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Suns pick up Dario Saric after key missed FTs in win vs. Blazers

Phoenix Suns forward Dario Saric (20) shoots over Portland Trail Blazers center Jusuf Nurkic (27) during the first half of an NBA basketball game, Thursday, May 13, 2021, in Phoenix. (AP Photo/Matt York)

It took a true team effort for the Phoenix Suns to get a 118-117 win over the Portland Trail Blazers on Thursday night.

That’s because starting center Deandre Ayton missed his first game of the entire 2020-21 season due to left knee soreness.

In his place was Dario Saric, who scored 10 points and grabbed five boards in almost 31 minutes played on the night.

The Croatian also added one assist and one steal while shooting 33.3% (4-for-12) from the field and 25% from three (1-for-4).

Unforutnately for Saric, he only made half his free throws (3-for-6) after making his first three from the charity stripe.

“Even after he missed the free throws, I told him — as I would tell anybody — move on to the next play. We believe in you,” head coach Monty Williams said via Zoom postgame. “And I didn’t think he played poorly tonight. I thought his defense vs. (Jusuf) Nurkic was sound and it’s hard to stay in front of (Damian) Lillard all night long.

“The fact that they only had one offensive rebound speaks to Dario and Frank’s ability to box out and keep those bigs off the box. … It’s up to us, it’s time for us to represent the word team and family and together in those moments. And that’s what we would do for anybody.”

Suns forward Mikal Bridges was also impressed with the spot start from Saric.

“I told Dario that he did a hell of a job today,” Bridges said postgame. “It’s not easy, especially coming out starting playing big minutes against a team like the Trail Blazers with all these guards and our coverages being up and not trying to foul and have to get out and then on the other end, being aggressive and moving it — that’s not easy.

“I told him he did a hell of a job and way to stay with it throughout the game. I think the only time he put his head down was when he missed those free throws but you know, we always got his back. But kudos to him, he played really well.”

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