Let’s hear from the coach and players about their preseason opening win over the Minnesota Timberwolves, 111-106.
It’s only preseason. It’s only one game. But I’ll tell you right now that the Suns’ starting lineup, even with Cameron Johnson filling in for the injured Kelly Oubre Jr. and Mikal Bridges, looks better than any starting lineup the Suns have had in years. They’ve got at least nine players overall who deserve nightly NBA minutes before even including the highly productive and effective rookies Johnson and Ty Jerome.
This marked the first win for Monty Williams as a head coach in almost five years, a culmination of a lot of struggle to get back where he’s wanted to be this whole time. And it’s on his birthday of all days!
Give us all the highlights tonight! pic.twitter.com/9VL1l1MWMn— Phoenix Suns (@Suns) October 9, 2019
You expect him to be overjoyed with relief, right? No. The first thing he did was ask someone for a pen, then proceeded to inspect and mark up the stat sheet he was handed when he walked into the press room.
“I wanted to make sure I was looking at the right thing,” he said. “When you hold a team to 41 percent, you shoot 50 percent, you expect to have a bigger margin. Then you see 29 turnovers, that’s a habit or trend that we don’t want to continue.”
Guards Devin Booker and Ty Jerome had five turnovers each, as did big man Cheick Diallo somehow. Ricky Rubio only had one turnover.
Williams said he thought the guys looked tired, starting in the second quarter.
“First win, it was hard to catch my second wind,” Deandre Ayton said after the game in his usual candid way. “Just to be out there and play legit basketball tells you, you need to get in shape. When you actually start running.”
The Suns took the lead for good after a timeout call down 13-12 in the first quarter, going on a 16-2 spurt before subbing out the starters. It should be noted that Minny sputtered after subbing out all-everything Karl-Anthony Towns, who’d already made a couple of threes and a windmill dunk. But it should also be noted that this starting unit for the Suns had never played together before Tuesday night in any game setting, and they definitely looked better as the night went on.
The Suns led the rest of the first half. The closest Minnesota got was a 43-43 tie before Rubio and Ayton hooked up on a couple of pick-and-roll finishes.
If you’re on twitter, give a follow to @SunsVideo! Love these clips.
“That lob was kind of high, that back-to-back scoring was neat,” Ayton said. “You can see the future in that. It was kind of hard to stop, with D-Book (Devin Booker) just waiting to screen the ball, him, I and Dario just waiting to shoot the ball. It is a lot of pieces, a lot of firepower and I am just locked in and ready to go.”
In the second half, Minnesota briefly took a five-point lead on some excellent play from mostly KAT, but the Suns deep bench outplayed the Wolves deep bench to close out the game. The Suns ended up giving minutes to 13 different players, even while missing three of their regular rotation guys (Oubre, Bridges and Baynes).
“Overall, I like our effort,” Williams said. “I liked that we saw a bunch of guys play. The ball moved, we missed some shots, we turned it over. We only had 20 assists, I would like that to be a lot higher than that, but when you turn it over that many times, and I think that’s just familiarity or lack thereof. We just got to get better in that area.”
“I loved it. I loved seeing it,” Ayton said afterward. “I told coach that I really want to see them play. I just want to see everybody play, really. Just watching dudes go out and coach giving us a little break and watching them play was beautiful, besides the turnovers.”
A whole lot of buckets being made tonight.— Phoenix Suns (@Suns) October 9, 2019
TEAM WORK. pic.twitter.com/VqUD3UMEXo
Several Suns filled up the stat sheet last night.
Deandre Ayton led the Suns with 18 points, 13 rebounds, 2 blocks and 2 assists in 21 minutes. Devin Booker had 15 points, 5 assists and 4 rebounds in 21 minutes. New point guard Ricky Rubio had 11/5/3 in 20 minutes and new power forward Dario Saric had 4/7/1 in 17 minutes.
So much to love in one play:— Suns Video Breakdown (@SunsVideo) October 9, 2019
1) Dario gets the ball down low, passes out to the open man
2) Dario grabs the offensive board
3) Dario's then able to pass out of the double team (great vision)
4) Great decision from Ayton to hand it off to Cam Johnson up top
5) 3pts for Cam. #Suns pic.twitter.com/tAPhLSGFxh
Cam Johnson did not light up the stat sheet, but he made all the right plays in other ways.
“He does stuff you don’t have to teach,” Williams said of Cam. “He takes the right shots, he slashes when there’s an opening. He plays ‘0.5’ the way we want him to. He’ll make more shots when he gets in game shape. He’s not a guy I’m concerned with. He spaces the floor for us, the guys look for him. I expect he’s going to have some nights where he’s going to be a bit of a flame-thrower.”
Cam made his first shot, a straightaway three in the third quarter, but many of his shots after that came up slightly short. Johnson played 27 minutes, the most on the whole team by four minutes.
Rookie Ty Jerome looked very good as well. He played the second-most minutes (23) while making 6 of 7 shots from the field and dishing four assists (against the aforementioned five TOs).
“Ty was solid,” Williams said. “He was in his shifts, in the right spot. Offensively when we first came into the game, he knocked down a few shots, he was making the right reads.”
This was a good first win, folks. But it’s only preseason.
Don’t get too high, don’t get too low.
Regarding Ricky’s nose: He took a hard pass right in the face early in the third quarter, which caused his vision to blur for a moment. He was subbed out at that point, just a minute before the rest of the starters called it a night. You can see in this video his nose is fine, so maybe it’s stronger than teammate Aron Baynes’ nose?
Suns take to the road to play the Sacramento Kings in California on Thursday night. The Kings are the Suns’ opening night opponent about two weeks from now.
The Kings went to India for a pair of games against the Pacers, losing both last weekend thanks to T.J. Warren’s hot scoring.