EMPIRE OF THE SUNS

Lineup change, ‘Point Book’ gives Suns offense boost in loss to 76ers

Nov 19, 2018, 7:34 PM | Updated: Nov 20, 2018, 8:20 am
(AP Photo/Matt York)...
(AP Photo/Matt York)
(AP Photo/Matt York)

Phoenix Suns head coach Igor Kokoskov said leading up to this season that he doesn’t want his franchise shooting guard Devin Booker playing much point guard.

When you’re 3-12, however, and the most effective way to play your best players together is Booker starting at point, compromises have to be made.

That’s what Kokoskov did on Monday against the Philadelphia 76ers. With the return of Trevor Ariza to the team after missing two games due to personal reasons and the strong play of rookie Mikal Bridges in Ariza’s place, the Suns moved point guard Isaiah Canaan to the bench and started both forwards with Booker, Deandre Ayton and T.J. Warren.

Booker played terrific in the role, scoring 37 points and dishing out eight assists with only two turnovers, but the 76ers were too much for the Suns to handle on the road in a 119-114 loss.

All together, Kokoskov seemed to abandon the traditional and simplistic nature of his rotations.

He did not play Ryan Anderson or Dragan Bender at power forward, instead relying on one of Ariza or Warren on the floor at all times to play the position. Canaan did play, but he continued to not run much of the offense and Jamal Crawford had his turns at it along with Booker. Troy Daniels played for the first time since Halloween, and when he did, it was in a three-guard lineup.

As for the game itself, the Suns capitalized off a 36-26 first quarter lead into a five-point advantage at halftime.

Booker had seven assists and zero turnovers in the first half.

Phoenix’s foul trouble, though, dug them in a hole as the 76ers began to get more confident in the game. Booker and Bridges each had four fouls midway through the third quarter and both Ayton and Warren also had three.

From there, Philadelphia slowly chipped away. The 76ers controlled the game in the fourth, and while the Suns didn’t allow the floodgates to open through nine fourth-quarter points from Ayton, the 76ers wouldn’t let the game get within one possession, either.

The Suns’ 13-of-24 shooting from the foul line was an issue.

As for the much-anticipated inaugural matchup between Ayton and Joel Embiid, there weren’t many fireworks on either side despite strong individual performances.

Embiid was in his MVP form, scoring 33 points with 17 rebounds while Ayton had 17 points and nine rebounds.

Warren scored 21 points, extending his streak of scoring at least 20 points to six games. Ariza had one of his better games in a Suns uniform, scoring 10 points to go along with seven rebounds, five assists, three steals and a block.

While the Suns are 1-2 in their last three games, the three games mark a significant line of progress made by the team being competitive in all those games unlike any other run this season.

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