The Phoenix Suns came out looking like the Suns we knew and loved for three quarters, taking a 20 point lead into the 4th, 94-74. But then the lack of playmaking (Saben Lee, on a 10-day contract, was their only real playmaker due to injuries) hurt the Suns when the Brooklyn Nets dialed up the pressure.
Kyrie Irving went OFF in the fourth quarter, draining 14 points on 8 shots to pull the Nets within five points in the first five minutes of the quarter, but the Suns forced three straight turnovers and held the lead at 5. The Nets were able to pull within 4 (111-107) with just under a minute to go and then within 3 (113-110) with 10.9 seconds to go.
Irving had 21 points in the fourth quarter alone, on 8-11 shooting, but his heroics just weren’t enough to overcome the deficit and the Suns held on for a much-needed win. Irving finished with 30 points, 7 rebounds, 7 assists, 4 steals and 2 blocks.
SUNS WIN! 117-112
- Mikal Bridges had team highs in points (28) and assists (9) as the Suns primary playmaker.
- Deandre Ayton finished with 24 points, 14 rebounds, 4 assists and a steal.
- In his first game back from a two-month recovery of a torn meniscus, Cameron Johnson totaled 19 points, 6 rebounds, 2 assists, 2 blocks and a steal.
- In the final game of his 10-day contract with the Suns, Saben Lee put up 15 points, 6 assists, 3 rebounds and a steal in 29 huge minutes.
(Once again, the Suns had a LOT of people out: Booker, Paul, Okogie, Payne, Shamet and Crowder were all out; the Nets were out Kevin Durant).
How it happened
Nearly new Phoenix Suns managing partner Mat Ishbia attended his first game in Phoenix, only to have to watch the mishmash lineup that is December and January. His two best players, Devin Booker and Chris Paul, are out injured along with a handful of other rotation players.
His injured Suns had to face a Brooklyn Nets team missing MVP candidate Kevin Durant, but still getting big minutes from All-Star Kyrie Irving.
Cam Johnson came in mid-first quarter to a thunderous roar from the crowd here in Phoenix, louder than I’ve heard in a long time. Within seconds, he forced a Kyrie Irving miss on a drive to the rim and then made a transition three pointer on the other end.
Deandre Ayton had a nice opening stint, with 10 points, 7 rebounds and 3 assists in 8 minutes of play.
Two minutes later, Cam made his second three to put the Suns up 30-21 to force a Nets timeout. That was his third made shot (he also drained a floater) in four attempts in three minutes of play. Dude is not afraid to shoot.
After the first period, the Suns are up 35-29 despite not even having a point guard in the rotation. The Suns shot 56% in the first quarter, a good sight to see considering the offensive problems this month. CamJ and DA lead the team with 10 points each. The Nets kept close, with 52% shooting (60% on threes).
Saben Lee started the second quarter after Duane Washington Jr. played the last six minutes of the first (0-4 from the floor, 3 assists, 1 turnover). Lee quickly drove into the lane and forced a switch of a smaller player on Biyombo to draw a foul. A minute later, Lee made a three in the corner.
The Suns backups, led by Mikal Bridges, built an 11-point lead with 8 minutes to go in the second quarter. So far so good in this one.
The Suns were able to pull away late in the second quarter with a sustained renewed spirit we hadn’t seen in a bit. Was it just the return of a single rotation player in Cam Johnson, or the appearance of new owner Mat Ishbia? I guess we won’t know why, but what we do know is they look just a little bit more like the team we’ve been used to seeing the last two years.
Cam Johnson came back in for the last few minutes of the third quarter and had another positive impact, scoring on an old-fashioned three point play drive to the hoop.
Halftime: Suns up 65-51.
Deandre Ayton has 17 points, 9 rebounds and 3 assists. Mikal Bridges has 13 points and 6 assists (he’s basically playing point for a lot of the game, so this is good). Cameron Johnson has 13 points and 2 rebounds. Saben Lee had a great second quarter, draining 9 points and dishing 3 assists.
The Suns started off the second half strong with a 7-0 run to push the lead to 70-51. The Nets came out flat, missing a driving dunk on the opening possession and failing to secure the defensive rebound on the next two.
Love seeing Bridges really grow into the Booker role where he’s creating shots in the paint — not just his sprinting turnaround floater — and setting up shots by using his eyes to force the defenders to make up their minds who to guard and then dishing to the open man.
The Suns got up 81-60 even though play started getting scrappy. After a Brooklyn timeout to reset their game plan and scored a quick 9 points — two threes and a three-point play all set up by Kyrie Irving — to cut the Suns lead to 12 and put the Suns back on their heels, but then got back on their toes to push the lead right back to 19 and then to a game high 23.
Suns lead 94-74 at the end of three. Mikal Bridges has 23 points and 7 assists. Deandre Ayton has 19 points, 14 rebounds and 4 assists. Cam Johnson has 15 points, 4 rebounds and 2 assists. Saben Lee is up to 15 points on 6-9 shooting, plus 3 assists.
The Nets went on another push behind Kyrie Irving and many of that starters against Mikal and the bench, and were able to pull within 13 points (99-86) with just under 9 minutes left.
They later pulled within 10, 100-90, on a pair of Kyrie transition layups, and then to 9 on another Kyrie drive and finish... and there was still 5:38 left on the clock. Suns are shooting only 3-9 in this quarter with 3 turnovers. They need to clean it up or this game could be a loss.
And then they got it down to five on a Kyrie floater and dish to Claxton, then five again on a Kyrie layup. He’s got 14 in the quarter on 6-8 shooting (his only misses are threes).
DA made a turnaround in the lane to put the Suns back up 7 with 3:42 to go force a Nets timeout, and Kyrie scored AGAIN to get it back to five. The Suns forced three straight turnovers, and finally DA made a shot in the lane and the Suns lead got back to 7 again with under 2 minutes to go. Irving again made it 5 on a pair of free throws.
The Nets ran out of time, and the Suns have their first win in what seems like ages.
Suns win, 117-112.