EMPIRE OF THE SUNS

After making progress, Suns booed off home floor in loss to Nets

Nov 6, 2018, 10:49 PM | Updated: 10:51 pm
Phoenix Suns guard Devin Booker (1) drives by Brooklyn Nets center Jarrett Allen during the second ...
Phoenix Suns guard Devin Booker (1) drives by Brooklyn Nets center Jarrett Allen during the second half of an NBA basketball game Tuesday, Nov. 6, 2018, in Phoenix. The Nets won 104-82. (AP Photo/Rick Scuteri)
(AP Photo/Rick Scuteri)

PHOENIX — The Phoenix Suns’ last two games prior to Tuesday night were a big sigh of relief.

After an opening night win over the Dallas Mavericks, the Suns lost six games in a row that lacked any competitiveness or real fight from its team.

It was extremely worrying right after a season that resulted in 21 wins and an offseason that was widely regarded as one that improved the team.

With a loss to the Toronto Raptors that showed fight and a clutch win over the Memphis Grizzlies, though, the effort and team camaraderie were showing.

This was a sign the last six games before that were just an aberration.

We could only call it a sign and not a fact, of course, because there was a chance that lethargic uncompetitive Suns team would come back, and it did on Tuesday in a 104-82 loss to the Brooklyn Nets that Suns star shooting guard Devin Booker called “embarrassing.”

“I mean, it sucks, man,” Booker said of the loss. “We thought last game would be our step forward and we definitely took a step back tonight.”

Suns head coach Igor Kokoskov went further than just one step back.

“We were talking about making progress and trying to make (a) step forward coming into this game and we definitely didn’t do that,” he said. “We made three steps backwards.”

While the score was close at times in the first and second half, the Suns clearly didn’t have that pep in their step from the past two games and it was only a matter of time until Brooklyn pulled away in the late third quarter.

The stat sheet reeked in the same places it always does for the Suns. Twenty turnovers and 21 opposing fastbreak points.

“Focus wasn’t there, body language wasn’t there, effort wasn’t there,” Koksokov said. “It’s hard to find something positive about the game but I’m definitely not happy and pleased the way we performed tonight.”

It was extremely evident for the fans, who booed the Suns at a few points in the game before loudly booing them off the court at the end.

“I’d be doing the same thing if I was up there,” Booker said of the boos. “So I understand it. We need to fix it. At least show effort. I think that’s what they want to see and we haven’t gave that.”

The most alarming fact of all this was the Suns saying they didn’t sense anything off beforehand.

Rookie center Deandre Ayton said Booker gave a great pre-game speech and Booker sensed the same vibes around the team that had them playing well.

“I don’t know what I sensed this morning but I didn’t like what I saw tonight,” Kokoskov said.

Now, the question becomes how do they address this.

Kokoskov has said numerous times he doesn’t coach effort, but a fix needs to come for the 2-8 team. Fast.

“That’s hard because that’s one click in your mind, ‘I want to do it or I don’t want to do it,'” he said. “It’s hard. I believe it’s hard to coach effort.”

As far as conversations with the players, Booker said there needs to be a collective thought process.

“More of an understanding that it’s not personal,” he said. “It’s trying to win games. We all play to win games.”

The reality is that this poor level of basketball, no matter if a team is in the middle of a rebuild and projected to be one of the worst teams in the league or not, is unacceptable.

The team’s leader, who is the present and future of the franchise, is aware.

“This losing, losing by double digits, has to stop,” Booker said.

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