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NAZ Suns lose G-League season opener, 121-120, despite big game by Jared Harper

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Derrick Walton Jr. beats the NAZ Suns with three free throws with 0.7 seconds left in the game

The NAZ Suns kicked off their 2019-20 G-League season with a last-second loss to the Agua Caliente Clippers, 121-120, as Derrick Walton Jr. drew a three-point shooting foul with 0.7 seconds left and drained all three for the win.

The game began as a rout in the NAZ Suns favor, going up 36-24 after one quarter and leading by more than 20 points at one point in the second quarter. Rookie two-way player Jared Harper, who had led Auburn deep into the NCAA tourney last year, had 18 of the Suns first 26 points.

But this is the G-League and performance ebbs and flows. The Clippers clawed back bit by bit, and often pulled within two of the Suns, but the Suns never relinquished the lead until that final fateful second of the game.

After the game, coach Brett Burchard and point guard Jared Harper lamented about letting the lead get away, taking their feet off the gas pedal. Harper said it’s harder than it looks to keep a big lead. Burchard commented that the cramp suffered by Jalen Lecque hurt because he’d been making some great reads in the pick and roll. Sounds like it’s not that serious for Lecque.

The Clippers got as close as 107-105 with just about four minutes left, but Jared Harper made some big shots to help push the Suns lead back out to 114-108 with under two minutes left.

The Clippers made some big shots at the end including a three to pull within three, then a three to pull within one, then finally the three free throws to win the game.

Phew!

General Manager James Jones and Assistant GM Trevor Bukstein were on hand to watch the young Suns kick off the new season.

Rookie Jalen Lecque, on a full guaranteed contract with the Suns and currently on assignment to the NAZ, had 14 points (5-11, 2-4), to go with 3 assists and a rebound before coming out with a calf strain/cramp late in the third quarter. He had ice on his lower leg and did not return to the game.

Rookie Jared Harper, on a two-way contract with the big club, had a huge night. He finished with 34 points and 8 assists, along with a pair of steals.

Anthony Lawrence II was the team’s second leading scorer with 21 points (7-12, 5-8), and grabbed 12 rebounds as well. Lawrence was just taken #1 overall in the G-League draft a couple weeks ago.

Go (NAZ) Suns!