Phoenix Suns win: The 3 best keys on a not-so-great night

Phoenix Suns, Chris Paul (Photo by Jeff Hanisch-USA TODAY Sports)
Phoenix Suns, Chris Paul (Photo by Jeff Hanisch-USA TODAY Sports) /

The Phoenix Suns did not play a great game.

The search party that finally found Devin Booker’s rhythm (it had been missing for the better part of a game and a half) was unable to locate Dario Saric’s shot.

Though the game flow and substitution patterns partially dictated it, Jevon Carter’s offense was not part of the good things for Phoenix, either.

The Phoenix Suns had some big challenges against the Milwaukee Bucks — on the road — and still found a way to win.

The playoffs are fast approaching, and the matchups already are being discussed.

This Suns team is a cohesive, responsive, combative group that found a way to win. But the Philadelphia 76ers are up next, and several elements need to improve.

Makes you wonder who might be seeing their minutes reduced down the stretch.

Phoenix Suns key point No. 1: Shooting

Booker was 9-24 from the field, Jae Crowder was 3-11, Carter missed both his attempts and Saric finished 1-7 that included 0-4 from 3-point range.

So what did their teammates do to help? How about a cool 38-for-64 night from Mikal Bridges, Deandre Ayton, the Cams (Johnson and Payne) and Chris Paul.

Even with Booker’s off night, the team almost went 50-40-90, missing the triple only because of a 48.1 percent night on 2-point field goal attempts.

Phoenix Suns key point No. 2: Playmaking

The Suns delivered 28 assists to Milwaukee’s 19, and Booker’s fast-break jam off a Paul assist put CP3 above Magic Johnson for fifth place on the NBA’s all-time assists leaderboard.

After the game, during press availability, Booker smiled and indicated he’s playing with someone special.

“I’m inspired every day,” Booker said. “I tell Chris that every day.”

The ball kept moving on Monday night and, with Paul directing the traffic the Suns responded like champs (Paul led both teams with a +9 for the game).

Teammates know their spots, their offensive rotations and have their eyes wide open when Paul breaks down his defender.

The biggest beneficiary is perhaps Deandre Ayton, who did so much on Monday night than just grabbing a pass and converting a layup. Ayton was 8-11 from the field, 4-4 from the line and played through a shoulder injury to finish with a big 40 in the minutes column.

Phoenix Suns key point No. 3: Defense

With the primary focus on Giannis Antetokounmpo, the Suns played hard and found a little luck, too.

For some reason, Giannis refuses to just sit on the low block and abuse people. The Suns were fine with the two-time NBA MVP roaming around the perimeter — and it didn’t hurt Phoenix when Antetokounmpo suffered what appeared to be a cramp in his foot during overtime.

And the Suns can’t take all the credit for the Bucks’ cold shooting from long range; Khris Middleton missed all but two of his nine 3-point tries.

But great teams through history have earned their titles and enjoyed some luck along the way, too.

Keep it rolling in Philly.

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