Winning is good; beating a good team is gooder; and beating a good team with good defense is…goodest.
Or something like that.
For the first time in a while the Suns played an all-around good game against an opponent who, based on record alone, should have ran away with the game.
The Toronto Raptors are the East’s second best team, by record, but did not play like it last night as they were thoroughly roughed up by the Phoenix Suns and a stymieing defense that has not been around very often this season. Holding the Raptors to 91 points is quite a feat, especially when considering the the Raptors held the Suns to only 99.
It should be noted that the Suns now have a 7-4 record against Eastern Conference opponents, but only a 3-19 record against the West. If only they could play Eastern Conference teams every night, they’d be a playoff team. Alas, there are only 19 more to play against the East of the team’s 59 remaining games.
Eric Bledsoe played one of his most complete games of the season scoring 22 points, dishing out 10 assists and grabbing 5 rebounds. Bledsoe also shot a sizzling 64.3% from the field. It appeared that he might have been a triple-double watch at halftime as he went into the lockerroom with 5 rebounds already, but was unable to record another carom the rest of the evening.
After scoring only 8 points and not making a single three-point shot two nights ago against San Antonio, Devin Booker rebounded fairly well scoring 19 points on 6-19 shooting, and made 1-4 from beyond the arc. He too finished with 5 rebounds and dished out 5 assists (including two very impressive alley-oop’s to Tyson Chandler) as well.
Speaking of Chandler, he only finished with 7 points, but grabbed 13 rebounds. His +19 was the highest of any player on the night.
T.J. Warren couldn’t duplicate his high-scoring from the San Antonio game and finished with 4 points on 2-11 shooting, adding 3 rebounds, 1 assist, and 2 steals. Regardless of the poor shooting tonight, Warren should be back in the starting lineup.
Dragan Bender and Marquese Chriss were lightly played, as their sporadic playing time continues to confuse onlookers, yet Tyler Ulis came in for 15 minutes and looked fantastic scoring 10 points including 2-2 from three. He further grabbed 2 rebounds, dished out an assist, and recorded a steal.
Jared Dudley, the league’s 6th best three-point shooter at 44.6% (tied with Kyle Lowry) was a DNP-CD for the third consecutive game. More on that – and my opinion on the matter – in a moment.
For the Raptors, DeMar DeRozen, the league’s third highest scorer, finished 3 points shy of his scoring average with 24 points, adding 3 rebounds and 2 assists. Kyle Lowry scored 24 as well, dished out 5 assists and grabbed 5 rebounds, though he also recorded 4 turnovers. Cory Joseph scored 15 off the bench and was the team’s only other double-digit scorer.
This victory over the Raptors was a good win. Beating the East’s second best team is a nice notch on the Suns’ belt, even though the Suns definitely fare much better against the league’s Eastern Conference opponents than against the West.
Offensively there seemed to be a lot more ball movement and a lot less standing around by players without the ball. This is the kind of motion offense that the team must employ if they are ever going to compete against the league’s better teams – basically meaning the Western Conference, and the East’s Cleveland Cavaliers.
One thing struck me tonight though that I think is generally flying under the radar: Jared Dudley was a DNP-CD for the third straight game. The floating thought had been that it was because of additional minutes for Dragan Bender, but with Bender only playing 10 minutes tonight, that logic doesn’t hold up. Sure, Tyler Ulis unexpectedly played 15 minutes, the most he’s played since the night before Thanksgiving, but even that shouldn’t be a correlation since he and Dudley do not share the same position, and Leandro Barbosa who normally plays about 14 minutes per game, saw only 4 minutes of action.
Before the game Head Coach Earl Watson said of the subject, “It is what it is. It’s the NBA. Everyone’s all right. We all live a nice life.”
Seriously?? This is the professional explanation by a head coach for why one of the team’s most revered veterans, one of the franchise’s most beloved players, the 6th best three-point shooter in the entire NBA, and one of the most active players on the court, is all of a sudden not playing?
This lack of logic is difficult to understand.
Do not get me wrong: I am not putting Dudley on a pedestal. He is the probably the 6th best player on a 10-23 team. But the franchise is paying Dudley over $10M this year for a reason. He is an accurate shooter and the kind of player the team can count on to score whenever needed from the outside, on a team that is downright terrible from three-point range as it is: the Suns average 34.3% from beyond the arc with Dudley, good for 22nd in the league. Take his three’s completely out of the equation and the team is shooting 32.5%, 2nd worst in the NBA ahead of only the Chicago Bulls.
The last time the Suns shot that bad or worse was the 2000-01 season.
And yet, it’s okay because Dudley has “a nice life.”