Well, that’s one way to set a tone following the All-Star break. In a game that was never really close in the second half, and then expanded in the fourth quarter, the Phoenix Suns showed in their 16th straight defeat how low this is truly becoming.
Getting blown out by a Cavaliers team only one game ahead of them in the standings is inexcusable. Quite frankly, it’s embarrassing especially in a record-setting defeat like this one.
You know the drill by now with my recaps, Bright Side readers. Let’s go through my ‘Good’ and ‘Bad’ from the Suns’ latest loss that builds upon a season where this franchise seems to be stuck in neutral.
Good: Kelly Oubre Jr.
Suns head coach Igor Kokoskov tweaked his rotation after having the week off. Instead of Mikal Bridges starting (more on that later), Oubre Jr. started in his place alongside Josh Jackson. Before the break, Oubre Jr. definitely earned the starting nod with three games scoring 20-plus points in the previous five. Even with the role change, the former Washington Wizard kept up his hot hand netting 23 points in 41 minutes.
In the absence of T.J. Warren, Oubre Jr. has stepped up as one of their primary scoring options to help carry the load with Devin Booker and Deandre Ayton. If the Suns hope to snap their losing skid, Oubre Jr. will need to keep it up on both ends, as he also stuffed the stat sheet with two blocks and steals. With the lanky wing who possesses a 7’3” wingspan, he’s starting to realize his huge potential as a pest on defense.
Honestly, if it wasn’t for Oubre Jr. having an efficient outing, Cleveland likely wins this one by 20 or more compared to just 13.
Bad: Tyler Johnson
We’re about another three or four games away from placing Tyler Johnson in the Ryan Anderson category. For some reason, Johnson can’t shoot anymore in a Suns uniform as he’s 6-for-31 from the floor.
So far, the Johnson and Booker pairing hasn’t been working. Even though Booker dropped 30 points — he didn’t make my ‘Good’ list this week because most of this was done in garbage time — Johnson was unable to finish off good looks provided by his backcourt partner.
I’ll be interested to see how De’Anthony Melton adjusts after being out so long with his high ankle sprain. Depending on how his rotation minutes go, he could be nudging Johnson out of his own starting spot if his level of play continues.
Good: Emphasizing Deandre Ayton Early
The caveat here is doing it early, because after that it didn’t really happen. Ayton got going with three quick and easy baskets, but after that he either passed it back out or wasn’t fed altogether.
It continues to be a delicate dance when it comes to involving Ayton. Some nights he will get 20 shot attempts while others he’s below 10. The inconsistency is normal for most rookie bigs, but, at this point in the season, it’s time to open it up for the big fella.
Ayton finished tonight’s game with only 13 points on 5-for-9 shooting in 38 minutes.
Bad (Confusing): Igor Kokoskov’s rotation; Mikal Bridges 10th man
Starting Oubre Jr. instead of Bridges was surprising, but not using the No. 10 pick from the 2018 draft until nine minutes into the game was simply jaw-dropping. Both Dragan Bender and Jamal Crawford entered before Bridges did, which shouldn’t be happening when the Villanova product eclipsed 35 minutes in four of the previous five outings.
Bridges only took three shots in 24 minutes but also made his impact elsewhere with five assists (one turnover) and two steals. There’s no reason why Bridges should be playing less than 25 minutes when he’s already started the previous 45.
Well, that does it for the latest recap of another Suns loss. When will Phoenix snap this now franchise record losing streak? Their next opportunity is Saturday in Atlanta against the Hawks.