectively just gave the Suns a standing ovation. Nothing special had just happened, except that whole last ten minutes where their hard work finally paid off to get the lead.
After three quarters, Suns lead 86-76.
The fourth quarter is all Suns during the first six minutes, with Tyler Johnson making a pair of threes and the Suns defense really stepping it up.
The Suns took a 20-point lead on a Booker jumper in the lane making Fox look bad.