If you want to be elite, you have to beat the teams you should. Playing to the level of the competition is rhetoric saved for teams who are finding their identity and struggling for consistency. Following a drubbing against the worst team record-wise in the league (for the second time on the road trip), the Suns return home 7-4 following a 21-point loss to the Wizards and a 1-2 Eastern Conference swing.
The Suns arrived at Capital One Arena in Washington, DC to the news that league points-per-game leader Bradley Beal would be starting, despite exposure to Jayson Tatum just three days prior. The CDC recommends 14 days, but what do I know?
Beal would be without fellow All-Star Russell Westbrook (quad) and emerging star Thomas Bryant (ACL). He wouldn’t need them tonight. HIs 34 points led all scorers as the Wizards dominated the Suns from the opening tip.
The game was the Suns for the taking. FiveThirtyEight had the Suns as 3.5-point favorites with a 64 percent chance of winning. Hope you didn’t put your money on the Suns in this one.
Booker came out looking for his shot early in this one, which is a pleasant sight to see. At times this season he has began games tentative, looking to play make rather than enforce his offensive skillset. With the 6-1 Raul Neto drawing the primary duties on Booker however, he was ready to shoot.
Book doing Book things pic.twitter.com/mPbNA4uZPp— Phoenix Suns (@Suns) January 12, 2021
It was a cold start for the Suns as they relied on their jump shooting rather than attacking a weakened interior for their shots. The team shot 6-21 in the first quarter (28.6%) including 1-7 from deep (14.3%). While Bradley Beal scored 13 points in the 1st, the Suns managed to post a season low 15 first-quarter points.
Phoenix trailed by 14 after one.
The Suns continued to be out of sorts throughout the second quarter as well.
Damian Jones received the early nod to spell Deandre Ayton and the Suns frontcourt of Jones and Dario Saric proved to be a poor rotation decision by Monty Williams. Mortitz Wagner and Robin Lopez attacked the basketball at will and the Suns could do nothing about it.
Bridges found himself in early foul trouble after collecting number 3 with 8:25 in the second. The Warden would not provide a repeat performance on this evening. He was limited to just 8 first half minutes.
It was hard at times to tell which team entered the affair as the better defensive team as Washington was scoring at will on all three levels.
Suns are getting run out of the building. Foul trouble for Booker and Bridges is a factor, but this starting unit has gotta iron out these slow starts already— Gerald Bourguet (@GeraldBourguet) January 12, 2021
Davis Bertans reminded us why he was worth a 5-year/$80M contract in the offseason as he was unconscious from the outside. 5-6 from deep for 15 points in 12 minutes, a +26 in the first half for the 5th year forward from Latvia.
Meanwhile, the Suns continued to struggle from the field, commit offensive fouls, and have no rhythm whatsoever on offense. Their continual neglect for box outs or any presence on the interior bites this team and is their Achilles heel.
Washington pushed the lead to 32, the Suns biggest deficit thus far this season, with 4 minutes left in the half.
Suns could lose this one by fifty— Dave King (@DaveKingNBA) January 12, 2021
It was easily the worst half of basketball the Phoenix Suns have played this season. The only bright side was seeing D Book of old. He is used to being down big; he has been his entire career. He knows how to be aggressive when the Suns are down and that he did. 16 points, including 6-6 from the line. The rest of the Suns starters combined for 10 points.
Suns down 26 at the half, 68-42.
Looks like fans might not have been the only ones buying into the hype. Suns haven’t proven themselves enough to be overlooking any opponent. You can bet Monty will remind them of that at half. Nothing is given. Everything is earned.— Espo (@Espo) January 12, 2021
I’m quite sure Monty gave the team a good tongue lashing at halftime. The Suns lacked focus in the first half and their performance was lackluster to say the least.
Washington is the worst defensive team in the league and will let you back in games if you have the patience and determination. The shooting efficiency in the early third increase for Phoenix, but their inability to stop to team that scored the most points-per-game continued.
Raul Neto hit a couple of three’s, negating early Suns runs in the half. The team appeared to be a step behind Washington at every turn. Former Suns big man Robin Lopez was having his way on the boards, gathering 11, including 7 on the offensive end.
Suns are making up ground but not all that quickly— Brendon Kleen (@BrendonKleen14) January 12, 2021
Deandre Ayton had what I would classify as his worst game of the young season. His defense was without fire, his offense was without purpose. He sleep walked through a game that was ripe for his to dominate (just see my Game Preview). I predicted he’d go for 20 and 18. He ended with 8 and 6. Ugly.
The third was a back-and-forth affair that saw the Wizard and Suns match each other basket for basket as both scored 36 points. If the Suns hit a three, the Wizards would match.
Bradley Beal dropped 17 in the quarter on 7-9 shooting. Booker Suns still down 26, 104-78.
The Wizards bench grabbed the baton and continued to onslaught in the fourth, led by Suns killer Ish Smith. His continual attacking of the rim, forcing the Suns to foul, should be studied by the Phoenix coaching staff and used as a blueprint on how to force the issue.
Booker got his, as he does in losses. He reached the 30-point mark for the first time this season. He ended the game with 33 on 11-21 from the field.
I wish I could write about a valiant comeback, how the Suns were sparked by a player and rode his game to the finish line. I wish I had to research greatest comebacks in Suns history and where this one ranks among them. With 3 minutes left in the game, the Suns emptied the bench, including Abdel Nader’s first appearance as a Phoenix Sun.
I can’t. Suns were outplayed in every facet of the game. The Wizards outrebounded them 55-41, outshot them from three 15-4, and out assisted them 29-21. It was the least amount of points any opponent had scored against them all year.
We'll always have the Pelicans game.— Craig ☀️ (@CraigAHamil) January 12, 2021
Star of the Game
Bradley Beal can score with the best of the them and he showed his ability to do so in a plethora of different ways this evening. He scored 34 points on 12-22 shooting, 2-6 from three, and 8-9 from the line. He added 9 assists and 6 rebounds.
The Suns limp back to the Valley and play Trae Young and the Atlanta Hawks.
After starting the season 4-1, the team has faltered, losing their last 4 prior to this evening (they played the 76ers ). Those losses came to the Cavaliers, Knicks, and Hornets...twice. Not necessarily the class of the NBA. It is early and they will look to bounce back as the begin a four-game Western Conference swing.
See you all on Wednesday. Go Suns.