EMPIRE OF THE SUNS

2nd unit, shooting still an issue for Suns in scrimmage loss to Celtics

Jul 26, 2020, 1:35 PM | Updated: 1:42 pm

Phoenix Suns head coach Monty Williams reacts during the second half of an NBA basketball game agai...

Phoenix Suns head coach Monty Williams reacts during the second half of an NBA basketball game against the Utah Jazz, Monday, Oct. 28, 2019, in Phoenix. The Jazz won 96-95. (AP Photo/Matt York)

(AP Photo/Matt York)

The Phoenix Suns are only going to get so far with the second unit they have, especially if they are as shorthanded as they were on Saturday.

With no Kelly Oubre Jr. (meniscus) and Aron Baynes (coronavirus), along with Dario Saric (left ankle) out for the second half, the Suns were handled by the Boston Celtics 117-103.

Devin Booker hit a few shots in the second quarter and got his playmaking going in the third, but overall didn’t play up to his usual standards. Deandre Ayton had a rough go as well.

Despite that, the starters played solid together and managed to keep the Suns in the game.

As soon as they left the court, though, that’s where things went wrong.

Frank Kaminsky was a team-low -25 while Ayton managed a +10, a rare moment where the plus/minus did accurately represent the story of the game.

Head coach Monty Williams didn’t see the same consistent flow of play all game that he did on Thursday. The Suns also missed a lot of shots, going 10-for-38 (26.3%) from three-point range and the team is now 19-of-80 (23.8%) at that range through two scrimmages.

“For whatever reason, when the shots didn’t go down, it affected our ability to be solid on defense,” Williams said.

“Across the board, I just didn’t see the solid play that was consistent in the first game.”

Williams said he wants to look at the film to see why he only saw “spurts” of that play but didn’t like the lack of movement on offense too.

The Suns led 32-29 through one quarter and were down only four at the half but lost control of the game in the second half once the bench came in.

The play of rookie Ty Jerome continues to be concerning. While he was OK in the first scrimmage on Thursday, his severe limitations on both ends due to his athleticism and inexperience showed.

On Saturday, Jerome was 1-of-7 from the field with two points, one rebound and two assists. Williams only played him three minutes in the first half.

Jerome should be graded on a different curve given that he was drafted out of Virginia as a four-year player ready to contribute immediately, and looks like a developmental point guard at this stage.

The decision to deal De’Anthony Melton continues to be increasingly astounding the more we see Jerome play.

With Jerome and the underwhelming backup point guard play all year, this has created a wonderful opportunity for Cameron Payne to get some legit NBA minutes.

Payne has speed off the dribble and can make plays doing so, usually as a shot for himself.

That’s a dynamic the Suns haven’t had in that rotation spot all year, so expect Payne to pull away in the battle for those minutes.

Payne was also 1-of-7 shooting, with six points and four rebounds.

Booker led the way with 17 points on 5-of-15 shooting to go along with nine assists, while Mikal Bridges’ impressive aggression offensively continued with 16 points. Ditto for Saric, who had 12 points in the first half before he injured his left ankle by stepping on Kaminsky’s foot in the second quarter. He did not return and there was no update on his status after the game.

Ayton had one of those flat performances we’ve gotten used to where he’s not as emphatic around the basket as he should be.

The 22-year-old had four turnovers, with the Celtics’ active hands inside causing him trouble.

Ayton, though, hit a three-pointer for the second straight scrimmage. This one was off a planned pick-and-pop.

Ayton said after the game that the system is now made for him to shoot three-pointers, so he’s more comfortable to take them. It’s unclear what he meant by that, because if anything, Ayton looks like he’s approaching the catches out there with more of a shooting mentality. That pick-and-pop is now a three-pointer as opposed to an 18-footer.

Regardless, he finished 11 points and seven rebounds.

Ricky Rubio played for the first time since returning to the team post-coronavirus, and posted six points and four assists in 19 minutes.

The Suns wrap up scrimmage play on Tuesday against the Toronto Raptors before Friday’s opening game of the seedings portion of the schedule. Tip-off on Tuesday is set for noon on ESPN 620 AM.

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