There are plenty of NBA-quality options who could have stepped up for the Phoenix Suns in Devin Booker’s absence on Wednesday night. But, really, only one — maybe one and a half — were able to answer the bell.
The Suns’ shortcomings were exposed for all to see in a disappointing home loss to the very average Oklahoma City Thunder, and will take their skid of five defeats in the past six games into Thursday night’s meeting with the Golden State Warriors — with a road trip on tap after that.
The Phoenix Suns found Chris Paul and some Jae Crowder available to pick up the slack for Devin Booker, but that wasn’t enough to prevent a painful defeat.
Coach Monty Williams stated “no consistency” during his postgame comments. And then restated that concern. And then challenged the media to ask another question, assuring any potential inquisitor his/her query would be met with the same retort.
The Suns don’t have time to feel sorry for themselves because the surprisingly hot Golden State Warriors are in town for another test on Thursday night. It’s time to take stock in what is available.
Let’s start with the good.
Chris Paul was sensational. He looked for opportunities to involve his teammates throughout the first half. A hesitant and deferential Deandre Ayton wasn’t helping matters, and Paul quickly shifted into score-first mode.
He’s still adept at creating his own shots — though he’d rather distribute the opportunities to drive his team’s success. Paul finished with a Suns career high 32 points on 12-of-22 shooting to go with five assists.
The veteran knew exactly what was needed in Booker’s absence. He didn’t know just how futile his supporting cast would prove to be.
Jae Crowder was pretty good. His 3-point shooting was on point. His defensive want-to was clear and effective. At times, he appeared a little frustrated at Ayton’s seeming lack of aggressiveness but carried his responsibility quite adequately.
Mikal Bridges tried. He really did. Perhaps he should force himself into the offensive equation earlier in games; cement his Alpha Dog mentality more strongly and try to join Paul in taking over a game.
Can’t really fault Bridges’ effort throughout the night — he played his usual signature solid defense — but on Wednesday night, the Suns needed a little extra from each of Booker’s supporting cast,
Rotation guys Frank Kaminsky, Jevon Carter, Cam Johnson along with Abdel Nader had their moments but, really, can someone just stand up and take over? Is it time to go with more of a small-ball lineup?
Depth guys Jalen Smith and E’Twaun Moore combined to go 2-9 with five points. So that didn’t help, either.
We’re not really sure why Langston Galloway didn’t get any run — could have used his marksmanship a few times — but the hope is that he’ll be employed on Thursday against Golden State.
Oh, and, yes, the Suns miss Dario Saric.
The Phoenix Suns fans continue to be teased and confounded by Deandre Ayton and his unpredictable performances.
Deandre Ayton was, well, what the most annoying cynics say he was going to be: frustrating. Yes, Ayton had a nice run of strong games punctuated by his newfound aggressiveness. No, he didn’t step up when the Suns needed him most.
The matchup with veteran Al Horford was fraught with warning signs. Ayton struggles against seasoned centers who have been there and done plenty of that. Horford finished with 21 points and 11 rebounds.
Five, count ’em, five, points in 37 minutes on 2-of-5 shooting (though he did collect 14 rebounds). Not nearly enough to pick up the slack for Booker.
He reverted to “early Ayton,” occasionally wandering aimlessly through offensive possessions while allowing himself to be thwarted by the mighty 190-pound 7-footer Aleksej Pokusevski.
No time to sulk, though, because Ayton has dynamic rookie James Wiseman to tangle with on Thursday.