Following their dominant victory over the Houston Rockets on Friday, the Phoenix Suns were right back in action versus the Denver Nuggets on the second night of their back-to-back. Just like the last game went, a hot start occurred for Phoenix with Devin Booker and Kelly Oubre Jr. raining in three-pointers. Not only that, but Deandre Ayton was having his way against Nikola Jokic.
Unfortunately, Denver finally responded and made this a closely contested contest throughout. Trailing by only one point at halftime, the Suns went on to win lose this one late, 117-108.
You know the drill with my recaps by now, Bright Side readers. Who earned my ‘Thumbs Up’ and ‘Thumbs Down’ from tonight’s game? Without further ado, let’s dive into all of it below after Phoenix’s loss.
Thumbs Up: Deandre Ayton
For some reason, Ayton tends to have his way against Denver. Jokic is supposed to be a matchup for Ayton where he struggles against bigger, more physical opponents. Once more, that wasn’t the case for the 7-footer as he poured in 18 points and 11 rebounds by halftime.
Ayton was also holding his own defensively whenever lined up across from Jokic, or switching onto guards on the perimeter.
It was an obvious emphasis for the Suns to feed Ayton early and often, especially on rolls to the basket. This wasn’t much of a staple to Phoenix’s offense, but it might be smart of head coach Monty Williams to implement these concepts more often. Whenever Ayton is close to the basket, there’s a great chance it’s ending up in the hoop.
The Suns’ No. 1 overall pick finished with 28 points, 19 rebounds, 3 steals, and 1 block on 13-for-21 shooting.
Thumbs Down: Containing Jamal Murray
On the opposite end of the spectrum as Ayton does well against Denver, so does Jamal Murray every single time against this Suns team. Murray was scorching hot to start things off, but he went quiet for a little bit in the second quarter. Still, the Nuggets’ point guard ended up notching 36 points on extremely high efficiency.
Why can’t the Suns guard Murray with more success? These types of player-team matchups happen all the time around the Association. For Phoenix, it’s the Canadian product in Denver who continues to have his way against their defense.
Whenever the Nuggets and Suns play, you can guarantee two things now. The first is Ayton doing well, but the second is Murray having unbelievable shooting nights.
Thumbs Up: Devin Booker’s Playmaking
Even though Booker cooled off big-time after the first quarter, a bad shooting night wasn’t stopping the Suns’ star from helping out in other ways. Denver was sending pressure Booker’s way endlessly after his hot start, so playmaking was the name of the game after that.
Booker was stymied to the point he was deferring to Ayton at one point in the second half, especially once the big fella got in rhythm again. The Suns’ shooting guard ended up finishing with 21 points and 9 assists on 5-for-16 shooting.
Phoenix probably wins this game if Booker has a more consistent scoring outing, no doubt about that, but it’s promising that the Suns’ $158 million man continues to get others involved when Plan A isn’t working.
Thumbs Down: Bench Production
This is exactly why the Suns should’ve made a move on the margins at the trade deadline. The bench has been a sore spot for Phoenix all season long, but, lately, it’s been outright atrocious. Saturday night was no different for the Suns as they couldn’t rely on anyone to provide a boost.
Elie Okobo, Cameron Johnson, Jevon Carter, and Cheick Diallo were Phoenix’s bench mob tonight. This four-man lineup ended up combining for 15 points, which saw almost all of it come from Johnson.
Luckily Johnson is back in the Suns’ rotation, but they need to get healthy as soon as possible. From Ty Jerome and Aron Baynes to Dario Saric, plenty of minutes are missing right now.
Here’s hoping the cavalry arrives soon for Phoenix off the bench, because this is becoming unbearable with the inconsistent play.