It’s just the preseason.
The Phoenix Suns opened the first part of their 2022-23 season on Sunday night against the Adelaide 36ers from the National Basketball League in Australia. It was supposed to be an easy warm-up game for Phoenix, which was a 29.5-point favorite entering the game.
It was far from that.
The Suns trailed for more than three full quarters and lost 134-124 at Footprint Center despite being 29.5-point favorites.
Adelaide is the first international team to beat an NBA team on U.S. soil since 2015, and that was Euro powerhouse Fenerbache beating the tanking Brooklyn Nets, who went 21-61 that year.
But hey, it’s just one game.
Adelaide unleashed a heavy 3-point attack on the Suns throughout the game. Seven different 36ers hit a triple and they combined for 24-of-43 (55.8 percent) from that range.
The 36ers were led by Craig Randall II with 35 points on 13-of-23 shooting (9-of-17 from 3-point range). Former Washington State star Robert Franks had 32 points and seven rebounds on 11-of-20 shooting (9-of-17 from 3-point range).
On the other end, Suns coach Monty Williams said his goal was to look at multiple lineups, especially at the power forward spot. However, that didn’t end up being the theme of the night.
The Suns’ defense allowed the 36ers to shoot 46-of-83 (55.4 percent) from the floor. Phoenix was also out-rebounded, 40-36.
On the other side, Phoenix forward Mikal Bridges and center Deandre Ayton — who signed a four-year, $133 million extension in restricted free agency this offseason — impressed. Bridges, who has definitely bulked since last season, had 22 points on 8-of-12 shooting including three 3-pointers.
Ayton had 22 points, six rebounds and two assists on 11-of-14 shooting. Backup point guard Cameron Payne led all Suns scorers with 23 points on 8-of-19 shooting.
Starting point guard Chris Paul had 12 of the Suns’ 29 assists. Phoenix assisted 29 of its 48 made shots on Sunday night (it finished 48-98 from the field and 9-of-34 from 3-point range.
The Suns starters played 22 minutes together, and were +11 on the night. There was no mixing or matching, with Williams making wholesale changes at a time. In the 22 non-starter minutes, the Suns were blown out by 19 points.
The backup four
The Suns — on paper — are not much different from their record-breaking 64-win team from last season.
Phoenix has the same corps — All-Star guards Paul and Devin Booker — along with Bridges, who was runner-up for the Defensive Player of the Year award last season, and big Deandre Ayton. Johnson, who was drafted the same year as Ayton, has made a slight change as the starting power forward with Jae Crowder expected to be soon traded.
The backup power forward position, however, is yet to be solved. Williams said during his pregame press conference that Torrey Craig may have the spot for the Suns on opening night. He played at the position with free-agent signee Jock Landale at center in the game.
Craig finished with 10 points and six rebounds in 26 minutes. Landale had 12 points and six rebounds on 4-of-9 shooting.
Ish Wainwright clocked three points in 12 minutes, and Bismack Biyombo took just one shot and did not score in three minutes behind Landale.
Dario Saric, who missed all of last season with a torn ACL suffered in the 2021 NBA Finals, did not play on Sunday even though he was dressed out.
Yes, it is just the preseason. Regardless, it should not have resulted in a loss for the Suns.
It’s important not to put too much stock into the loss. Adelaide literally could not miss. For them, this is like their Super Bowl.
However, Williams said he hoped there would be a carryover from the Suns’ four days of training camp. That did not happen.
Phoenix does not have a lot to prove — it has had the NBA’s best regular-season record last year and over the last three seasons combined — but it does have things to resolve. Its backup rotation could have more tweaks as the preseason continues.
The Suns will next play the Lakers on Wednesday at the T-Mobile Arena in Las Vegas. The game will tip off at 7 p.m. PT