Archie Goodwin and the Suns came out firing on all cylinders in the first quarter and never looked back as Phoenix advanced to the semifinals of the Las Vegas Summer League with a 103-98 victory over the Toronto Raptors. Goodwin dropped 20 points and was perfect from the field (5-of-5). The Morris twins were also red hot, combining for 39 points (both Markieff and Marcus were an identical 8-of-11 from the field.) The Suns as a team shot 53% and hit eight of their 16 three point attempts, outscoring the Raptors by 18 points from downtown.
For anyone who hasn’t seen Archie Goodwin play for the Suns yet, here’s a hot tip: the kid is good. Summer League or not, Goodwin looks the part of an NBA player. He is smooth as silk when the ball is in his hands and very active when its not. His can jump and finish at the rim, and his jump shot is impeccable. He was the spark that allowed the Suns to catch fire and run out to a 28-15 first quarter lead.
There were two things about Goodwin’s immensely impressive performance that stood out above the rest. First, he had double-digit free throw attempts for the third time in five games. I can’t remember the last time I saw a rookie who was this comfortable absorbing contact on his way to the rim. Second, his sequence of plays to close the first quarter was probably the most impressive thing a Suns’ player has done since Goran Dragic hit that game winner against Memphis last season. First, Goodwin buried a spot up three to put the Suns up 10. Then he blocked a shot on the other end. Then he hit another three, this one off the dribble. And finally, he drew an offensive foul before the Raptors could get off a final shot. When he was on the floor, Goodwin did everything for the Suns on both ends of the floor. Expectations and success always have to be tempered in Summer League, but Goodwin’s string of great performances isn’t making that easy. Thus far, he is the steal of the draft.
The Morris twins each had their best game of the tournament against Toronto. With the Raptors’ best player, Jonas Valanciunas, sitting out with an injured finger, Markieff and Marcus both dominated in the paint. Kieff’s entire array of offense was on display, with the exception of his outside shooting, which he left to brother Marcus. Marcus’ jumper was falling as he went 3-of-4 from downtown, including another buzzer-beater to end the first half. Markieff excelled offensively both with his back to the basket and facing up. He battled the entire game with Toronto’s Quincy Acy who was a Big 12 opponent of the Morris’ twins when they were at Kansas and he was at Baylor. The brothers’ great chemistry was on full display as they connected on a several great passes which turned into easy baskets.
The Suns acquired Marcus because they believed he would bring out the best in Markieff and vice versa. There were some flashes of that last season, but mostly the twins disappointed just like the rest of the roster. But in this game, it was clear that both guys really responded to having each other on the court, and they both were better for it. The next step for them will be to bring this confidence and chemistry with them to training camp.
Off the bench, Dionte Christmas was a lightning rod. He went 6-of-11 from the field and 2-of-6 from downtown. Impressively, he hit two And-1 jumpers in the second quarter. He certainly has the skills and desire to be a floor-spacer/off-the-bench scorer in the mold of a poor man’s Jamal Crawford or young Jason Terry. He has put these skills on great display in Las Vegas for the second year in a row, yet it’s nowhere near a sure thing that he’ll make an NBA roster. I don’t know enough about Christmas to speculate as to what might keep a player with his talent out of the NBA. All I know is that he’s certainly a player who could help Phoenix, and he’s somebody to keep an eye on.
It wasn’t all golden for the Suns however. Kendall Marshall had five turnovers, including two in transition. The fast break is an area of Marshall’s game that Coach Jeff Hornacek has criticized, and Kendall certainly did nothing in this game to help his case. He finished with only two assists in nearly 25 minutes, while backup Diante Garrett dished out three dimes in only 14 minutes of play (zero turnovers.) When the Raptors were furiously storming back in the closing minutes of the game, they trapped Marshall in the backcourt every time he had the ball which forced him into turnovers and disrupted the Suns offensively.
This game was an offensive clinic and well-deserved win for Phoenix. The Summer League title is now just two wins away. Though the trophy is ostensibly meaningless, winning it could imbue the Suns’ young guys with some much needed confidence heading into training camp and a rebuilding year. The #3 seeded Suns will take on the #18 seeded Miami Heat tomorrow with the winner heading to the Summer League final on Monday.
- The Suns weren’t great defensively. They allowed the Raptors to shoot nearly 50% from the field. The Morris twins both failed time after time to close out on Quincy Acy, allowing him to shoot wide open jumpers and score 28 points. Phoenix also had no one who could stay in front of Toronto guard Dwight Buycks who had 28 points of his own. Buycks (pronounced like “bikes”) was recently signed for the season to back up Kyle Lowry. He is definitely worth a look in deep fantasy leagues given his ability to get to the hoop and Lowry’s injury history.
- Up 10 points with less than a minute to play, Coach Hornacek brought in Abercrombie and Cohen, both of whom hadn’t yet played. The Raptors quickly cut the lead to three before the Suns recovered and sealed the game with free throws. A very strange decision by the new coach which almost ended the Suns’ time in Vegas.
- Reason #267 to love P.J. Tucker: while he hit just one shot from the field, he got to the line 10 times, grabbed seven rebounds, and was far more aggressive and effective leading the break than Kendall Marshall.
- The v-neck, sleeved jerseys the Suns are wearing look far more appropriate for clubbing on the Jersey Shore than playing hoops. I know the NBA needs to drive merchandising revenue, but I personally don’t feel like sleeved jerseys are the answer.