Well, they did it. It wasn’t convincing...but the 8-game losing streak for the Phoenix Suns is finally over! Devin Booker played his best game in at least 3 weeks with 32/10 on 14-23 shooting. Here’s the breakdown of how it all happened.
Things looked pretty good for the Phoenix Suns to start this one, at least in the first minute. After a smooth Kelly Oubre mid-range jumper and a nifty Rubio reverse layup, the Suns found themselves up 4-0.
But things pretty quickly fell apart after that.
After a questionable moving screen call on Aron Baynes two minutes in, Kaminsky was forced to check in. Baynes went to the bench with two early fouls.
What then ensued was a series of easy inside buckets for Sacramento, either coming in transition, off putbacks, or on pocket passes to former Sun Richaun Holmes. Sacramento goes up 14-10, and Phoenix calls its first timeout.
With Sacramento routinely trapping Booker at the top of the key, Kelly Oubre found ample scoring opportunities in the 1st quarter. He had 9 points and 5 boards after just several minutes.
Richaun Holmes was, to the surprise of no one, a hustle machine. He easily stopped a Kaminsky post up on one possession, then blocked an Oubre drive on the next. Monty Williams evidently got frustrated with Kaminsky, as Cheick Diallo checked in with three minutes remaining in the first.
The backup PG wars continue, as both Jevon Carter and Elie Okobo logged minutes in the 1st. Okobo ends it with a heads up steal with 3 seconds left and then gets fouled on a long-distance shot by Bogdan Bogdanovic.
Good defense by the Suns kept Sacramento off the board in the early 2nd, but turnovers continued to plague Phoenix. Aron Baynes finally broke open the scoring for the Suns 4 MINUTES INTO THE QUARTER.
One lineup I really liked was Booker-Okobo-Bridges-Oubre-Baynes, which we got to see in the 2nd quarter. With active hands defensively and multiple scoring options offensively, this lineup went on a run and the Suns went up 46-43. One can only imagine what this group would look like with a deadly pick-and-roll finisher like Ayton slotting in at the 5.
A spirited Richaun Holmes got hit with a tech after a foul on Kelly Oubre, as did Luke Walton. Then the Suns closed out the quarter on another run, led by the energy of Kelly Oubre and Mikal Bridges leaking out on the wings as well as a couple of tough Devin Booker shots in the halfcourt.
It’s 59-49 Suns at the half, and things look pretty good. Oubre already has a double double, with 15/10 and 2 steals. Booker is close behind with 14 points and 5 assists.
Booker started the 3rd quarter with some playmaking, dishing off consecutive assists to Ricky Rubio, Kelly Oubre, and Aron Baynes. The Kings took an early timeout down 14.
And then they made a run. First it was Buddy Hield, then Nemanja Bjelica with a deep three. Finally Harrison Barnes took it to Saric in transition and forced Monty to call a timeout with the Suns only up 5.
The game continued on a back-and-forth trajectory throughout the rest of the quarter, with the Suns relying on instant offense from Devin Booker just as their three-point shooting started to fail them. Booker finished the quarter with 21/8 and the Suns up by 4. The team, on the other hand, was now shooting just 33% from deep after a hot shooting start.
At this point I’m thinking: Can they survive early 4th quarter minutes without Booker on the floor? Whether he’s still fighting a lingering injury or not, this looks like his most productive game in a while. They’ll need someone to step up for 4-5 minutes, but is anyone capable?
The answer: Not really. But Monty Williams wasn’t willing to wait around to find out, and brought Booker back in with 8:30 remaining and the Suns up by just 2.
Noted Suns killer Bogdan Bogdanovic and Booker traded buckets back and forth throughout the 4th. Then just as the double came on Booker, he flipped a pass to a cutting Oubre for a dunk. Suns go up 100-98 with 4 minutes remaining.
The offense continued to run through Book to end the game, except when that double came. Ricky Rubio hit a clutch 3 to put the Suns up by 5, but then Buddy Hield answered a possession later.
Richaun Holmes was sent to the line after a putback with just 20 seconds left and the Kings down by 2. A much improved FT shooter this season (82%), Holmes went just 1-2. Sacramento as a team shot a putrid 16-24 from the line this game, a major contributor to their loss.
19 seconds left. Suns up 109-108. Rather than fouling, the Kings allow them to break through a trap and find Aron Baynes for a wide open dunk.
Now it’s 111-108 with just 9 seconds remaining. Perhaps recognizing Sacramento’s awful night from the charity stripe, Booker opts to foul Harrison Barnes and send him to the line. Harrison makes both and it’s back to a 1-point game.
And of course, it’s Devin Booker who misses a free throw on the other end. Because of course. It’s 112-110 with 5.9 left. How will the Suns lose this time? Richaun Holmes and-one alley-oop? Bogdan Bogdanovic step back 3? Igor Kokoskov makes his NBA debut and sinks a triple from the corner?
But they don’t. Harrison Barnes misses as wide open a three as you could possibly get, and the Suns survive 112-110. My heart racing, my mind bracing for the heartbreak, but the streak is over.
I’m exhausted. It took 32 points and 10 assists from Devin Booker to eek out a win against a team on a similar losing streak, and that’s not a great sign. But baby steps.
Devin Booker: 32/3/10 and 2 steals on 14-23 FG, 0-4 3P
Kelly Oubre: 20/16/5 and 2 steals on 8-14 FG, 2-4 3P
Ricky Rubio: 21/3/8 and 2 steals/2 blocks on 7-15 FG, 3-5 3P
See you on Monday for a critical game against Portland.