Phoenix Suns put up big numbers again in preseason vs. resting Blazers

Oct 16, 2023, 10:39 PM | Updated: Oct 17, 2023, 11:14 am

Devin Booker, Phoenix Suns...

Devin Booker #1 of the Phoenix Suns reacts after a three-point basket during the first half against the Portland Trail Blazers at Footprint Center on October 16, 2023 in Phoenix, Arizona. (Photo by Chris Coduto/Getty Images)

(Photo by Chris Coduto/Getty Images)

PHOENIX — Well, that was annoying.

NBA teams are on their own schedules in the preseason, finding the right mix of run and rest for its most important players while granting extra opportunities to the guys fighting for rotation and roster spots.

After the Phoenix Suns rested key players while the Denver Nuggets played most of them in Phoenix’s other home preseason game, the reverse of that situation occurred on Monday, with Phoenix’s big dogs going against the bottom-half of the Portland Trail Blazers’ roster in a 117-106 win.

The Blazers, in their last preseason fixture before the real deal gets underway, rested Deandre Ayton, Malcolm Brogdon, Jerami Grant, Anfernee Simons, Matisse Thybulle and Robert Williams III.

Along with rest for Jusuf Nurkic, this meant in the much anticipated matchup of centers traded for each other during the Suns’ victory against Portland on Thursday we instead saw Phoenix’s Drew Eubanks against Portland’s Duop Reath.

Like I said, annoying! But that’s just how it goes in the preseason, where in our first looks at hyped-up rosters following eventful offseasons, we can’t even get the right personnel matchups before arriving at the fact that, well, it’s preseason.

The schedule worked out the way on Monday. Bradley Beal, Devin Booker and Kevin Durant all played and started, along with guard Grayson Allen. Wing Josh Okogie initially got the nod as the fifth starter to open preseason play but head coach Frank Vogel has now mixed in Allen and Gordon over the three games Booker and Durant have played. Okogie did indeed play on Monday while Gordon’s rest day (that would help with some hip tightness) was up, so this was an extended chance for Allen.

A good problem to have for the Suns this preseason has been over-passing and extra movement offensively.

The spacing is there nearly every time down given all the threats, so it’s just about making the right decision. Vogel is only going to play guys capable of that, and right now, you can tell how much these guys love playing with each other already because of how they extend possessions. The Suns just want to keep it going, even if someone is pretty open. In the mid-first quarter, Booker had nearly 10 feet of space on a catch at the top of the key and drove with intensity anyway.

“I think the unique part about us three is that we all have the capability of scoring at the highest level but we’ve always played the game the right way,” Booker said. “Even when we were on different teams, we continued to play the game the right way. It hasn’t been an adjustment, for real. The only thing I tell them to do is be more aggressive.”

It’s really fun to play this way and the balance will come in more competitive environments. It’s important for Beal, Booker and Durant to set the tone for the supporting cast that the desire to move the ball like that is there.

“It should be a domino effect from there,” Booker said of another way the Big 3 are leading by example.

Expect those three to maintain a bit of a feeling out process with how they’d like to see the offense flow through the early portions of the regular season.

The Suns could have lolly-gagged about on the court with who Portland was playing but they were clearly intent on using this as good run, making it the third straight first half featuring Booker and Durant to eclipse 70 points.

Booker had 17 points in the first nine minutes and Durant ended with 19 points in 15 minutes. Portland, in the first half alone, produced 17 turnovers the Suns got 23 points off of, so that speaks to who was out there a bit.

Jordan Goodwin continues to differentiate himself amongst the guys in the back-half of the roster this preseason by being noticeable in a good way. He started off his first four minutes of play with four steals to finish with six and grabbed six rebounds in his first dozen minutes.

He was really getting into it during a couple of different key defensive sequences. There’s a boost Goodwin is going to provide with his energy.

“Bring a lot of emotion to the game,” Goodwin said of it. “Kind of get lost out there, all the yelling and things like that, you’re gonna be seeing that all year long. The fans like it, get everybody excited, my teammates excited. For everybody to embrace me for who I am, (I’m) getting more comfortable here.”

A reminder that Goodwin is a great NBA perimeter defender already with just a little over 1,000 minutes played in the NBA and averaged a double-double in his last two years of college as a (listed) 6-foot-3 guard. Vogel’s got his work cut out finding Goodwin minutes but I think Goodwin will continue to force Vogel’s hand when the coach doesn’t.

On the other side of the court, rookie Toumani Camara received a starting spot, the forward Phoenix drafted 52nd overall in the 2023 NBA Draft before including him in the Ayton deal. The Suns were high on Camara and his plug-and-play potential as a 22-year-old rookie despite going so late in the draft. The Blazers are too.

“He’s been such a pleasant surprise for all of us,” Trail Blazers head coach Chauncey Billups said pregame. “He’s just my type of guy, man. He just competes on every play, he’s tough, he’s aggressive. … He has confidence out there. I just love everything about Toumani, man.”

Camara only played 13 minutes on Monday, with a point, rebound and three assists.

On a guard-heavy team, he’s got a real shot to play. Outside of Grant and Thybulle, the No. 23 pick in that same draft Kris Murray is the only other forward/wing seemingly guaranteed to get minutes. To Billups’ point, Camara’s impressed in preseason already and the Portland front office has to feel good about the shot it has at finding even more value coming from the Damian Lillard trade.

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