The Suns shot 53 percent from deep as they took down Toronto at home, 123-115.
Once again, the Suns’ offense started in a bit of a funk, but this time they were saved by the offensive rebounding, as the team grabbed the early boards off their own misses as well as a few extra tips and taps. That helped them stay in the game early on.
Chris Paul came out aggressive but missed a couple easy shots inside, and overall Toronto was its usual swarming self on defense.
On the other side, Fred VanVleet, fresh off a monster night against Boston, came in looking to score and did so in a hurry. He made an early triple and got to the basket in transition during the Raptors’ strong start.
VanVleet played the entire first quarter and scored 7 points.
The big flip early in the game came when Mikal Bridges tallied his second foul and the Suns went to Cameron Johnson. While Bridges had made his first, Johnson came out even more aggressive and scored four quick points. Johnson’s entry to the game coincided with the Suns’ offense getting going thanks to all the spacing.
Shortly after, Dario Saric and Cameron Payne checked in and the Suns really started to score. Saric checked in and drove to the lane on his first three offensive possessions, finally getting a bucket on his third try after seemingly getting fouled on the second shot.
As the second half progress, Crowder picked up the slack as a scorer as Paul and Booker both remained quiet.
Throughout training camp and preseason, Monty Williams talked about how he trusted Crowder to remain the type of shot-maker he was with the Heat in the Bubble rather than the guy he was to start last season with the Grizzlies. I asked what he would do to ensure that and Williams talked about empowering Crowder as a play-maker and multifaceted scorer, and so far it’s worked wonders.
The Suns have given Crowder the same green light as Erik Spoelstra gave him with the Heat, and they’ve not been afraid to let him be a key piece of the 0.5 offense at times as well. Crowder isn’t merely a spot-up shooter, but a driver, screener, cutter and passer too.
It’s all made him look supremely comfortable to start the season:
Ball movement = @ConnsHomePlus #MakeItHappen pic.twitter.com/MdSMO878oP— Phoenix Suns (@Suns) January 7, 2021
He had 15 in the first half and kept the Suns offense afloat for much of the second, even as Booker and Paul combined for just 14 points on 6-14 shooting.
Crowder stayed hot to start the first half as the Suns went on a quick 9-0 run early in the third period to go up 7 and force Nick Nurse into a timeout. That run happened courtesy of two Crowder threes followed by a Booker three.
1, 2, 3!— FOX Sports Arizona (@FOXSPORTSAZ) January 7, 2021
Suns 9-0 run! pic.twitter.com/TGMv7nA52O
Then Booker hit another to put the Suns up 10, elevating the Suns to an astounding 13-27 from deep.
The rest of the third period kept up that way, with the Suns pinging the ball around and nailing threes, until Booker himself closed things out with five points in 30 seconds, playing a 2 for 1 situation brilliantly. First, Booker pulled up from 34 feet for a three before getting to the free-throw line for two foul shots.
Booker from CAMP VERDE! pic.twitter.com/WCgdIADBgI— FOX Sports Arizona (@FOXSPORTSAZ) January 7, 2021
Booker scored 15 in the third period and had 21 overall heading into the final frame.
The Suns led, 96-87.
Early in the fourth, the Suns went as they usually do with a lineup centered around Ayton as the focal point, and he did his, as he usually does, some damage. The big man defended well and continued to fight on the glass, and his energy eventually spilled over and resulted in a spill with Kyle Lowry, which was reviewed for way too long.
The officials determined no “hostile act” occurred and Ayton was not charged with a foul.
By this point though, the Suns already had a double-digit lead.
True to form, Monty kept his starters in for their normal fourth-quarter rotation anyway, but the Raptors never really made their run.
Booker closed the game with a ridiculous jumper that sweetly touched off the glass.