EMPIRE OF THE SUNS

Frank Kaminsky’s stellar play continues in Suns’ 6th straight win vs. Blazers

Nov 10, 2021, 11:41 PM | Updated: 11:49 pm

(AP Photo/Matt York)...

(AP Photo/Matt York)

(AP Photo/Matt York)

PHOENIX — In case of injury, Frank Kaminsky has always been a great option for the Phoenix Suns to have on the back-end of the rotation.

He’s a great stylistic change of pace, knows the system and plays the way the Suns want to. It’s always good to have reliable depth.

But beyond that, it was hard to get any grander with proclamations about his role on the team.

Looks like they should have been grander.

Kaminsky’s career-high 31 points on Wednesday in a 119-109 victory against the Portland Trail Blazers was the latest wave of sensational play via the seventh-year big.

Across the four games Deandre Ayton (right leg contusion) has missed, Kaminsky has logged double figures in all of ’em for a total of 74 points in 112 minutes. He had a total of 310 points all of last season.

Is this a career resurgence in the making? It’s hard to say this early into the season, but at the very least, we can say Kaminsky is an invaluable piece of the Suns’ roster after he was nearly out of the NBA two years ago.

He didn’t re-sign with the Suns after a “weird free agency” but Phoenix claimed him on waivers only a few days into the season after the Sacramento Kings waived him.

He played in a minimal role before returning again in free agency this past season on a one-year deal.

“I just told myself last year, make the most of the opportunity,” Kaminsky said. “When your number is called, be ready every single time. And this offseason, kind of felt the same situation. Not a lot of teams wanted me. You hear a lot of things about yourself that are hard to swallow.

“I’ve fallen into the trap before of thinking that I have to prove everyone else wrong instead of proving myself right. And that’s a big thing for me this year is just I want to be who I think I am. And just go out there and prove it to myself. Not let anyone else dictate what’s going to happen with me. My career and my life is in my hands and I want to make the most of it.”

He sure is living his life to the fullest at the moment.

Point guard Chris Paul has described Kaminsky as a point guard’s dream to play with considering how he can do everything out of a ball screen situation and makes the right decision just about every time.

It was one of those games where Portland, rightfully so, was fine with seeing how that panned out for Kaminsky over the course of the game. And he torched the Blazers for it on 12-of-18 shooting and a game-high +16.

“Frank just know how to play,” Paul said.

Kaminsky couldn’t have picked a better night, as the Suns’ main offensive options weren’t at their usual high level. Devin Booker was 5-of-15 for 12 points. Through three quarters, Paul had 14 of his 21 points, and the highest scorer beyond him and Kaminsky was JaVale McGee with 14.

It’s remarkable to look back on the spurts in which the Suns’ offense survived without Booker or Paul scoring.

A close game in the first 18 minutes saw an important push from the Suns (7-3) in the back-half of the second quarter to lead by 13 at the half. Kaminsky scored 12 of the Suns’ 14 points on a 14-8 run.

At the 10:52 mark of the third quarter with Phoenix up 14, outside of a Jae Crowder transition layup off a Blazers (5-7) turnover, no other Sun but Kaminsky would proceed to score across the next five minutes and change.

That got Portland within five, but again, the Suns were the better team at closing the quarter and got the advantage back up to 10 points. That included a stretch of Kaminsky playing the last 10:36 of the third quarter because McGee got his fourth foul.

“I’m gonna be honest, I’m never gonna ask for a sub, but I was close tonight,” Kaminsky said while laughing. “I got to the bench and I said it felt like I just played for like 30 straight minutes.”

This time around, it was McGee’s turn to be the Suns’ lone contributor, as no one but him scored for the first 4:50 of the fourth quarter, and most of that was with the Blazers’ Damian Lillard resting.

Once again, the offense stalling out allowed the Blazers to crawl back into it, cutting it down to five another time.

But after a Paul jumper at 7:09 left put Phoenix up seven, the combination of Crowder (eight points) and Kaminsky (four) would score all the Suns’ points in a 12-12 push across nearly five minutes.

That shrunk the Blazers’ margin of error, and that tiny chance bounced off the rim from a Booker miss with 2:26 left into the hands of a Suns player.

Guess who?

Kaminsky secured the offensive rebound and then immediately kicked it out to an open Mikal Bridges in the corner to drill the biggest shot of the game, putting the Suns ahead by 10 and in the driver’s seat for their sixth straight win.

The Blazers didn’t convert on a three-pointer until the second half, which is quite the whiplash-inducing case of some good ol’ regression to the mean for their shot-making after the difficult looks they hit in their blowout win over the Suns earlier this season. That shooting funk probably had something to do with suffering a close loss the night before in Los Angeles to the Clippers.

With that in mind, the Blazers were certainly still going full throttle after a win. Lillard played 38 minutes the night after logging 39, and his backcourt mate C.J. McCollum clocked in at 40.

Lillard eventually found a rhythm in the game, but Bridges made it as tough as ever for him to do so on 12-of-23 shooting for 28 points.

Williams applauded the amount of energy his team expounded on defense and is happy with the positive direction they are trending in on that side of the floor lately. He shouted out Bridges specifically for being “everywhere” on a night where he had to defend Lillard as well.

“The energy that it takes to guard those positions like that,” Williams said of Bridges. “And Book on McCollum  and Chris was fighting his tail off with Norman (Powell) … the defensive effort was certainly there tonight.”

And it probably would have all been for naught unless Kaminsky picked up the offense.

He deserves all the credit in the world for finding the right mindset to elevate his play like he has, and so does the Suns’ culture built by Williams and general manager James Jones that creates the right environment for that mindset to thrive.

“I had the opportunity to go somewhere else, and I didn’t want to leave,” Kaminsky said of this past offseason. “I wanted to stay right here because this is where I feel the best. And it’s all about feeling and being comfortable and knowing what to expect every single day and that’s a big thing.”

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