Is this what it feels like to finally watch a competent basketball team? It certainly feels that way, because the Suns’ newfound effort and hustle on both ends looks like it’s staying for good under Monty Williams. Phoenix was missing Ricky Rubio (knee contusion) and Deandre Ayton (suspension) tonight, but it didn’t matter as they kept it close against a juggernaut throughout.
The Los Angeles Clippers are one of the leagues best teams with Kawhi Leonard and eventually Paul George. Keeping the game this competitive shows the corner this organization seems to have turned. No more laying down after runs allowing games to balloon to blowout losses.
As the readers know by now, my game recaps consist of me throwing ‘Thumbs Up’ and ‘Thumbs Down’ for what stood out most during the game.
Without further ado, let’s dive into all of it below. For the first time in this format’s history, zero negatives! This is what a competent basketball team can do on some nights.
Thumbs Up: Defensive Effort
The defensive improvement from the Suns is one of the most surprising outcomes through three games. The mental errors have been cut to a minimum while effort reigns supreme on closeouts on opposing shooters. This says plenty about Williams and the program he is building in Phoenix right now.
In the first quarter, LA only scored 20 points while shooting 26 percent overall. Less than 24 hours after the Nuggets scored 15 points in the first 12 minutes, are we on the verge of sustainability here? I would lean yes, which goes to show you how different the on-court product is in the Valley now.
LA raised their percentages in the second half, but the effort never waned from Phoenix. Kudos to the Suns for this sudden and quite frankly shocking changed under Williams’ leadership.
Thumbs Up: Dario Saric
Once Saric started to hit shots, his true offensive value would show through. In this one, Saric looked like the Philadelphia version optimally spacing the floor while doing the dirty work rebounding and making the extra pass.
Saric finished with 15 points, 9 rebounds, and 3 assists showing off his versatile profile on end of the floor.
If Saric is able to keep this up, the elements he adds to the Suns offense will be huge. The stretch 4 production has been laying dormant in Phoenix for years. Maybe Saric can help revive one of their biggest needs, which he certainly showcased well tonight.
Thumbs Up: Frank Kaminsky
The biggest story of the season right now? I’d say so, because who in the world expected this from Kaminsky? Arguably one of the most important pieces in the second unit already, Kaminsky’s floor spacing value along with his underrated post defense have found a home in Phoenix.
Kaminsky exploded once more pouring in 18 points, 8 rebounds, and 6 assists on 7-13 field goal attempts, including a trio of three-pointers.
Sleeper sixth man of the year candidate, everybody? I’m kind of joking, but if Kaminsky keeps this up he’s going to become a key asset for this Suns team off the bench.
From losing his rotation spot in Charlotte to thriving in Phoenix, what a sudden turn of events for Kaminsky’s career.
Thumbs Up: Devin Booker
What else can you say at this point about Booker? After another slow start, Booker put the Suns offense on his back when it was needed. And it turns out, having average NBA players around him helps out a ton.
Booker finished with 30 points, 6 rebounds, and 8 assists on 10-20 FGA. He also successfully survived the Patrick Beverley torcher chamber, and winning the battle this time around fouling him out midway through the fourth quarter.
When it’s winning time, Booker continues to make plays time after time. The Suns’ $158 million man was the best player on the floor in a game featuring Kawhi Leonard. Let that soak in for a second.
Players like Kelly Oubre Jr., Jevon Carter, Tyler Johnson, and Aron Baynes all had strong outings as well leading to one of the biggest wins in recent memory for Phoenix.
Again, the Phoenix Suns are finally a competent basketball team who succeeds in the little things that matter more than others. Improvement has arrived thanks to Williams’ coaching style and the roster overhaul James Jones pulled off during his first offseason as general manager.