First, let’s remind everyone what the Phoenix Suns were playing for tonight: nothing.
Not the same ‘nothing’ they played for in the 2015-18 seasons, even though we saw Josh Jackson, Damian Jones, Mike Longabardi and Alvin Gentry (former Suns from different eras, now Kings) back on the Suns floor for a cameo and a lack of cohesion from the Suns C team that gave me memories of those ugly years. Josh certainly felt at home, I’m sure. He even committed a technical foul by elbowing Ish Wainright in the face on a rebound.
No, this time the Suns are playing for ‘nothing’ in game 82 because they have already locked up the top playoff seed with a 64-18 record that’s a full seven games better than any other team in the NBA — the widest margin since the vaunted 2014-15 Warriors.
In years past, the Suns would ‘strategically rest’ their top players in April so they could lose their way to a higher draft pick.
Now, they are using ‘strategic rest’ to ensure the best possible health for the playoffs, where every single game is the biggest game of the year and can make or break them.
I digress. This is a recap of game 82. The Suns B- team played the Kings B team tonight in a clash of ‘nothing to play for’s. The Kings, just 29-52, are already locked into their 16th straight lottery with the 7th best odds to nab the top pick.
None of Devin Booker, Chris Paul, Deandre Ayton, Jae Crowder or backup point guard Cameron Payne played at all. Mikal Bridges, the 2022 Hustle Award winner and leader in total minutes played this season by any NBA player, started but only played 6 minutes. That’s all five starters and the top backup point guard.
Brothers Aaron Holiday (Suns) and Justin Holiday (Kings) started for their teams.
Starters for each team:
Suns: Aaron Holiday, Landry Shamet, Cameron Johnson, Mikal Bridges, JaVale McGee
Kings: Davion Mitchell, Justin Holiday, Harrison Barnes, Trey Lyles, Damion Jones
The Kings took a 10-2 lead off the bat, and stretched the lead to 18 in the second quarter before closing out the half with the Kings taking a 67-51 lead.
- The Kings made 10 of 16 threes, 9 of 13 free throws and 60% of their shots. Justin Holiday led the Kings with 16 points on 6-of-7 shooting, including 4-of-5 threes.
- The Suns made just 7 of 22 threes, 0 of 2 free throws and 40% of their shots. Landry Shamet led the Suns with 12 points of 5-of-9 shooting, including 2-of-5 threes. Aaron Holiday had a rough half, missing 8 of 9 shots.
The Suns opened the second half with a well-executed Torrey Craig three, but gave up an open driving layup to Trey Lyles on the other end.
Energy started shifting the Suns way in this third quarter, but they still had trouble finding the basket and stayed well behind on the scoreboard. Tough to win when you’re shooting 37% from the field.
The Kings are really trying to give this one away, but the Suns C unit really just doesn’t seem to be able to grab it, no matter how hard they’d try.
On the positive, Iffe Lundberg is having a nice final game of the season. He looked better initiating plays than Elfrid Payton most of the time, posting a 7/4/4 line in his first 14 minutes.
The Suns came close a few times to cutting the Kings lead to 7 before the fourth quarter started, but ish Wainright missed a corner three and then a driving layup, sandwiching a bad Elfrid Payton pass and missed three from Iffe (he’s got a slow release that allows defenders to bother him more than most; he’s gonna have to speed that up if he wants a really good NBA role in the future).
Suns down 86-77 after three. Among likely playoff rotation players, Landry has 17, JaVale has a double double (11 and 13), Cameron Johnson has 12 and 7 and Torrey Craig has 8/4/3.
The fourth quarter started bad, with the Suns missing yet another couple shots to close the gap, then allowing the Kings’ Donte Divincenzo a pair of threes to push it back to 15. When Josh Jackson hit a step-back 20 footer, this one looked over.
All that was left was a Josh Jackson sighting, and the anticipation of the Kings taking the summer off while the Suns prep for their playoff run.
The Suns didn’t hit ‘the shot’ that got the lead down to 7 (102-95) until just over 3 minutes left on the clock, and then rimmed-out an open transition three on the next possession that would have really made it a game.
Iffe Lundberg had the game of his career with 10 points, 5 assists and 5 rebounds with 2 steals and no turnovers and a +6 in 27 minutes. By the end of the game, he was running the offense and getting guys open shots (that they too-often missed). I like this guy’s game a lot. He will be a free agent this summer and really wants to stay in the US, preferably with the Suns.
Landry Shamet finished with 27 points (11 of 20 overall, 5 of 12 on threes). Ish Wainright had 15. Five other Suns had at least 10 points.
The Suns end the season with a 64-18 record — the best record in franchise history.