The Phoenix Suns defeated the Chicago Bulls 116-115 on Wednesday night in an overtime thriller that was a nail-biter all the way down to the last 0.2 seconds. The Suns failed to take advantage of a plethora of opportunities to pull ahead late in the fourth quarter but a win is a win, especially on the road against a solid Bulls defense.
The Bulls played a great game, including an incredible performance from Alex Caruso who put up 19 points while being the primary defender on Kevin Durant who was held to 25 points (his second lowest point total since the first game this season).
Last night’s game started with plenty of early excitement as Bradley Beal made his Suns debut after missing the first 7 games of the season while recovering from a back injury.
Beal made a major impact in the game despite his minutes restriction which will likely continue as he slowly gets back into game shape. While Suns’ fans hoped to see more than 13 points on 3-of-12 shooting, Beal did help to spread the floor which was evident in his impressive plus-minus at +16.
All eyes may have started on Beal, but it was Grayson Allen who stole the show. Allen has been making the most of his nod as a starter and last night was his best performance of the season. He made a career high 8 threes with insane efficiency at 61.5 percent from deep. Allen finished the game with a team high 26 points as well as 9 rebounds, 4 assists, 2 blocks, and 1 steal.
One thing Allen’s stats don’t capture is just how clutch he was on the court to end the fourth quarter and force the game into overtime. For example, Allen’s two blocks and one steal came in the last 3 minutes of the fourth quarter. Allen continues to do what he can to prove he is worthy of a starting role moving forward.
Speaking of late game heroics, Keita Bates-Diop, who only scored 7 points in 31 minutes, chose a great time to make a 3-pointer with one minute left in overtime which cut Bulls’ lead to 115-114. While Bates-Diop wasn’t lighting up the scoreboard, he was able to contribute in other ways, including 5 rebounds, 3 assists, 3 blocks, and 1 steal. Most notable was his team high plus-minus of +19.
Allen wasn’t the only Suns newcomer putting up big numbers last night. Despite making some unfortunate mistakes in last nights’ game (including a team high six turnovers), Jusuf Nurkić played a key role in the grind out win.
Nurkić ended the night with an impressive double-double with 20 points and 17 rebounds including 8 assists and 2 steals. If Nurkić continues to put up numbers like this, many Suns fans are going to be rethinking their early ideas of trading for a new center.
One thing all Suns fans can agree on, is how excited and ready everyone is for Devin Booker to be back on the court. In the few games Booker has played in this season, he has been the key to ball movement and playmaking for the Suns. With Booker out of the lineup and Beal on a minutes restriction, the Bulls were able to spend most of the game double-teaming Kevin Durant any time he had the ball.
Durant and the Suns fought through it most of the game but in the last 5 minutes of the fourth quarter, all their offensive momentum came to a screeching halt. Every time the Suns brought the ball down the court, the only plan that seemed to be in place was “give Durant the ball and hope he scores” which led to countless turnovers and poor shot attempts.
While their defense helped keep them in the game, and ultimately win, Booker could have helped take attention off of Durant and allowed him to get back to what he does best, lethal one-on-one attacks, rather than playing the role of point guard navigating double-teams. Luckily, Booker is expected back very soon and fans will start to see a lot more offensive diversity going forward.
Despite injuries and a rocky start to the season, the Suns have managed to find their way to .500 and are very close to being fully healthy for the first time. Oftentimes, a grind-it-out win shows more about a team’s determination and will than a win where everything is clicking and easy.