The Phoenix Suns uniquely rang in the New Year: they had a New Year’s Eve and New Year’s Day back-to-back. The Suns would be without the assistance of Kevin Durant, who sat out with right hamstring soreness.
KD's minute totals the last four games playing every other day: 43, 41, 39 and 39.— Kellan Olson (@KellanOlson) January 1, 2024
Makes sense for him to miss the second game of a back-to-back at some points in the season and this is a good one. We will ask Vogel pregame about it.
Getting the start in his stead would be Chimezie Metu, making his third start of the season. Would he put up KD-like numbers? Uh. No. But he did go for 14 points and 5 rebounds.
It was a team effort as DevinBooker had a cold night from the field, scoring just 10 points in the game. 21 points from Bradley Beal, 18 points and 7 rebounds from Jusuf Nurkic, and a surprising 11 points and 9 rebounds from Bol Bol pushed Phoenix to the 109-88 win over the Blazers.
Rookie Scoot Henderson led Portland in scoring with 17 on 7-of-18 shooting, but he didn’t have much help from his teammates. The Trail Blazers shot 41.3% from the field and 26.7% from, three-point range in the game.
The win makes it four consecutive for the Suns, pushing their record to 18-15 and 10-9 at home. Portland drops to 9-23 and 4-12 on the road.
The Suns did what you didn’t want them to do to start the game: come out ice cold. 2-of-13 shooting out of the gate put Phoenix down early, and notably it was Devin Booker who was having a hard time dialing in his range. He started his night 1-of-5 from the field.
Phoenix had no KD to stop opposing runs. Through the first six minutes, the team totaled just six points.
Suns averaging one-point-per-minute to start against the Trail Blazers. Because of course they are— John Voita (@DarthVoita) January 2, 2024
Keita Bates-Diop was the first player substituted in, seeing his first minutes since December 15 against the New York Knicks. His first shot? The Suns first made three-pointer of the game.
Jerami Grant, a notable Suns killer, scored 9 points in the first quarter on 5-of-7 shooting. Grant averaged 24 points in two games against Phoenix entering the night.
Grayson Allen began to heat up, hitting two three-pointers to assist in making up the 8-point deficit the Suns were facing. Allen entered the night shooting 45.8% from three-point range this season. He had 8 points in the first on 3-of-4 shooting.
Grayson Allen has such a unique dynamic about him in his role, to attack closeouts both for separation for another shot — but also to attack & make a play for himself or others— Stephen PridGeon ☯️ (@StayTrueSDot3) January 2, 2024
That dynamic in skill & ability around the big three as well as Nurkic's playmaking is invaluable
7-of-23 from the field ultimately hurt the Suns, and against the 4th worst defense in the NBA, Phoenix would score a season low 20 points in the first quarter. Portland closed the quarter attacking the interior on both ends, getting to the rim and blocking the Suns on defense.
After one, Blazers 29, Suns 20.
The second opened up with Frank Vogel fulfilling a pregame prophecy by inserting Bol Bol into the lineup. And wouldn’t you know it? Bol would get an aggressive block on his first defensive possession. He followed it up with a transition Euro-step slam dunk.
Phoenix began 5-of-5 from the field, closing the Blazers’ lead to one point with an 8-0 run. Correction. A 10-0 run to give Phoenix the 34-33 lead. Scratch that. A 14-0 run and a 38-33 lead, punctuated by an Eric-Gordon-to-Chimezie-Metu transition dunk.
What was impressive about this run? Devin Booker was out of the game after playing the entire first quarter. The bench unit, which scored only six total points in the Suns' victory against the Magic last night, not only got Phoenix back in the game, but they extended the lead. The defense and rebounding on the defensive end allowed the Suns to regain their footing.
Bol continued his impact, hitting his first three-pointer of the season. He received a standing ovation upon departure, playing 8 minutes, scoring 5 points, and injecting life into the Suns’ second-team unit.
After a poor shooting first quarter, the Suns responded by scoring 35 points and shooting 65% from the field in the second. They were crisp with their cutting, locked in on defense, and even with Devin Booker going 1-of-9 from the field in the half for three total points, carried with them an 8-point lead into halftime.
Portland rookie Scoot Henderson led all scorers with 13 points.
Suns 55, Trail Blazers 47 at the half.
Jusuf Nurkic, who had zero fouls in the first half, had two quick whistles blown against him to start the third quarter, including one take foul. His size on the interior, coupled with his passing ability, was needed on the court and he had to be careful not to start stacking fouls so he could stay in the game against his former team.
It was Nurk who began punishing the Blazers’ interior in the third, and while he wasn’t increasing his rebound total, he was putting the ball in the hoop.
Booker’s Isla-from-Frozen impression continued out of the locker room as he missed wide-open jumper after wide-open jumper.
He was 0-of-4 from the field in the third when he finally scored again, hitting a three-pointer with 3:30 left in the quarter. Thankfully, his teammates were stepping up. The Suns put a 13-0 run on the Blazers to extend their lead to 22 points.
On the other side of the ball, the Blazers were committing numerous turnovers, both forced by Phoenix and unforced. The Suns made them pay, turning 6 turnovers into 9 points in the quarter.
Phoenix outscored Portland for the second consecutive quarter, doing so 31-14. Booker scored only 5 of those points, but his team was dialed in enough to where he didn’t need to carry the team.
Suns up 86-61 entering the fourth.
After giving up 29 points in the first, the Suns give up 32 points in the second and third. Combined.— John Voita (@DarthVoita) January 2, 2024
In typical Suns fourth-quarter fashion, the quarter opened with a 10-0 run by the Blazers. The passes became lazy, which led to easy points on the other end for Portland.
Bol returned in the fourth and continued to make winning plays. Grabbing important rebounds, and cleaning up missed shots; even with Nurkic on the floor, Bol remained in the game.
Brad Beal stabilized the Suns as the fourth progressed, scoring at the rim, at the line, and from beyond the arc. He ended the night scoring 21 points on 8-of-16 shooting for Phoenix. Booker? He finished with 10 on 4-of-16.
And wouldn’t you know it? On two missed free throws by Scoot, the crowd earned free Carl’s Jr.
Frank Vogel emptied the bench with 5:31 left, inserting Jordan Goodwin, Yuta Watanabe, and Drew Eubanks. It’s been a few games that we’ve seen these players, and they entered up 99-73. Could they hold the 26-point lead?
With Bol and Okogie on the court, Portland started finding rhythm. Unforced turnovers by Phoenix equated to a 15-10 run for the Blazers. Too little too late.
Suns win, 109-88.
The homestand for the Suns continues on Wednesday as they welcome the Los Angeles Clippers to town. It is the first time the Suns have seen the James Harden version of the Clippers, a team that is leading the Pacific Division.
Until then, Suns fans!