What an ugly game that was for the Suns on Wednesday night at Talking Stick Resort Arena against the Indiana Pacers. What was an entertaining first half quickly turned into a blowout loss for Phoenix. Once the Pacers decided to put the clamps down defensively, this one was over right away.
Kudos to Indiana for their halftime adjustments, too. Devin Booker had 10 points at the end of the first quarter, but then he went on to only score six points over a 20-minute regulation stretch.
Former Sun T.J. Warren made his return to the Valley and produced outstanding results for his Pacers squad. Outside of Warren, Domantas Sabonis and Myles Turner were far too much to handle for the Suns’ bigs.
In one of the uglier three quarter stretches for the Suns this season after a promising first 12 minutes, let’s dive into my positives and negatives below.
Hint: There will be no positives from this one. It was one of those games that you throw right out into the garbage if you’re Phoenix.
Thumbs Down: Dario Saric
When Saric’s shot isn’t going, plus faces a bad matchup defensively, it’s going to usually be a rough outing for him. Wednesday night was no exception having to defend the likes of Domantas Sabonis and Myles Turner.
These types of outings should be expected from Saric at this point. Wildly inconsistent scoring the basketball, Saric is proving not to be a snug long-term fit in Phoenix.
The Suns’ starting power forward ended his night with 4 points and 5 rebounds on 2-of-7 shooting.
Thumbs Down: Hitting Three-Pointers
The year is 2020. However, the Suns seemed stuck in the 1990’s against Indiana. Making zero (!!!) threes at halftime is a number that shouldn’t be uttered in the modern NBA.
Phoenix ended up finishing the game with only four total three-pointers successfully converted. That’s rough, and you’re not going to win really any games when not converting at all from the outside.
Cameron Johnson remains sidelined for the Suns with a right quad contusion. The No. 11 overall pick’s absence has really made spacing suffer. Johnson was the Suns’ primary perimeter threat with an ultra green light. Missing that really changes the calculus of how Phoenix operates offensively.
Thumbs Down: Backup Point Guards
The situation for Phoenix behind Ricky Rubio right now is horrendous. It truly is. And it might not help that Rubio doesn’t look 100 percent either barely playing much in the second quarter.
Elie Okobo is a solid prospect. Jevon Carter is a pesky defender who’s undersized. Ty Jerome simply doesn’t look ready to go against NBA athleticism yet during his rookie season. What do all three of these players have in common? They are not viable backup point guard options for the Suns.
Toss in Tyler Johnson, who’s a nightly DNP-CD on a bloated $19.3 million expiring contract, and that adds yet another name to the list of players who can’t be trusted behind Rubio. Backup point guard is one of the most valuable spots to fortify for a second unit to succeed. Johnson was expected to be that option, but it sure hasn’t gone in that direction.
Between now and the trade deadline, Phoenix needs to exhaust all of their options on the open market to find a temporary bridge behind Rubio. If the Suns want to stay in the playoff push throughout the second half of the season, making an outside move for another ball handler will be of upmost importance.
It’s easy to tell right now that none of Okobo, Carter, Jerome, and Johnson will cut it. On Wednesday night, Okobo showed he’s nothing more than a microwave scorer still trying to find his footing in this league.
Thumbs Down: Deandre Ayton + Kelly Oubre Jr.
Devin Booker disappeared as Indiana sent help almost every possession after another hot start, but that’s when players like Deandre Ayton and Kelly Oubre Jr. need to step up. Unfortunately for the Suns, neither did when it was needed.
Ayton had four straight 20-point, 10-rebound games coming into Wednesday, but that all vanished once going toe-to-toe with Sabonis. The toughness of Sabonis and length of Turner caused a multitude of issues for Ayton.
This definitely wasn’t the outing you wanted to see from Ayton after hoping momentum would carry from his career-best stretch.
Meanwhile, Oubre Jr. was very inefficient and didn’t provide a spark like he usually does. Paired across from Warren and Justin Holiday, Oubre struggled to finish through the Pacers’ wings.
When the Suns’ two secondary options behind Booker fail in a game, then it’s usually over unless Superman (Booker) pulls off a miracle. With heavy attention from Indiana, Booker wasn’t able to do it.
Simply put, Wednesday night reminded me of the Suns from 2017-18. Not what you want to see when trying to compete for a playoff spot in the Western Conference.