EMPIRE OF THE SUNS

Suns dig latest hole for themselves in first quarter, fall to Clippers

Jan 4, 2019, 10:38 PM | Updated: Jan 5, 2019, 8:42 am
Phoenix Suns center Deandre Ayton (22) trips over Los Angeles Clippers guard Shai Gilgeous-Alexande...
Phoenix Suns center Deandre Ayton (22) trips over Los Angeles Clippers guard Shai Gilgeous-Alexander in the second half during an NBA basketball game, Friday, Jan. 4, 2019, in Phoenix. (AP Photo/Rick Scuteri)
(AP Photo/Rick Scuteri)

PHOENIX — The Phoenix Suns showed Friday night they are not good at adjusting to what has plagued them in the past.

In what has been a theme most of the season, after giving up 44 points in the first quarter against the Philadelphia 76ers on Wednesday night, the Suns proceeded to allow 38 points to the Los Angeles Clippers Friday night in the opening 12 minutes.

In the Suns’ last matchup with the Clippers, forward duo Danilo Gallinari and Tobias Harris combined for 58 points on 17-of-31 shooting. The pair roasted Phoenix again on Friday, scoring 37 on 55 percent shooting.

The Suns lost 121-111, once again playing terrible defense and dropping their fifth straight game at home.

“After a day of practice of going over it we just didn’t come out mentally ready,” Suns guard Devin Booker said. “Same old problem that we’re still looking for the solution for.”

In that first quarter, the Clippers shot 15-of-22 from the field. The Suns had more turnovers (5) than rebounds (4). Los Angeles went on a 25-6 run in the last six minutes of the quarter to lead by 19.

The deficit got as high as 29 in the first half for the Suns.

“I don’t have (an) answer for you (as to) why we have a bad start,” head coach Igor Kokoskov said.

This is the part where we discuss the run the Suns second unit made to get the game closer, a 24-5 spurt to the early fourth quarter when they got the lead down to 11. It’s the third time in four games the Suns have had a big rally while facing a massive deficit in the second half. While it’s nice to see, it effectively doesn’t matter all that much when they are so poor at the beginning of games.

Rookie center Deandre Ayton only took three shots, but that was not on him. Most notably in the first quarter, the Suns did an awful job getting Ayton the ball in his spots when he was in the right position. T.J. Warren, in particular, continues to either turn down the opportunity to pass to Ayton or doesn’t see him.

Post entry passes should be in everyone’s repertoire after playing with Ayton for three-plus months. Getting the rookie big involved early should be a priority and has clearly been a benefit for him this year. The sets were run to get Ayton the ball on the left block, but the ball was not arriving.

Kokoskov still feels that Ayton deserves some of the responsibility.

“If you want a touch, you go get it,” Kokoskov said of Ayton’s touches. “If you want those touches, you create those touches.”

Ayton had five rebounds to go along with four points and three assists. Booker scored 23 points on 14 shots with three rebounds and four assists.

Phoenix shot 53 percent and had six players score in double figures.

The Suns have played five good teams and lost to all five in poor fashion at home. They are young, start three rookies, have a first-year head coach and still don’t have a point guard, but the talent far exceeds last year’s team. Yet, when you compare the poor efforts between the two, there are undeniable similarities despite the overhaul.

On some level, that has to be unacceptable 40 games in, especially after appearing to figure some things out two weeks prior to winning five out of seven games.

“There’s still over half a season left and it will be a very long season if we keep coming out and playing like this,” Booker said.

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