You might wonder how the Phoenix Suns who won the West last year dropped their preseason opener to a Kings squad that fell quite short of the playoffs for the 15th straight season, but all you need to do is read the word “preseason”.
The Suns lost to the Kings, 117-106, in a game that was not as close as the score.
Starters Chris Paul, Devin Booker and Jae Crowder all sat out the entire game, while Mikal Bridges and Deandre Ayton played only 12 minutes apiece. That’s 24 total minutes in a 240 minute game from a unit that averaged 184 of 240 possible minutes per game in the Finals.
The Kings, on the other hand, played all five projected starters at least 18 minutes with three of them at 23+. Hence, the Kings comfortable win.
Team leaders for the Suns on this night included, as expected, the youngest player getting the most minutes. 21-year old Jalen Smith played 32 minutes, followed by Cameron Payne (30), Elfrid Payton (25), Abdel Nader (24) and Chandler Hutchison (23).
Jalen Smith continued his run of double doubles from the Summer League, posting 13 points, 11 rebounds and adding 2 blocks. He took six threes but missed five.
“I like the way he played,” Williams said of Smith. “He wasn’t afraid to take shots, rebounding the ball inside and outside of his area. He looked more comfortable defensively at the 4, but when he’s at the 5 he’s more effective.”
Smith agreed that he is more comfortable at the center spot than the power forward spot, given his whole life playing the pivot and lack of experience at staying in front of mobile guys on the perimeter.
“I felt like I could have shot the ball a lot better,” Smith said of his play, commenting that he just played on hustle, trying to get every rebound and block a few shots.
Cam Payne led the team with 13 shot attempts (but made only 3) while dishing 7 assists and grabbing 4 rebounds.
“Overall, effort was there,” Monty Willians said, while pointing out they played a lot better in the second half than the really bad first half.
“My hope for Landry is that we can utilize more of his game,” Williams said of Landry Shamet, who was a point guard in college for four years but has not passed much since then.
Shamet commented that he appreciated the game experience being back to ‘normal’ in the locker rooms and on the bench without social distancing being enforced now that all players and staff are vaccinated.
JaVale McGee had an opportunistic 10 points (5/6 shooting) in 11 minutes off the bench. Williams talked about his rim protection and back-side finishing being a big help to the Suns this coming season.
Elfrid Payton had an effective 11 points (4-6 shooting) and 5 assists in his minutes.
Link to box score.
“It’s going to be a really cool day,” Williams said of the Suns/Mercury double header on Wednesday.
The Suns will tip things off at 3:00pm for their preseason game vs. the Lakers, then at 7:00pm the Mercury will try to close out their semifinal series vs. the Las Vegas Aces to make another WNBA Finals. They previously have won the WNBA Championship in 2007, 2009 and 2014, all with Diana Taurasi as their best player. The 2014 title included current center Britney Griner and coach Sany Brondello. A 2021 Championship would put icing on the cake of the G.O.A.T. Daina Taurasi’s illustrious career.