WHAT JUST HAPPENED
After Dario Saric missed 3 of 4 free throws and Devin Booker committed a turnover to give the Blazers the ball with a one-point lead, 117-116 and only seconds left... Robert Covington went on to miss a pair of free throws himself, and then Booker forced the Blazers into a foul with 2.4 to go... and DRAINED FREE THROWS TO WIN THE GAME
Phew. My fingers are out of breath after that one.
SUNS WIN 118-117.
- Team: +9 on rebounds, +13 on second chance points
- Cameron Payne: 21 points (8-12 shooting), 6 rebounds, 5 assists off the bench
- Chris Paul: 26 points, 7 assists, 1 turnover
- Devin Booker: 18 points (5-17 shooting), but made the game winning free throws
- Mikal Bridges: 21 points, 11 rebounds!
Crazy Crazy game in this one... crazy game. Suns were lucky to win it.
Read on for how it happened....
The Suns learned a lesson all right. They learned from the Golden State Warriors on Tuesday night that you can hustle your way to a win regardless of talent.
With Deandre Ayton (sore knee) now joining Cameron Johnson (sore wrist) on the sideline while the Blazers were healthy and rolling, they decided that extra effort was needed and they delivered.
They out-rebounded a good rebounding team, getting extra shots and extra second-chance points to stay even with the Blazers until the shots (finally) started falling. The Suns barely eclipsed 40% shooting but took a 10-point lead before the end of the third.
Mikal Bridges was a star on the floor in this one, with a 19/10 game before the fourth quarter even started.
Injured (playoff rotation players)
Suns: Deandre Ayton (sore knee), Cameron Johnson (sore wrist)
How it happened...
The Suns came out energized but could not make any shots — 36% shooting in the first quarter — while the Blazers were shooting well (55%). But the Suns kept it tied by generating five more shots thanks to gang offensive rebounding in Deandre Ayton’s absence. That was necessary considering without Ayton, the Suns are potentially the league’s worst rebounding team while the Blazers are one of the best.
C.J. McCollum and Damian Lillard were hyper-focused in this one, making 10 of their first 13 shots for 23 of the Blazers first 38 points. Another slice of their first 38 points is that 22 of them have come in the paint. Another side effect of Ayton being out.
Aaaannd then the next shot was a C.J. three to give the two Blazers 26 of the first 41.
The Suns just could not get their shooting in order, still stuck at 38% late in the second quarter.
Yet they still had a 43-42 lead with 3:08 to go thanks to frenetic gang rebounding (+3) leading to 7 more shots by this point and a 5-point advantage on free throws (7 to 2).
Portland eventually got the lead going into halftime, 53-52, as McCollum drained a couple more threes. Suns staying alive, now 11-4 on FT advantage, and 10-4 on second-chance points advantage. Blazers just drilling shots, and that’s exactly what’s expected of the league’s second best offense this season.
The Suns came out hustling again in the third quarter, taking a 61-58 lead in the first couple of minutes, but the Blazers offense if just too good to hold down.
It’s a good thing Nurkic is shooting poorly, although if you ask Nurk he’d say it’s because he was getting hacked (which may or may not be true).
The scoring remained low on both sides — tied at 62-62 almost halfway through the third quarter due to a combination of bad shooting and good defense.
The Suns kept threatening to break it open late in the third, but shot after shot rimmed out after good defensive sequences... until a Mikal Bridges breakaway got the Suns up 75-70 to force a Blazers timeout.
At this point, Bridges was up to 19 points and 9 rebounds, really filling in for the missing Ayton with extra effort on the boards. Plus, he’s guarding Dame a lot. And Cameron Payne was excellent off the bench, with 10/5/4 by end of three.
Suns had an 85-77 lead going into the 4th behind a much needed feel-good sequence of stops and scores that got the crowd roaring. For the Blazers, Lillard and McCollum now accounted for 41 of their 77 points on 60% shooting.
And then it the Phoenix Suns Arena became the HOUSE OF PAYNE. Payne made several shots to give the Suns a 9-point lead early in the 4th and the crowd was rocking again. Payne now had 21 points (11 in the quarter).
But Chris Paul would not let the Blazers go quietly. He had only 17 points entering the 4th, but scored another 18 in the first 7.5 minutes of the final frame to keep the game close. It helped that Robert Covington NAILED a few threes (now up to 4-7 for the game), and suddenly the game was tied again at 107-107.
The Blazers are now up to the dangerous 48% on threes (15 of 31) — one of the few and only keys to beat this Suns team.
Oh and there’s Dame. He doesn’t ever take a play off. And he didn’t take ANY plays off in that fourth quarter.
He had 25 all by himself, in the 4th quarter alone.
Almost pulled it out, till Covington missed a pair of free throws and then Devin Booker got to the line to put the Suns up 1 with 2.4 to go.