Phoenix Suns player grades from a big win over Miami

Phoenix Suns, Torrey Craig (Photo by Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports)
Phoenix Suns, Torrey Craig (Photo by Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports) /

The Phoenix Suns — as their fans know very well — are able to beat teams in many different ways, and that’s why they’re at the top of the NBA power rankings.

Take Tuesday night, for instance.

The Phoenix Suns held the defending Eastern Conference champion Miami Heat to 86 points on the heels of a record-setting effort against Houston. The 86 points tied for the Suns’ best performance on defense against an opponent this season.

The team is now 14-0 in 2020-21 when holding  opponents to fewer than 100 points.

The Phoenix Suns bench owned the night and deserves the top-quality grades they’re receiving as we evaluate all the Suns who played more than 10 minutes.

Here are the grades:

Phoenix Suns grades: Devin Booker gets a C-

Booker looked tired and careless. He hit only 4 of 16 (1-8 from 3-point range) from the field and committed six turnovers. Worse, he allowed himself to find early foul trouble, costing the Suns their most important player.

Phoenix Suns grades: Chris Paul gets a C+

Paul hits the B level only because he orchestrated a few key possessions, finishing with nine assists, and had three steals to move into the all-time top five in NBA history. Paul made only 2 of 7 from the field in 25 minutes.

Phoenix Suns grades: Deandre Ayton gets an A-

The improving center was 8-for-10 in only 27 minutes, grabbing 13 rebounds and playing his rim-protector role to perfection. Deandre Ayton still has those moments during which Suns fans shout “Grab the ball!” But Ayton outplayed notorious agitator Bam Adebayo and helped lead Phoenix to its win.  Ayton recorded his 29th double-double of the season and his fifth in the Suns’ past six games.

Phoenix Suns grades: Jae Crowder gets a B-

On the heels of his huge night 24 hours earlier against Houston, Crowder couldn’t find his shot — making only 2 of 8 from the field in 28 minutes, but his court awareness and strong defense will be counted upon when the postseason begins.

Phoenix Suns grades: Mikal Bridges gets a C

Wow, Mikal Bridges. Where has your offensive game gone? His past eight games now include four pretty rough nights: Six points, zero points, six points and then zero points on 0-3 shooting against Miami.

Focusing on defense and rebounding is fine, but the Suns are going to need more from Bridges — consistently — as the playoffs near. And in those past eight games, Bridges has pulled down more than three rebounds only twice.

And now the really good news.

The Phoenix Suns bench outscored the Miami Heat bench 65-24. Ballgame.

Tuesday marked the second time this season the Suns held their opponent to fewer than 90  points, and the bench defense was huge.

The +39 bench scoring margin was a season high, and was the third time this season that Phoenix’s  reserves have tallied 60+ points (Suns are 3-0 in such games).

The Phoenix Suns bench shot a combined 57.9 percent (22-of-38) from the field.

Over the past three games, the Suns bench is averaging 54.0 points.

Phoenix Suns grades: Cameron Payne gets an A

Payne had yet another big game, and these performances are becoming less surprising. He had 14 points on 4-of-8 shooting (2-of-3 ffrom 3-point range) and seven big assists in just more than 22 minutes of action.

Phoenix Suns grades: Cam Johnson gets a B+

Johnson led all Suns reserves tonight with 15 points and five rebounds, hitting 3-for-8 from 3-point range but also committing four turnovers.

Phoenix Suns grades: Jevon Carter gets an A-

Carter, whose game probably rescued the Suns on Monday night, kept up his hot shooting against Miami, taking only 3-point attempts and hitting 3 for 7. When he’s stepping into the 3-point attempts with confidence, the Suns unleash just one more weapon.

Phoenix Suns grades: Torrey Craig gets an A-

This guy just brings that chip-on-his-shoulder effort every night. He scored a season-high 14 points on 5-of-6 shooting — including 2-for-3 on 3-point tries — and led all bench guys with six rebounds. All that for just a bag of cash.

Phoenix Suns grades: Dario Saric gets a B++

Two pluses? Yep, because he’s really improving in confidence of production over the past couple of games. Saric had 13 points and five rebounds in fewer than 18 minutes, making four of his five field-goal attempts and playing a strong backup 5 role.

This victory was a needed W, because, after the Sacramento Kings and San Antonio Spurs visit Phoenix, the path becomes more difficult.

But that’s talk for another day. On Tuesday night, the Suns showed they’re capable of winning in yet another way — you know, the way playoff contenders get things done.

Next. Phoenix Suns need more Devin Booker. dark