Phoenix wilted a double-digit lead in the second half, 111-110. So, let’s dive into what stood out most from this one. What were the positive and negatives? Readers, you know the drill. It’s time for my ‘Thumbs Up’ and ‘Thumbs Down’ from the Suns’ latest victory.
Thumbs Up: Mikal Bridges
On a night where Bridges wasn’t doing much offensively, which has been par for the course throughout his sophomore season, he sure did fill up the box score. Bridges had 4 points, 6 rebounds, 3 assists, and 1 block in 14 minutes at halftime. The former Villanova Wildcat finished with 8 points, 10 rebounds, 3 assists, 2 steals, and 1 block on 2-of-7 field goal attempts.
Bridges was not only flashing his tantalizing defense throughout, but his passing ability is starting to bloom once more. The No. 10 overall pick from the 2018 Draft teased passing improvement over the second half of last season. Now, it seems real and here to stay following up another promising passing performance.
If Bridges can finally put it all together here soon, including putting the roundball in the basket more consistently on higher volume, he’s going to be an impressive two-way wing.
Thumbs Down: Another Blown Double-Digit Lead
At one point, the Suns led by 16 points. Following a similar script to what we’ve seen more recently from this team, the pedal is stuck in neutral more often than not. Somehow, Portland took a lead in the third quarter after Phoenix was dominating early on.
Who knows what would’ve happened if Booker was out there, maybe that lead doesn’t collapse. The thing is, it was still a trend even with Booker. If the Suns want to prove legitimate in this tight Western Conference playoff race, letting leads evaporate often is a non-starter.
Thumbs Down: Second Half Defense
Lillard and McCollum got wherever they wanted over the final 24 minutes of regulation, which doomed Phoenix. The Trail Blazers’ star point guard was ice cold in the first half, but his explosion coupled with great outings from McCollum and Carmelo Anthony led to a late comeback.
Portland’s ineffectiveness disappeared once their three best scorers got cooking. More often than not, that spells trouble. Thanks to Oubre’s late heroics, they avoided a catastrophe in this category.
Thumbs Up: Kelly Oubre Jr.
Energy. Energy. Energy. It’s a perfect way to describe Oubre Jr.’s game, and it was personified again tonight. Operating as the No. 1 scoring option without Booker and Ayton, Oubre maintained above-average efficiency while also displaying improved passing himself.
Oubre logged 24 points plus stuffed the defensive metrics with 3 steals and 1 block on 9-of-16 field goal attempts. On top of that, how about that shot at the end?
Speaking of that passing, I noted this to Brendon Kleen throughout. How often have we seen Oubre pass it off to the open man while he’s cutting? What about off a swing in the opposite direction? Definitely surprised us, and it’s a noted plus in Oubre’s cap on this night with two additional assists.
Since we passed the one year anniversary of Oubre’s arrival in the Valley, it’s fun to reminisce on how it only costed the Suns Trevor Ariza in the trade. The further we get away, the more the Ariza-Oubre deal is an absolute heist for Phoenix.
Overall, this was a bad loss for the Suns. You can’t allow big leads to go away time after time.