The Phoenix Suns just didn’t have the juice required to win a game against a healthy Clippers team. Chris Paul, Devin Booker and Deandre Ayton, especially, were a step slow all night and the Clips had just enough to keep a good 4-8 point lead all night.
Chris Paul went 2-8 from the field, and Booker went 6-17, though they combined for 20 assists. Deandre Ayton was efficient with his jumper and hook, 8-13 from the field, but only grabbed 6 rebounds. Guess who were the team leaders in shot attempts (right there with Book)? Josh Okogie took 16 and Terrence Ross, in his first game with the team, took 17. They combined for 40 points.
Not much more to say than that.
Suns lose, 116-107.
Highlight of the game: Josh Okogie made a career high 6 threes
Suns started the game 0-4, much to the chagrin of the crowd standing in wait for the first Suns score. Finally, Devin Booker got to the line in transition to force free throws. But then the Suns kept missing.
Quickly, though, the Suns were down 10-2 because the Clippers came out very aggressive and the Suns... did not. Everything was a jumper, and everything was off. Soon the Suns were 0-6 from the field, their only points coming from Book at the free throw line, until Ayton made a short-roll jumper in the lane. The bad start extended to 1-for-10 from the Suns, all the shots being jumpers that clanked.
The Suns first subs were Ish Wainright — in his last possible game as a two-way player — and new signee Terrence Ross — in his first game as a Sun. Suns were down 18-12 at the time. Ross, who is known for shooting and not much else, made an immediate impact with a strip/block on Clippers center Ivica Zubac and a pocket-pass assist to Deandre Ayton. Ross followed that up with a couple of midrange jumpers. Nice start.
Suns second unit in this one: newcomers T.J. Warren and Terrence Ross, two-ways Saben Lee and Ish, and minimum salary guy Jock Landale. Yes, it’s rough. The only guy who made any shots was Ross, who just joined the Suns today.
Suns down 28-23 after one. Ross leads the team in scoring (7) after one. Deandre Ayton has 6 points and 4 rebounds. Paul and Booker are 1-8 from the field, while the Clippers’ George and Leonard are just 2-9.
The second quarter started with Jock Landale getting run over by a driving Mason Plumlee twice. Quickly, Bismack Biyombo subbed in to replace Landale.
Clippers role players were shooting well, making 9 of 13 shots, as the Clippers took a 35-27 lead for Okogie made an uncontested three. Ross was subbed out for Lee soon after that, probably winded from taking 8 shots in 6 minutes. Still, the Suns needed it badly because everyone else in that second unit is a bit hesitant, to say the least. Ross kept the Suns alive with 9 points on those 8 shots, and the Suns scrapped enough to stay in the game.
Josh Okogie ignited the crowd with a transition layup, followed by consecutive inbounds steals and scores (Okogie and Damion Lee) to pull the Suns within one. A minute later, Okogie tied it up at 44-44 on a nice drive against Paul George. The Clips took the lead back soon after with their 8th three in 15 tries.
The rest of the second quarter stayed tight, with the Clippers leading 54-52 at halftime. Leonard was 0-8 at halftime, but his teammates were 18-32 from the field (56%). Devin Booker and Chris Paul were 1-10 at halftime, but their teammates were 21-39 (54%). Go figure.
Best Suns at halftime:
- Josh Okogie: 15 points (6-8 shooting), 3 rebounds, 1 steal, played 21 of 24 minutes
- Terrence Ross: 11 points (5-11 shooting), 2 assists, 1 rebound in 13 minutes
Suns started the second half like the first — really slow. The Clippers starting unit just had more zip and the Suns just did not. Some was the Clips D being very good. Some was just the Suns big three of CP/Book/DA not being at full speed.
Clips went up 63-55 until Book finally broke his slumber and made a couple of shots to help pull the Suns back to 63-63 tie on a pair of three-point plays, an and-one and a three, and we had ourselves a game again.
Okogie and Craig had a sequence that perfectly encapsulates their games. They completely flubbed a chance with only Zubac defending the two of them in space, turning it over, only for Okogie to get the steal back and feed Craig for a now-transition three to give the Suns the lead. LOL.
The Suns started scuffling again when Book went to the bench. CP just didn’t have the juice in this game to make his shots, and the Clips pulled out to an 85-77 lead when the Suns went completely benchy. Not a single starter out there: Ross, Bis, Ish, Lee and T.J. Warren. Gonna be tough to score, unless Ross gets hot again (he missed his first one badly).
Suns down 91-84 after three. Bad quarter for the Suns, really. They’re lucky to only have lost the quarter by 5. Just take one look at the score — 91 points in 3 quarters for the Clips — to know this game comes down to defense. The Suns aren’t playing enough of it.
This is just one of those games that none of Book, CP or DA have it. Book and CP are only 5-14 from the field, while DA has just 5 rebounds to 3 fouls. Weird.
Book started the 4th with the bench unit and turned it over twice in the first two minutes getting stuck in traffic on late Clippers traps, and none of the benchies knowing what to do except watch. Suns down 94-83 with 9:42 to go.
The Suns, using yet another lineup they hadn’t used before, just couldn’t stop the Clippers from scoring. Defensive rotations are just not there from a group that doesn’t know how to do that part yet. Book/CP/DA back in with 7 minutes left, down 9.
Josh Okogie was the only thing keeping the Suns alive, making his 6th three of the night — a career high! — to pull the Suns back to 103-96 with 5:53 to go. He’s up to 24 points on 9-15 shooting. (Book and CP are 4-17 combined).