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Suns go back to stone age, make 1 3-pointer in 3 quarters of loss to Pacers

Phoenix Suns guard Ricky Rubio, center, loses the ball as Indiana Pacers forward T.J. Warren, left, and Indiana Pacers guard T.J. McConnell defend during the second half of an NBA basketball game, Wednesday, Jan. 22, 2020, in Phoenix. (AP Photo/Matt York)

PHOENIX — The Phoenix Suns have become one of the NBA’s worst three-point shooting teams in the past two months, but that doesn’t mean they should stop shooting them.

In Monty Williams’ “0.5” offense specifically, the quick passes and ball movement are often times going to set up a three-point shot.

The problem is Phoenix isn’t taking many anymore, ranking dead-last in the NBA in attempts per game since they started the season 7-4.

That gun-shy approach to taking the shot and also not prioritizing the deep ball has become problematic already. So when you add on the Suns playing a great defense and also not moving the ball well, nights like Wednesday are going to happen when they only muster 87 points in a 112-87 defeat to the Indiana Pacers.

Phoenix did not make a three-pointer until there were 23.9 seconds left in the third quarter, and even then, they had only attempted 13.

The ball movement was nothing like we’ve seen all season. The Suns recorded only 13 assists, by far their lowest in a game. The previous poorest mark was 19.

They were also without their best shooter in rookie Cam Johnson for the third straight game, but that’s no excuse for not taking (and making) the shots.

This is especially true when the Suns are not that good of an offensive team and a very bad defensive team, meaning they really need to rely on three-pointers to help elevate their offense to outperform their poor defense.

Williams and Ricky Rubio attested it after the game to poor ball movement and Indiana’s defense, but every defense in the league is going to try and deny threes.

“We only generated 20 three-point shots tonight,” Williams said. “It’s a formula for a tough night when the ball doesn’t move.”

The 20 attempts tied a season-low and the 87 points are the second-lowest offensive output this season.

Williams is not the type of coach to change the team’s gameplan to stop looking for three-point shots but is exactly the type of coach to let the players make their own decisions on the court when it comes to shots they want and don’t want.

Regardless of what the problem is, there needs to be some sort of internal breakthrough on the team about being confident again from three-point range or it’s going to be very ugly.

Lost in all this is that the Pacers are a great team already and are still going to get back All-NBA guard Victor Oladipo later this month.

Phoenix had no answer for center Domantas Sabonis, who plays through a terrific combination of strength and skill, with his craftiness as a ball-handler being the sprinkles on top.

He had 24 points, 13 rebounds, four assists and was the best player on the floor.

Wednesday was almost definitely the most fun T.J. Warren has had inside Talking Stick Resort Arena in quite some time. On top of doing a fine job defending Devin Booker, Warren scored a game-high 25 points, his first game back and against the Suns since being traded in the offseason with a second-round pic for only cash considerations.

Everything was ugly on Phoenix’s side in the box score.

Booker dropped only 16 points and Deandre Ayton was even less productive with 10 points and eight rebounds. Kelly Oubre Jr. had the numbers there with 17 points and nine rebounds but also shot 5-for-16 from the field. The team shot 35.7%.

The Suns deserve credit for their second-half effort against the San Antonio Spurs on Monday, but if you don’t factor that in, this is six of the worst quarters of basketball we’ve seen from Phoenix this season.

That doesn’t bode well for playing six of their next seven games on the road.


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