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Rapid Recap: Suns hang on, win first OT of year over Spurs

Suns are back to a winning record as Booker’s return looms

Phoenix Suns v San Antonio Spurs Photos by Michael Gonzales/NBAE via Getty Images

Phoenix Suns beat the San Antonio Spurs 128-118 in overtime after Mikal Bridges, Chris Paul, and Deandre Ayton took turns taking over.

Slow starts have plagued the Phoenix Suns this season, but that wasn’t the case on Friday night as they sprinted out to an early 9-3 lead over the first three minutes and change, prompting an early timeout from Spurs head coach Gregg Popovich, who mentored Suns head coach Monty Williams.

Deandre Ayton picked up his second foul just over six minutes into the game, but Williams gave Ayton’s leash some slack in leaving him in. Ayton finished the rest of his regular opening stint without picking up a third foul, and the Suns finished out the quarter up 33-26 led by seven points from Mikal Bridges.

The Suns’ bench only contributed 11 points during all 48 minutes of the loss against Dallas on Wednesday. Against San Antonio on Friday, they tallied 11 by the 10:53 mark in the second quarter. The second unit finished the contest with 26 points.

Ayton took the scoring reins from Bridges in the second quarter, finishing the half with 14 points and five rebounds on much better efficiency than the Dallas game — 14 points on 7-13 (53.8%) in one half vs 19 points on 6-20 (30.0%) in a full game.

He picked up his third foul in the third quarter, but stayed in and refrained from a fourth. Suns led 55-48 at the break.

For most of the third quarter, the Suns’ lead hovered around 10 with neither team able to swing momentum, though Ayton’s offense showed out even more in the third, adding another seven points on 3-4 shooting. Suns led 87-76 after three behind his 21 points and Chris Paul’s 20.

San Antonio made a slight push in the middle of the fourth, which included former Arizona Wildcat Stanley Johnson — a career 30.5% three-point shooter — hitting back-to-back threes. That push gave them the necessary juice later on for a 10-2 run with three minutes remaining to make it an unnecessarily tight game.

After Bridges hit a clutch shot to give the Suns a 3-point lead with a minute left, Keldon Johnson — a Team USA teammate of Devin Booker in the Tokyo Olympics — tied the game with an and-one, sending the game into overtime.

The clutch success of Bridges and K. Johnson — who succeeded in attacking Ayton each time down — continued into overtime with the two trading buckets down the stretch with the two tying 8-8 in the bonus period (though Johnson wins 11-10 if we include the end-of-regulation buckets).

Bridges got a late block for good measure as Paul iced the game with free throws to lead the team with 31 points (12-20 FG) while dishing out 11 assists (one turnover). Phoenix rises above .500 to 26-25, still in the thick of the play-in picture.

  • Deandre Ayton fouled three times in the first half and not once in the second. He scored 21 points over the first three quarters before scoring just two over the fourth and overtime; he did, however, have two assists in crunchtime.
  • San Antonio rookie Jeremy Sochan, who I’ve heard linked to the Suns, scored 25 points in 27 minutes over the first three quarters leaving Phoenix looking for answers for stretches. The 6-foot-8 forward from Baylor finished with a career-high 30 points with his eight rebounds and five assists.
  • LEE CHECK-IN: Saben Lee continues to impress in limited minutes with seven points (2-3 FG) and three assists (zero turnovers) in 14 minutes. Damion Lee, however, isn’t having as much success. After going 0-3 from three, he’s now down to 47.6% on the season and is 2-8 (25.0%) over the last four.

The Suns’ next game — hosting the Toronto Raptors on our very own Bright Side Night at Footprint Center at 7 p.m. on Monday night — marks the opening of Booker’s return window with that game or Wednesday when the Suns host the Atlanta Hawks the likely first game back.

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