Phoenix Suns: How they wanted Game 4, chased it and took it from the Lakers

Phoenix Suns, Jae Crowder (Photo by Gary A. Vasquez-USA TODAY Sports)
Phoenix Suns, Jae Crowder (Photo by Gary A. Vasquez-USA TODAY Sports) /

The Phoenix Suns won 100-92 and head back to Phoenix for a Tuesday night showdown.

And any analysis in the wake of an event such as the Suns-Lakers Game 4 in Los Angeles on Sunday needs some knee-jerk opinion.

The Phoenix Suns tied the series at 2 in a memorable Game 4, with momentum swings, injury drama and a certain Lakers superstar quitting on his team.

Here are a few of the story lines to dissect:

The Phoenix Suns are a dirty team.

This took hold when Devin Booker sent a (roughly)120-pound Lakers guard flying through the air Thursday in what certainly wasn’t clean, nor could be described as a basketball play.

When Jae Crowder committed a much-less dangerous foul Sunday on LeBron James, the Twittersphere was incensed.

Ha. The whinier segment of Lakers fans had to jump to that subject (in the absence of legitimate analysis).

The opinion: Similar to Monty Williams’ comments after the game (he chose not to address the “narrative”), we have no reason to believe there is anything but anxious desperation from Lakers fans driving this one.

The Phoenix Suns leader on the court, Chris Paul, convinced Williams he could go – and then showed everyone what the regular-season Suns could do.

Williams had decided to sit Paul but was convinced during a very intense, emotional conversation earlier Sunday to allow Paul to prove he was healing – and necessary for his team to succeed.

Williams said if Paul’s teammates would have seen the conversation, “it would have given us even more juice today.”

Paul was uncertain, too, before the game and said he talked with Booker and Crowder about the decision. “I told them,” he said, “if you all feel like I’m out here looking like some trash, just tell me and I’ll get out.”

Williams added: “He’s worked his tail off for years to be in this moment and I don’t want to be the doofus coach to take that away.”

The opinion: Monty Williams is the opposite of a doofus coach. He’s the best coach in the game right now and consistently makes measured, strategic and intelligent decisions.

The Phoenix Suns players just showed more grit and want-to than the Lakers – AD’s injury or not.

Late in the third quarter, Williams subbed Torrey Craig and had Craig match up with Marc Gasol at the five.

In about 37 seconds, Craig provided a major boost.

With just more than 90 seconds remaining in the third and a 75-64 lead, Craig:

  • 1:37: Blocked out Markieff Morris to grab a rebound.
  • 1:24: Distracted Gasol (or maybe Gasol just did that to himself), enabling Chris Paul to take it all the way to the rim for a layup.
  • 1:10: Thwarted the Lakers’ subsequent possession by just being tougher when Gasol posted him up on the low block, causing Gasol to pass back out.
  • 1:05: Made a spectacular block on Kyle Kuzma during that same possession after LA executed a high screen that caused Craig to switch onto Kuzma.
  • 1:00: His block triggered a fast break that ended in a Jae Crowder layup and a 79-64 Suns lead.
  • 38.3: Gasol tapped out, er, was removed from the lineup.

One Morris free throw and two free throws from Paul made it 81-65 entering the fourth quarter.

The opinion: Torrey Craig should be used even more — even if it’s at the expense of Frank Kaminsky, who hasn’t provided much of anything.

The Phoenix Suns and Los Angeles Lakers aren’t receiving much quality from the officiating – something Suns fans have been all-too-familiar with this season.

“We gotta take our minds off the officiating first,” Lakers coach Frank Vogel said during his interview with ABC prior to the fourth quarter.

The opinion: Hahahahaha. The Lakers were getting the short end of the stick? Puh-leeeeze.

And it wasn’t like the officials didn’t try. An “and-1” call on the Suns that had LeBron gifted a dunk almost became reality – fortunately the more sensible official talked the LeBron-loving official out of his decision.

The Phoenix Suns, who held an 18-point lead with 10 minutes left, made just enough good decisions and found just enough offense to squelch the Lakers’ comeback.

There were several suggestions to how the Suns may be able to win Game 4, but it came down to coaching, talent and execution — along with intensity.

During a mic’d up segment, Williams exhorted his team, saying, “But we gotta have freakin possession poise right now. Every possession counts.”

A Booker 2, an Alex Caruso 3, a Paul jumper, a Gasol 3, and then one James free throw left the Suns with a seven-point lead. After a Crowder misfire from 3, Paul provided a huge lift.

Gasol pump-faked a pass, drawing Paul into the air. When Paul extended his left arm, Gasol fired the pass toward Wesley Matthews at the right-angle arc. Paul then extended his (injured) right arm and deflected, then stole, the pass.

“Everything clicks a little better with ‘3’ on the court,” Crowder said afterward.

The opinion: Memories from 100 percent health were rekindled when Paul hit Deandre Ayton for a lob in traffic, buried a patented CP3 elbow jumper.

The Phoenix Suns are not quitters; the Lakers do quit occasionally.

Want an example? Take a look at LeBron on the next possession. With 1:33 left, Dennis Schroder missed a layup and Ayton rebounded. James dropped his head, pushed Ayton in the back (no call, because, y’know, LeBron), and then … SULKED!!

The game was not over – at all, as most Suns fans would attest – but James just gave up. He and Schroder just stayed in backcourt (Schroder eventually showed up – too late) as the Suns executed a beautiful fast break that culminated in a Crowder 3 to push the lead back to 10 with 1:23 to go.

The opinion: Not a good look, though James is fully capable of taking back the home court on Tuesday night. But that’s for another day. Right now, after the “King” quit, Game 4 is over.

The Phoenix Suns are not going away.

NBA-TV’s Steve Smith: “I felt the passion in Chris Paul … I’m all about the Phoenix Suns.”

His co-hort Ryan Hollins: “With or without Anthony Davis, the Suns outworked the Lakers.”

The opinion: Devin Booker didn’t need to do too much and, with or without AD, this series is definitely “on” again.

light. Related Story. Before Game 4, the Suns were angry