Phoenix Suns Scrimmage Recap

Oct 3, 2015; Phoenix, AZ, USA; A view of the Arizona Veterans Memorial Coliseum. Mandatory Credit: Gerald Bourguet-Valley of the Suns
Oct 3, 2015; Phoenix, AZ, USA; A view of the Arizona Veterans Memorial Coliseum. Mandatory Credit: Gerald Bourguet-Valley of the Suns /

For a team that’s missed the playoffs for five straight years, drumming up some positive vibes heading into the 2015-16 campaign felt like a necessity this summer. With the Phoenix Suns’ “We Are PHX” campaign kicking into high gear, nostalgia was in the air for the team’s intrasquad scrimmage at the Arizona Veterans Memorial Coliseum Saturday night.

While the Suns normally hold this free-to-the-public scrimmage at the conclusion of training camp in Flagstaff, a scheduling conflict with the Northern Arizona University football team led to a switch to a familiar venue: the “Madhouse on McDowell,” where the Suns played from their first year in the league back in 1968 until 1992.

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Three hours before the game even started, hundreds of people turned up for the “Fan Fest” portion of the day, where games, food trucks, music and prize giveaways entertained the fans until the doors opened an hour later. Not long after that, Suns legends such as Walter Davis, Connie Hawkins, Alvan Adams, Jerry Colangelo, Mark West and Eddie Johnson signed autographs for the fans that lined up all the way around the court.

“It’s a place where I think the noise reverberates around here and I think the guys enjoyed it,” head coach Jeff Hornacek said.

As for the game itself, the Suns’ roster was divided into two teams: Team Cotton (Brandon Knight, Sonny Weems, Markieff Morris, T.J. Warren, Ronnie Price, Alex Len, Jon Leuer, Kyle Casey and Cory Jefferson) and Team MacLeod (Eric Bledsoe, Devin Booker, Tyson Chandler, P.J. Tucker, Archie Goodwin, Mirza Teletovic, Henry Sims and Terrico White).

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What started as a sloppy game riddled with fouls, missed shots and tons of turnovers eventually ramped up its intensity to a crescendo most Suns fans are familiar with after watching their team lose right before the buzzer five times last year.

With less than two minutes to play and the teams tied at 64, Bledsoe found Chandler diving to the basket out of a pick and roll and tossed him a one-handed alley-oop pass over the defense. Chandler was unable to hang on to the ball after cocking it back with one hand, but was fouled and converted one of two free throws to give Team MacLeod a one-point lead.

On an ensuing possession, Alex Len was fouled and made both free throws to reclaim the lead for Team Cotton with 9.8 seconds left. It was like deja vu for Suns fans, even if their team was going to win either way.

Off the inbounds play from the sideline, Bledsoe quickly broke free, accelerating to the rim for an easy layup that restored Team MacLeod’s one-point lead, 67-66. Team Cotton immediately advanced the ball up the court with the clock winding down, but Brandon Knight was unable to knock down the potential game-winning three at the buzzer.

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  • “It was good to see them out and the competitiveness in front of a crowd and how the guys responded,” Hornacek said. “I thought some of these guys did really well.”

    Bledsoe and rookie Devin Booker led all scorers with 15 points apiece. Bledsoe also added in five rebounds and five assists, but committed four turnovers and shot 6-of-16 from the floor. Booker went 5-for-11 from the field and made two of his four three-pointers, drawing one of the largest cheers from the mostly full coliseum when he made his first one.

    Mirza Teletovic, who had a slight scare in the first half when he came up limping after contesting a shot from T.J. Warren, added in 12 points for Team MacLeod. Archie Goodwin only shot 2-for-8 from the floor, but finished with 10 points by getting to the foul line six times, much like he did in NBA Summer League. Chandler only had four points but pulled down 14 rebounds.

    Sonny Weems led Team Cotton with 14 points, going 5-for-10 from the field and 2-for-5 from downtown. Jon Leuer added 12 points and nine rebounds, while Brandon Knight had 10 points, six rebounds and five assists. Alex Len finished with eight points and 11 boards.

    So what were the big takeaways? Well, on a night that was all about the fans, there wasn’t really anything eye-opening from the actual game (although the Suns Gorilla descending from the ceiling with a giant flag was quite a spectacle), but here are a couple of quick takeaways:

    • The jury is still out on Markieff Morris. He didn’t play in the scrimmage due to a minor hip injury he sustained in training camp, but when his name was announced, there was a good mix of cheers and boos from the crowd. The cheers eventually won out, but it’ll be interesting to see how Keef is received on opening night.
    • Devin Booker is going to be good. He had 15 points off the bench and was easily one of the more entertaining players of the night.
    • That scrimmage did little to decide the battle for minutes at small forward between T.J. Warren and P.J. Tucker. Warren started off fast, but finished with only six points on 2-of-7 shooting, while Tucker had four points and seven rebounds on 0-of-6 shooting
    • Phoenix’s three-point shooting still needs some work. Team MacLeod shot 4-for-14 from downtown (28.6 percent) while Team Cotton went 4-for-18 (22.2 percent).
    • Alex Len needs to learn to avoid foul trouble better. It was just a scrimmage, but the young seven-footer finished with seven fouls, six of which came in the first half.
    • Free throws determined the game. Both teams took exactly 58 field goal attempts, and the winning team actually shot 32.8 percent from the field (compared to the losing team’s 43.1 percent). But while Team Cotton went 12-for-18 from the foul line, Team MacLeod went 25-for-34 from the charity stripe.

    All in all, it was a fun night for the Suns players — past and present — and their fans. Now Phoenix looks ahead to their first preseason game against the Sacramento Kings on Oct. 7.

    Next: Can Chemistry Get The Suns Back To The Playoffs?

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