The season may have finally begun for the Suns!

PHOENIX, AZ - OCTOBER 23: Marquese Chriss
PHOENIX, AZ - OCTOBER 23: Marquese Chriss /

Suns fans (and players) have suffered through the first three games of the 2017-18 season as the team performed how one would expect a college team might against pros.

And then Earl Watson was fired; Jay Triano was hired as interim; Eric Bledsoe passive aggressively demanded a trade; Mike James was inserted into the start role, and suddenly the team looks like they are born again.

From the moment of tip-off, the Suns looked excited to play the basketball again. They looked like they had purpose and passion again. But most importantly, they somehow looked like they knew how to play  the game again.

Phoenix opened up on an incredible 13-2 run, scoring 13 straight after Sacramento opened with the game’s first two points. They stretched it to a 32-10 run and appeared to have actually on their way to a route – on the right side of the scorecard.

From there the Suns, almost incredibly especially after the team’s first three games, never relinquished the lead, coming only 35 seconds from leading pole-to-pole (minus a few scary moments where the Kings tied it late).

Granted it’s only one game, and it’s not like the Suns were playing a championship contender, but aspects of their game that had not been there under Watson were plentiful tonight.

For starters, and possibly most importantly, Jay Triano didn’t play players out of position. If this continues, it HAS to be a positive for the players moving forward as they will each understand their individual roles, and rotations make a lot more sense.

This then in turn helped both the team’s offense and defense.

On offense, the team not only moved the ball a lot  while moving without the ball more than I can recall this team doing since the Steve Nash era (I know, again, possibly a bit of a hypochondriac statement, but it sure did feel like it). This led to a plethora of assists, 20 – an early season high – and the ball movement which led to far more open shots than they were getting in the past, helped the term to convert 54.5%, by FAR  the team’s best shooting percentage this season – the only game so far shooting above 50.0%.

The Suns would reach a 22-point lead in the first, surpassing the 9-point lead they held against the Lakers which was the Suns’ biggest so far of the season, and finished the first quarter up 36-17.

Phoenix Suns
Phoenix Suns /

Phoenix Suns

After flame-throwing the Kings in the first, the young Suns relaxed a little in the second and let the Kings back in the game, unable to continue to build upon their strong lead. Outscored 34-23, the energy that the Suns ran with in the first period seemed to have been sapped from them to some degree. Following the game, both Marquese Chriss and Triano commented on the team’s conditioning – which may have played a factor in the letdown – and possibly due to the short training camp and preseason.

Something very impressive happened though after halftime: the team appeared to make adjustments! I know on the surface that might seem a bit snarky, but one of the many issues that fans had with the Watson-led regime was that the Suns never really appeared to make any significant adjustments in the third quarter which would often be the team’s downfall in a game as they would stick to their original game plan, no matter how much it had failed them in the first half.

While the Suns only extended their led by three points after three, their defense held Sacramento in check. The Kings shot a meager 33.3% from the field on 9-27 that stanza, while the Suns continued to fire above 50%. However, the young Suns turned the ball over six times, with Sacramento’s Buddy Hield attesting for five of those himself in the form of steals.

Phoenix would finish with 21 turnovers, an issue that has plagued them over these past couple of years, however, maybe all turnovers aren’t made the same.

Fortunately Phoenix kept up it’s hot shooting in the fourth as Sacramento turned it up a notch themselves, including Garrett Temple alone shooting 5-7 from beyond the arc.

The Kings would tie it up with .42 second remaining, though Mike James nailed a sweet runner from the left side arching a flip shot high off the backboard and in giving the Suns a small, but important, two point lead.

From that point the two teams would trade free throws, and miraculously the Kings never had an opportunity to take the lead, especially after a smart foul by T.J. Warren of George Hill not in a shooting motion with the Suns up 3, and the Kings unable to tie. (If you caught it, after that foul Devin Booker walked towards half court pumping his fists and visibly excited. He knew that the Kings couldn’t tie with only two free throws, and it was obvious he smelled a victory.)

It seems that the season has started anew for the Phoenix Suns as they played with an entirely different attitude and approach to the game tonight against the Kings than they had in the three prior games – and even last year.

Devin Booker led the Suns with 22 points and dished out 5 assists while draining 50% from the field. Marquese Chriss, who had been relegated to the bench under Watson this season (which in all honesty had seemed fair) returned with a vengeance. Although he would foul out in 29:21, he scored a season-high 19 points adding in 6 rebounds and 3 blocks – and as Tom Chambers noted in the post game show on Fox Sports, he reached for at least 10 more. Josh Jackson came off the bench for the first time and sparked the second unit with 15 points on 6-8 shooting.

However, this victory was possible because of the Mike James show as ‘the Rookie” drained 18 points while dishing out 7 assists, and of course, making that striking runner late to give the Suns the lead they would not relinquish.

Sacramento’s three leading scorers each came off the bench led by Garrett Temple’s 23 points, a game-high, on 6-8 shooting from beyond the arc, while rookie D’Aaron Fox drained 19 points 4 assists and 5 caroms and Skal Labissiere recorded 17. It’s worth noting that former Sun draft-and-stash Bogdan Bogdanovic scored 12 points on 5-15 from the field and 1-4 of four from long distance, in his first game in Arizona.

Next: Eric Bledose's Trade Demand is Not the Worst for the Suns

The Suns get a day off before their next home game Wednesday against the Jazz. Hopefully they will take more from Triano’s tutelage and further improve their offense, defense, and stamina.

It’s great to finally have the Suns back.