Chris Paul had one of his All-Star nights and Devin Booker was back to being Devin Booker and the Phoenix Suns are looking really good again. Really helps having a first-team All-NBA guy back in the lineup. And we’re not even talking about Kevin Durant yet!
For the Phoenix Suns, this is their second-to-last game prior to the All Star break. We’re all looking past the break, knowing that 13-time All Star Kevin Durant will be on the floor for Phoenix.
The Kings are 3rd in the West, two games ahead of the Suns, so this is a really good matchup despite the Suns still trying to figure each other out. Any starting lineup with no-offense Torrey Craig and Josh Okogie shows you’re figuring things out.
The Suns are still short three rotation players — Kevin Durant, Cam Payne and Landry Shamet — while waiting for Terrence Ross to join the team later this week as well. Post-All-Star Suns will be a bit different.
The Suns opened up playing a bit tentative. Deandre Ayton was the only one looking for his shot, as he made 3 of the Suns first 4 shots of the game. Every shot was a jumper outside the paint.
The Suns played pretty good defense to keep the game close but committed 4 fouls before 5 minutes had gone by — a potential disaster situation against a very aggressive Kings squad.
Still, a couple of leak-out fast break buckets by Booker led to a 14-11 Suns lead and a Kings timeout.
Devin Booker is still playing in short minutes, going 4-6 for 9 points in only 7 minutes before getting a break with the Suns leading 17-16. Remember, a healthy Book usually plays the whole first quarter to get the Suns off to a good start.
Ish Wainright came in for Josh Okogie mid-first quarter and it’s important to note that this is Ish’s second to last game of eligibility to play for the Suns on a two-way contract. This weekend, the Suns are going to have to convert him to a full contract if they want to keep him.
T.J. Warren entered the game at the 3:08 mark to a huge ovation from the crowd, and he soon made a three to break the ice on shooting for the Suns, who’d been 0-5 to that point.
Still, the quarter ended quite ragged and the Suns were down 29-27 after one quarter after Terence Davis of the Kings made contested three. The Kings made 5 of 9 threes, while the Suns made only 1 of 7.
The second quarter started ragged too, with Booker running the show at point. I’m not sure he’s ever played in a lineup with Landale, Okogie, Wainright and Lee.
The Kings kept making their threes (6 for 11 now) and the Suns stopped taking them, and soon it was a 39-33 Kings lead with 9 minutes to go in the half.
Josh Okogie sparked a Suns run with Booker, grabbing rebounds, making transition layups and suddenly the Suns took a 40-39 lead and forcing a Kings timeout with 7:11 remaining. An wiiiide open Okogie three a couple possessions later — only the Suns second of the game — gave them a 43-39 lead and the tide was turning.
The Suns pulled out to a 55-48 lead but Sacramento made a pair of tough contested threes to stay alive and were down just four at halftime.
Suns lead 62-58 at the half. Ayton had a big first half, with 17 points, 8 rebounds and 2 blocks. Chris Paul has 8 points, 11 assists. Devin Booker has 14 points, 2 assists and a steal. Josh Okogie is making an impression here, trying to keep his rotation spot through sheer effort: 10 points, 3 rebounds and 2 assists.
Booker, Paul and Ayton had 12 of the Suns first 14 points coming out of the half, and were up 76-67 within 4.5 minutes to force a Kings timeout. After the timeout, the Suns stretched the lead further to 84-71 before subs started coming in.
The Kings went on a small run, but the Suns held a strong lead even with the subs, forcing a Kings timeout with the Suns up 88-80 with just over a minute left in the quarter.
By the end of three, the Suns big three are having good nights and the Suns lead 90-86, with D’Aaron Fox scoring the last 4 points of the quarter, including a steal and layup as time expired. Ayton has 19 and 10. Book has 24 points in 22 minutes. Chris Paul has 12 points and 16 rebounds.
Fox is having a great game with 28 points heading into the fourth, where he’s top-five in 4th quarter scoring this year. Suns gotta watch out.
Kings come out in the 4th totally faceguarding Chris Paul full court, but Josh Okogie calmly stepped into a middy. Because of course. Behind Booker and Paul, though, the Suns quickly pushed out the lead anyway to 99-91. Gotta be nice to have Book back, eh Chris? Book is now up to 28 points in 25 minutes.
The Suns maintained the lead with Josh Okogie being given the Fox assignment and several times knocking the ball loose in the paint for Suns turnovers.
And just like we all hoped, once Book and CP got back in healthy together, they closed the game like they’ve closed games the last two years — cleanly and efficiently.
Suns win, 120-109. They’re just a game out of 3rd in the West.
All the best players for each team (in the lineup tonight) had really good games in a matchup of the 3-seed versus the 4-seed in the West.
For the Suns:
- Ayton finished with 29 points, 11 rebounds, 4 steals, 2 blocks and 2 assists. Phew!
- Booker finished with 32 points, 5 rebounds, 2 assists and 2 steals
- Chris Paul finished with 17 points, 19 assists, 2 rebounds and 2 steals
- Josh Okogie had 19 points, 6 rebounds and 3 assists
For the Kings:
- Domantas Sabonis finished with 24 points, 15 rebounds, 7 assists and 2 steals
- De’Aaron Fox had 35 points, 4 rebounds and 4 assists
The Suns host the Los Angeles Clippers on Thursday night. It’s another vital mid-season Pacific Division rivalry game. Stay focused PHX. Beta LAC.
See you then.