Phoenix Suns 3-point knee-jerk: 41-12 says it all

Phoenix Suns, Jae Crowder (Photo by Chuck Cook-USA TODAY Sports)
Phoenix Suns, Jae Crowder (Photo by Chuck Cook-USA TODAY Sports) /

The Phoenix Suns made just enough key plays throughout the first three quarters to give themselves a chance.

They didn’t deserve to be within 34-33 after one quarter; within seven at the half, 66-59; or barely within shouting distance, 102-91, after three quarters.

But they were.

Whether it was a critical Chris Paul pass to find the open man outside the 3-point arc or Jae Crowder doing what an NBA player should do (bury the open look), the Suns kept the game within reach.

Phoenix, now 18-10, learned the hard way in the Tuesday night collapse vs. Brooklyn that every game has 48 minutes’ worth of regulation.

They applied that painful lesson and turned the tables Friday night — because they’re good enough.

It helps to hit 22 3-pointers.

Staying with that theme, here are three pointers to consider as the Suns head for Memphis for a Saturday night matchup.

Phoenix Suns point 1: No way did the Suns believe they were inferior to the Pelicans, who routed them earlier this season, and put a 41-12 fourth-quarter pounding on the Pels.

It was interesting to listen to coach Monty Williams try to identify when the light went on.

New Orleans, which smoked Phoenix 123-101 a few weeks ago, held a 75-68 lead, but a 3-pointer by Chris Paul and a layup from Frank Kaminsky cut the lead to two and the Pelicans called timeout.

And the light switch flipped to “on”?


No illumination, thanks to a pair of Devin Booker turnovers (is this becoming a serious problem yet? No? OK, we’ll relax).

New Orleans ran its lead back out to eight. Then Booker’s 3 seemed to convince the Suns they could compete over the next 17 minutes of game action — uneven as Phoenix was playing.

“It wasn’t going our way pretty much the whole game — you could just feel it was funky,” Williams said.

“We came out of a timeout … in the third quarter and turned the ball over twice right out of the timeout, gave them momentum. And after that, we just started playing a lot better.”

Trailing by 11 entering the fourth, the Suns held the Pelicans scoreless until J.J. Redick hit a long jumper with 9:52 left in regulation.

Less than two minutes later, a Crowder 3 game the Suns a 105-104 lead they would never relinquish. Crowder hit another 3 to to put the Suns up 108-104 and cap Phoenix’s 17-2 run to start the fourth quarter.

Chris Paul had 19 damned assists. Deandre Ayton had 16 damned rebounds. Devin Booker willed his way to 23 damned points and the Suns buried 22 damned 3s in 39 attempts.


Lights out.

Phoenix Suns point 2: James Jones and the player personnel team built some serious depth

Did you know the Suns are 8-0 now with Frank Kaminsky in the starting lineup? Is that a thing?

Seems a bit of a leap to suggest that Williams should use ink when jotting down the starters for the rest of the season.

Kaminsky is a huge asset when he’s hitting 3s, as he was on Friday night. But he’s still a liability on defense and anywhere inside the arc, seemingly, on offense. But that’s a debate for another day — closer to the trade deadline, perhaps.

The idea of Point 2 is that general manager James Jones — with help from his personnel team — assembled a winning collection of role players on the (relative) cheap.

Jae Crowder, E’Twaun Moore, Cameron Payne and Langston Galloway have stepped up all season. Maybe not all at once, but certainly everyone has played a big role in key victories.

And it starts with urgency and motivation on defense.

“In the fourth quarter, we held them to 12 points,” Williams said. “And I thought the lift that E’Twaun, Cam Johnson and Jae gave us was huge tonight. E’Twaun was fighting J.J. (Redick) over the screens and we didn’t have to switch as much as we did in the first half.”

Phoenix Suns point 3: Chris Paul and Jae Crowder seem to know what they’re doing.

Yeah, these guys bring to life the impact of a favorite NBA cliche. They know how to win.

Go ahead, Pelicans fans, juxtapose Friday night’s fourth quarter with what Suns fans enjoyed. Yep, your team just isn’t quite there in terms of how to win a game.

Eric Bledsoe vs. Chris Paul? Lose

Lonzo Ball vs. Chris Paul? G’night.

And Brandon Ingram vs. Jae Crowder? Gimme Crowder in crunch time within a team construct.

Ingram, an All-Star last year, has mammoth upside but his game needs refining; Crowder knows what he is: A guy whose passing-lane instincts and comfort taking big 3s lends confidence to his teammates.

Williams was just pointing out the obvious, adding that Johnson deserved credit for slowing Ingram.

“Jae was just phenomenal, knocking down shots, making big plays on the defensive end,” Williams said. “Cam did the same, staying in front of Ingram. But that’s the resiliency and the relentless play that we talked about that we have to have.”

They knew how to win — even if they had a bit of a lapse on Tuesday night against Brooklyn.

Know what that is? Learning and applying the lessons learned.

These Suns have a couple of teachers who have been doing it in the real world for years and years.

Next. Phoenix Suns move toward the top. dark