The renewed Phoenix Suns are now 2-0 since firing Earl Watson and sending Eric Bledsoe home. Who saw that coming?
The Suns’ new Head Coach/Starting PG dynamic duo of Jay Triano and Mike James is still undefeated. Phoenix beat the Utah Jazz at home on Tuesday night by a final score of 97-88 to improve to 2-3 on the year.
For a team that the entire league had written off as a laughingstock Sunday night, back-to-back wins is exactly what the doctor ordered.
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Phoenix attacked inside early with Tyson Chandler on their first two buckets and played hard on defense all night, including holding the Jazz to only 13 points in the first quarter. Phoenix won’t be a lock-down defensive team anytime soon, as they showed by letting the Jazz back in the game in the second quarter, but the hustle and effort they’ve shown the past two games makes a huge difference. Most impressively, the Suns out rebounded a Jazz team that prides itself on glass work by a margin of 55-44.
On the offensive side the Suns played exactly how a young team should play; fast and free. The Jazz entered the game the night after playing against the Clippers, so the Suns were able to exploit their fatigue with a fast pace in the first quarter. The Suns’ offense was a total team effort, as every player scored at least 3 points. The bench outscored the Jazz’ bench in the first half by 26-1. If the ball movement and pace keeps up, the Suns will have plenty more wins this season.
Devin Booker struggled to find his rhythm on offense early in the game but shot better in the second half, including two big buckets in the final minutes, to finish with 17 points. His defense has vastly improved since last season. It’s easy to tell that he’s working hard to be active on that end of the ball.
T.J. Warren led the Suns with 27 points on 12-20 shooting. He looked terrific and when he and Booker are on at the same time, they’re near impossible to guard. If T.J. can stay healthy, he’ll be worth every penny of his extension.
James is making a huge difference with his ball movement. He didn’t match his point production from his first start, but his ability to keep the offense in motion is the most important on-court turnaround for the Suns this week.
Alex Len played confidently and effectively, scoring 13 points on 6-11 shooting and grabbing 13 rebounds. Len was active on the offensive glass and looked like a man who wants a big contract next summer.
Marquese Chriss had a bit of a rough game after looking really good against Sacramento on Monday night, finishing with 4 points and 5 rebounds. Marquese still struggles with inconsistency and the pattern of one good game, one down game should continue throughout the rest of the season. He left the game late when landing awkwardly and looked to be in tremendous pain. No word as of yet what the end result is.
The coaching of interim head coach Jay Triano was another bright spot for the Suns. Triano was active in the coaching box all game long, pacing back and forth while the game unfolded. Triano isn’t shy about correcting players during the game and called timeouts quickly when the Suns started losing focus on defense or turning the ball over. He seems to be the complete opposite of Earl Watson and the players are responding to him.
Phoenix’s next game offers a shot at redemption for their opening night humiliation, matching up against the Trail Blazers on Saturday night in Portland.