EMPIRE OF THE SUNS
Phoenix Suns conclude road trip with get-right win vs. Pacers
“I think last night on the bus, the plane, gave us a chance to get back to normal. You’ll see that tonight.”
That was Phoenix Suns head coach Monty Williams before Friday’s 117-104 win over the Indiana Pacers, via azcentral’s Duane Rankin.
While the Suns were still missing all three players it acquired at the trade deadline — Kevin Durant, T.J. Warren and Darius Bazley — plus Cam Payne (right foot sprain) and Landry Shamet (right foot soreness), you could see a clear change in the energy and execution from Phoenix.
Yes, Devin Booker coming back after sitting a game for injury management helped. But the Suns needed some time after an emotional day. Playing the same day they had to say goodbye to Mikal Bridges and Cam Johnson was a tough ask.
It felt like Phoenix was playing with an, “Alright, we gotta move on. Let’s go.”
Booker was attacking the rim, Chris Paul was aggressive seeking out his shot coming around ball screens and Deandre Ayton showed more intent around the basket.
On top of that, the supporting cast was knocking down a good rate of its open 3s and auditioning well for that fifth starter spot.
Phoenix jumped out to a 12-point lead less than eight minutes into the game and kept its lead at a few possessions before expanding it to as big as 21 in the late third quarter.
Over that patch of the game and then in the fourth quarter, the Pacers never made a run at it with a surge of sorts over a few minutes. It says something about how Indiana played on Friday but also how focused of an effort it was from the Suns.
Josh Okogie started with Torrey Craig at the forward positions and had his second straight great game. His 17 points included a trio of 3s, and when he’s knocking down perimeter shots, he’s a completely different player.
Ish Wainright can also make that claim with two good night sin a row. He scored 13 points off the bench.
Booker is someone who is in absolute tip-top shape in-season, so it’s not surprising that his extended time out is going to take him a few games to get completely right. Which is funny because he’s still Devin Booker and is contributing in winning ways big time. He produced 19 points, four rebounds and five assists in 26 minutes while Paul added 19 points of his own with nine assists and two steals.
Ayton was really great about being in the right spots on both ends of the floor after a mixed performance in Atlanta the night prior. He ended up at a team-high 22 points, plus 11 rebounds, two assists, two steals and a block.
Craig made it all five Suns starters in double figures with 11 points and a team-high 12 rebounds.