EMPIRE OF THE SUNS

Suns fueled by Paul, Ayton in preseason win over Lakers

Oct 6, 2021, 6:38 PM

PHOENIX — It has been quite the two-game sample size for the Phoenix Suns this preseason. Their first tilt, a loss in Sacramento on Sunday, was a performance that was every bit of that “pre” we attach in front of “season.”

But in Wednesday’s 117-105 victory over the Los Angeles Lakers, it was about as close as they could get to having that prefix be “post.”

It certainly helped that Chris Paul and Jae Crowder played, and Paul specifically came out pushing the pace when he had the ball behind half-court. He was also attacking downhill in ball screen scenarios.

This was no Preseason God. It was the Point God, and as you’d expect, his team followed suit. They were great defensively and were creating good shots consistently on the other end.

Paul registered eight points and 11 assists in 22 minutes.

That spark from the Suns had the Lakers playing off their back foot. They were without a resting Russell Westbrook and LeBron James, the two guys who are expected to command almost all of the lead ball-handler duties.

After an evenish 15 minutes, Phoenix quickly went up by as many as 20 in the second quarter.

Crowder and Deandre Ayton both played 22 minutes too and were also productive. Ayton was great defensively with 14 points and 10 rebounds while Crowder added 13 points and nine rebounds.

“We’re getting a chance to see what we can possibly do from the start of the season,” head coach Monty Williams said of having four of his five starters in.

The Suns’ new-look second unit with Landry Shamet and JaVale McGee had the pair look good again after playing well on Sunday.

Shamet started in place of Devin Booker, who Williams said Tuesday is still a few days away from a conversation taking place about him potentially playing.

Even when Booker is in, the Suns could use an extra playmaker, or at least someone with a little pep to their step off the dribble.

That’s where Shamet was making an impact, clocking in four assists (and four turnovers) with six points.

As for McGee, the combination of his length and speed is such a drastic change from 5s like Dario Saric and Frank Kaminsky in a good way. He is almost always going to find a way to make his presence felt on a game.

McGee took advantage of his 14 minutes with 12 points and four rebounds.

The Suns got back to an assist total we’re used to seeing, 31, and 11 of the team’s 12 players to log double-digit minutes had an assist.

Like Sunday, we will choose not to read anything into these games, but if you’re the type that likes to, this is where you saw a clear difference in continuity. That’s a big-time bonus the Suns have that they didn’t last year.

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