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Frustrating misses overshadow career night for Cam Johnson on his birthday

Phoenix Suns forward Cameron Johnson (23) shoots over Toronto Raptors forward Pascal Siakam during the second half of an NBA basketball game Tuesday, March 3, 2020, in Phoenix. The Raptors won 123-114. (AP Photo/Matt York)

PHOENIX — It’s your birthday and you’ve had your best individual performance at work since you started your new job. Odds are that you’re pretty stoked, right?

Not in Cam Johnson’s case.

The now 24-year-old had a career-high 21 points in Tuesday’s 123-114 loss to the Toronto Raptors.

Johnson also took a career-high 13 three-pointers, but as you can tell by the math there, that means he missed a few. It was eight, and for a shooter of Johnson’s level, that’s unacceptable given how those are almost always going to be good looks in his current role off the bench.

So, he was visibly frustrated still when the media talked with him nearly an hour after the loss, to the point where he immediately recited the misses he wanted back.

“Four of them,” he fired back when asked if there was one not going in that stood out.

“Two at the top in the first half, two in the corner in the second (half). Because they left my hand and I could have bet my house that they would have gone in.”

The Raptors’ gameplan was essentially forcing the Suns to kick the ball out to the perimeter, daring Phoenix’s shooters to beat them instead of Devin Booker or Deandre Ayton inside the three-point line.

Johnson knows that and also knows that if a couple more of his would have gone in that they could have beaten the last NBA champions.

“I feel like it’s just a big shift in the game,” he said. “Big opportunities to increase a lead, to keep the game close and that’s kind of my job so those ones were frustrating.”

Johnson missed three open looks in a row to begin the second half, including two of those misses from the corner that he referenced right away, and all of those were set up by Booker.

Only a few moments after the latest miss, Booker got the ball in transition for a steal and 3-on-1 break.

With Johnson in the right corner, Booker didn’t even take one dribble inside the three-point line before firing the ball to his rookie, where Johnson repaid Booker’s faith in him and hit his career-high fifth make from deep.

Johnson said Booker having that type of confidence in him is huge.

“It helps a ton,” he said. “Because the frustration of missing one that felt good, in the moment, can really affect the next couple. And for somebody to outwardly express that, ‘You’re good, you’re good’ — that goes a long way.”

Head coach Monty Williams said that was a “growth moment” for his rookie wing.

“I don’t want him thinking about it,” he said. “He’s gotta let it fly and deal with how he feels right now. That’s the only way the guy is going to grow up.”

As long as Johnson keeps that mentality of not only continuing to shoot after misses but also remembering those misses that felt good, he’s going to be a good player in this league for a long, long time.

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