So much for those worries the Phoenix Suns couldn’t win without Chris Paul.
With a win on Friday night over the Chicago Bulls, they are now 10-4 without the point god and they lead the league in assists since he’s been gone.
The Suns took it to the Bulls all night long, despite being down three big rotation players. They had a 3-point lead after one, a 13-point lead after two, a 23-point lead after three and a final margin of 27.
Deandre Ayton had another killer game with 20 points and 12 rebounds in only 23 minutes of play. He sat out the last quarter-plus after the Suns took the commanding lead.
Torrey Craig has still not missed a shot filling in for Jae Crowder. He’s made all 13 field goals, including five threes, scoring 35 points and grabbing 23 rebounds in the two starts (including 14 and 9 in this one). Holy cow!
Devin Booker was excellent again, with 28 points on 18 shots, plus 3 assists and 4 rebounds.
Suns win, 129-102.
The Suns are now 57-14 with an 9-game lead over the 2nd place Memphis Grizzlies and only 11 games to play before the 2022 PLAYOFFS start.
Suns are missing starters Chris Paul (thumb) and Jae Crowder (groin) and backup Cameron Johnson (thigh), plus the usual Frank and Dario.
Bulls are missing starter Lonzo Ball (knee) and Patrick Williams (wrist).
The Bulls came out playing strong, and were buoyed by their well-traveled fans on some early scoring, taking a 7-4 lead and then 12-8 on a Javante Green three, but the Suns roared back to take a 13-12 lead on a Devin Booker three after a pair of offensive rebounds that got the SUNS crowd into an early frenzy.
Ayton was a big defensive presence early, with a handful of rebounds and several contests of drivers at the rim. Devin Booker was the offensive driver, scoring 11 points on 8 early shots.
The Bulls pulled Vucevic after only five minutes, putting Tristan Thompson at center to spread the floor to try to stretch Ayton and the Suns out, but it didn’t work the way they hoped.
With the Suns up 24-21 with under two minutes left in the first, they already had 12 rebounds (five on the offensive end) for six second-chance points.
Elfrid Payton got some run at backup point guard in this one over Aaron Holiday, and quickly dished a pair of assists to keep the Suns in the lead.
Suns lead 30-27 after one quarter, with Booker making the last basket shrugging off the high-effort defense of Caruso. All the Suns scoring has come from their starters so far, led by Devin Booker’s 13.
JaVale McGee scored the first bench points of the night on a runner in the lane against Vucevic, putting the Suns up 34-27 early in the second quarter. Both teams were struggling bad on threes — Suns at 2-10 and Bulls at 2-7.
The Suns are playing a short rotation in this one with all the injuries, only putting their 9th guy on the court (Ish Wainright) at the 9 minute mark of the second quarter. Ish came out three minutes later for Booker.
The Suns went up 48-38 a few minutes later, buoyed by a Landry Shamet four-point play after a Shamet middy. He soon followed that with a driving reverse layup to put the Suns up 50-40. Nice to see him finding that shot! (of course, right after I type this he misses a pair of wide open corner threes).
One interesting development: the Suns only ‘only’ have 11 assists on 21 shots, meaning the ball handlers are creating more of their own shots than usual. This is the team that leads the league in assists SINCE Chris Paul went down. Imagine that.
The Suns pulled away from the Bulls by late in the second quarter, taking a 59-45 lead on a pair of Ayton free throws.
Suns up 61-48 at halftime. Booker leads Suns with 20 points, and DA has 10 points and 7 rebounds. Torrey Craig has been big again — 9 points, 6 rebounds and a steal — in Crowder’s spot. Vucevic leads the Bulls with 10 points, 5 rebounds.
Bulls come out in the second half trying the ‘blitz’ on Devin Booker with two defenders, but he quickly gets a pass to Ayton in the mid-post, who makes two quick decisions and gets a pair of free throws for his trouble.
The Suns quickly built their lead to 18 with relentless offensive execution no matter what Chicago tried, and forced an early Bulls timeout. Alex Caruso started the second half in place of Javante Green to give the Bulls more perimeter defense, but all the Suns did was pass it around and get the ball to Ayton (6 of the Suns 9 points).
By the seven minute mark, the Suns had a 21 point lead, Ayton already had a double double (18 points, 10 rebounds) and Torrey Craig wasn’t far behind (11 and 9).
Suns were up 95-72 after three quarters. Ayton had 20/12 while Craig had 14/9 and Booker had 26/3/4. **CRAIG HAS NOW MADE ALL 13 SHOTS AS A STARTER**
The fourth quarter was garbage time with both teams just throwing stuff at the rim.