In the first quarter, you would’ve expected the Suns to have another disappointing loss added to their long list already this season. Even though it was way too close for comfort most of the game, the Phoenix Suns notched their 16th win of the season on Sunday night against the Charlotte Hornets, 100-92.
Charlotte actually led through the first quarter before Phoenix showed they were the superior squad for the next 30 or so minutes. However, this wouldn’t be a typical Suns game if it weren’t for it slipping away and being a one-possession game near the end.
As I always do for the Bright Siders, we’re going to recap the positives (Thumbs Up) and negatives (Thumbs Down) from the latest Suns matchup. Without further ado, let’s dive into it all below.
Thumbs Up: Deandre Ayton
Ayton continues to shake off the rust coming off the bench behind Saric and Baynes, but his two-way presence is starting to become more consistent. Phoenix looked the big fella’s way early and often on offense, chucking up 12 shots in his 22 minutes of action. The former No. 1 overall pick finished with 18 points, 9 rebounds, 2 assists, and 1 block on 9-of-15 shooting.
When Ayton is focused on dominating inside, while also holding his own on his matchup defensively, he fits right into what Williams wants this team to accomplish. The numbers show that Phoenix is playing above-average defense in lineups where Ayton is surrounded by savvy wings (Oubre, Bridges). No coincidence that’s where Ayton is most comfortable right now either.
Thumbs Down: Devin Booker
What a rough outing for Booker. Luckily the Suns didn’t need much from him with Oubre picking up the slack, but this goes down as one of Booker’s worst games of the season.
Booker was being double-teamed and trapped, while also seeing wings like Miles Bridges and Dwayne Bacon rotate throughout. Finishing with 7 turnovers compared to only 12 points, this is one Booker can throw out in the upcoming film session.
It’s also notable how much of a dip we’ve seen from Booker as a three-point shooter following his hot start to the season. Only 1-of-6 on threes for the Suns’ star guard tonight in the win.
If this is what we’ll call a bad night from Booker, Phoenix will take that.
Thumbs Up: Kelly Oubre Jr.
Once more, Oubre Jr. displayed why he’s going to be apart of this Suns team for the long-term. It was Oubre’s eighth straight game notching 20 or more points, this time finishing with 25 on 10-of-19 shooting. Tsunami Papi also added 15 rebounds, 3 steals, and 2 blocks showing off true Swiss Army knife potential for Phoenix.
Oubre is really finding a rhythm lately thanks to his hot perimeter shooting, but also where to function within the Suns’ offense. Thriving alongside Ricky Rubio’s pass-happy style, Oubre continues to show how improved he is in 2020.
And on defense, is Oubre one of the most underrated wings on that side of the court right now? I definitely think so. Continuing to stuff the stat sheet on a nightly basis is showing the Association what type of player Oubre truly is. The Year 5 leap is occurring right now for the Suns’ starting small forward.
Thumbs Up: Dario Saric
Monty Williams has referred to Saric more often now as the “connector” between Ayton and Baynes. On a night like this, Saric showed off his glue guy potential making the right reads often while also hitting the shots provided.
Saric only played 23 minutes as Williams continues to lean towards small-ball with Oubre and Bridges, but his impact was certainly felt. The Croatian big man logged 5 points, 6 rebounds, and 2 assists while being a plus-17 in the plus-minus category.
Who knows what the future holds for Saric, but he’s at least showing he’s a rotation player in this league. Whether it’s Phoenix or somewhere else between now and July will be decided here soon, especially if the Suns decide to be active before February’s trade deadline.