The Phoenix Suns beat the Brooklyn Nets in primetime with playoff intensity.
The Phoenix Suns deserved what they received on Tuesday night, and they played as if they deserved it.
Despite the absence of Kevin Durant (left MCL sprain) and LaMarcus Aldridge (left ankle injury), the Brooklyn Nets came into the Valley ready to match the Suns’ playoff energy. The Suns hadn’t had that kind of boost from a genuinely talented club in a long time, with recent games with the Utah Jazz marred by injuries and the previous two premium matches coming in late December against the Warriors and Grizzlies.
Phoenix and Brooklyn’s defensive execution wasn’t exactly top-tier, but their enthusiasm was, and the Suns just had more to offer in that aspect on the way to a 121-111 victory.
The Suns, who have now won 11 consecutive games, were the more stable club, and it was no surprise that they would win.
“The poise in those circumstances,” head coach Monty Williams said, “but the experiences that we’ve had in the past may benefit us in those moments.” “This group has been with me in those situations for the three years I’ve been here, and now they’ve been with Chris (Paul) for two years.” That, I believe, is beneficial.
The Nets (29-21) used a mix of timely baskets, a knack for finding open shooters, and superb shotmaking from James Harden and Kyrie Irving to defeat one of the Suns’ stronger performances this season.
The Suns’ (41-9) 10-point lead after one quarter swiftly dwindled to a back-and-forth affair for virtually the entire second half.
Phoenix, on the other hand, went on a 10-2 run late in the third quarter to take a 12-point lead. At the very least, it gave Paul enough breathing space to put a buffer in place as he grabbed his final rest of the game. It was crucial, since he returned with 9:25 remaining and the Suns trailing by just three points.
And, wouldn’t you know it, with fewer than five minutes to play in a five-point game, Phoenix went on a 10-0 run in less than two minutes to basically end the game.
The Suns demonstrated that the greatest backcourt in basketball, according to some, is found in Phoenix.
Devin Booker was up for a primetime showdown against a willing opponent right away. He scored 14 of his 35 points in the first quarter, including back-to-back 3-pointers during the 10-0 run. He played the whole second half without tiring, dashing down the floor after a few offensive breakouts to create space for the Suns’ transition possibilities.
Booker logged a game-high 41 minutes, while Paul logged 39 minutes, averaging 20 points, 14 assists, two steals, and a plus-minus of +20. Booker’s +15 was the second-best in the game, followed by Harden’s -11 and Irving’s-17.
That had a lot to do with Mikal Bridges, who had one of those defensive performances that makes you question whether he has a chance to win Defensive Player of the Year this year. Bridges handled most of the Harden assignment, but he also checked Irving.
Harden went 6-for-19 from the floor for 22 points, improving on his 4-for-15 performance in Brooklyn the previous time he faced Bridges in November.
Bridges stated that the team’s playoff experience last season helped. Williams remarked before the game that Bridges has improved a lot in terms of adopting the scouting report in his defence. The fourth-year winger claimed the scouting report for the first round series against the Los Angeles Lakers was so thorough that he studied it like an exam at night.
Bridges said. “Like, stare at it, shut my eyes, and just think, ‘Do this, do this,'” Bridges said. “I’m like, ‘Damn,’ as I look down.” Restart. “Try to sort it out once again.”
Irving, who shot 10-of-20 on his way to 26 points, had the better night of the two Nets guards. Harden also had ten assists.
Bridges was so terrific defensively that we haven’t even mentioned his season-high 27 points, which is exactly what he needs when opponents are focused on the ball-handlers and his gaps aren’t as tight.
“The defence dictates a lot of his scoring,” Williams said of Bridges. When opponents trap our guards, it frees Cam (Johnson) and Jae (Crowder) on the backside, as well as Mikal, giving them additional opportunities.
With so many weapons, Booker has frequently mentioned the “choose your poison” nature of the offensive. Deandre Ayton had the following to say about it.
“You’ve got a lot of poison out there, man!” “There’s a lot of poison here,” Ayton said. You’ve got me and C in the pick-and-roll, and you’ve got a bunch of guys that can playmake and score the ball on their own. The most important thing for us is to get the ball going. Simply pass the ball back and forth until everyone has a feel for it.
“That’s our way of life, and that’s how we operate.” As I have said, you never know who will drop 30. It may be three people with 30 or 20 points. That’s simply our system and offensive. “
“I love seeing early defensive rotations toward me that open things up for someone like Bridges,” Ayton said when asked whether he enjoys seeing early defensive rotations toward him. Yes! It’s fantastic! “
Bridges shot 10-of-14 from the field, adding eight rebounds, four assists, two steals, and a block to his stat line.
To stay in the game, Brooklyn made 16 three-pointers. In trying to close up the lane for Harden and Irving, the Suns’ defence wasn’t as tight as it typically is, allowing the Nets’ shooters too much leeway on wide-open 3s.
Ayton played his first game in over two weeks and looked the part, attempting to regain his composure while reclaiming his place on the court. Ayton said that it was his first 5-on-5 game after spraining his right ankle, and Williams emphasised that a night like Ayton’s is to be anticipated.
In 28 minutes, Ayton had 12 points and six rebounds.
The Suns also got Jae Crowder back, who had been out for four games due to a left wrist injury, which he claimed during shootaround he’d simply play through. Crowder finished with three points, three rebounds, two assists, and two steals in 25 minutes. He did all the Jae Crowder things, the little things that don’t show up in the box score but have a big impact on both sides of the field.
Elfrid Payton had one of his greatest first-half shifts of the season, a much-needed performance with Cam Payne (right wrist sprain) and Landry Shamet (right ankle strain) out, leaving him as the team’s sole backup guard. In 13 minutes, he handed out four assists and scored three points.
In his previous ten games, Booker averaged 32 points per game, solidifying his status as an All-NBA contender with Paul and putting himself in contention for the MVP award. Bridges’ 27 points were his season high for the second consecutive game, after his 26 on Sunday.
In the team’s previous seven games, those two have averaged over 38 minutes each night, and Paul has joined them. With that huge increase in mind, it’s worth noting how a string of blowouts has enabled Williams to play fewer minutes with that trio. Bridges and Paul have each played 15 games this season that have lasted less than 32 minutes, while Booker has played in ten.