The Jazz took down the Suns, 119-105, in the teams’ first preseason game of the year.
The obvious thing about this game right away was that Devin Booker was taking the opportunity seriously to get back out on the court and prep himself for the regular season. I wouldn’t be surprised if he also saw his serious approach as a means of leading by example after Monty Williams and his players talked all week about treating this game as a way to keep momentum from the Bubble.
No matter what the reason was exactly, Booker fired on all cylinders to start, scoring 12 points in the first quarter and doing it in a variety of ways.
The Suns’ other star, Deandre Ayton, did not look quite as aggressive to start, relying on mid-range jumpers a few times when he had the chance to create for himself against Rudy Gobert. I’m not saying Ayton should make a fool of himself trying to score on Gobert, but that jumper remains one of the worst options compared to passing to a teammate or trying to draw a foul.
Rookie Jalen Smith was the first sub in the game and was quickly joined by a point guard-less bench unit. Without Chris Paul active on Saturday and Cameron Payne starting, it was E’Twaun Moore who initiated offense within this lineup. It’s hard to say yet what things will look like come opening night, but at the very least, we know Monty Williams is comfortable with Moore in that role.
Even though the second unit looked a bit dicey without Dario Saric, the starters came back in and provided much-needed energy once again. The ball was moving around the floor, everyone was getting involved, and in particular, Mikal Bridges was playing quite aggressively.
That’s always good to see, and allows Williams to run offense involving Bridges as a screener and cutter that is bound to result in a good shot.
Devin Booker and Mikal Bridges are really good at basketball. pic.twitter.com/7kukish9RI— Phoenix Suns (@Suns) December 13, 2020
The rest of the first half didn’t go quite as smoothly for Booker, whose aggressiveness early might’ve taken the wind out of his sails after a few minutes. Booker was 5-13 from the field going into halftime.
One other big takeaway from the first half is that the Suns hardly generated any three-pointers, attempting just 12. What that says to me is that without Chris Paul, the Suns will struggle to generate those shots. Based on how much shooting the team has overall, they are going to need table-setters to take advantage of it, so this will likely be a focus going forward for whoever anchors the second unit, whether it be Payne or Moore.
Early in the second half, Cameron Johnson fell down after a shot attempt and left the game. The training staff worked on what appeared to be his left calf. That’s obviously something to monitor as the preseason continues for the Suns.
Near the end of the third quarter, we finally saw our first bit of Langston Galloway, who strangely did not play up to that point. The sharpshooter came in and put up a quick seven points, reminding the Suns coaching staff how much gravity and shot creation he added to his game in Detroit.
Maybe we see Galloway come in earlier in the next game against Utah on Monday.
The fourth quarter featured a lot of Jevon Carter trying to do a little too much with the ball in his hands, which can get the Suns into trouble. Partially that’s because Moore wasn’t demanding touches to run the offense, but it’s also because Carter wasn’t being as decisive and Payne wasn’t as effective getting to his spots.
We’ll see what preseason game number two has in store on Monday!