The Phoenix Suns did some key plays when they had to on Friday night, but were fortunate not to have a minute or two left on the clock.
They pulled off a 104-100 strikeout against the Toronto Raptors thanks to clutch moments like blocking Deandre Ayton, free throws from Chris Paul and Devin Booker and offensive rebound from Mikal Bridges to secure the victory.
“Just a lot of huge grind-out games tonight,” said head coach Monty Williams.
Phoenix needed it, however, because after Paul’s midrange jumper with 6:18 left put the Suns ahead 98-88 with 6:18 left, the Suns scored six points for the remainder of the game. match and only got one basket. Paul and Booker combined to go 4 of 4 from the foul strip at the last minute.
One game after a loss to the Orlando Magic in which the Suns scored 20 points in the fourth quarter, he was 21 on Friday.
“I liked everything until the fourth quarter,” Williams said of the offensive execution. “We scored 21 points, but [Toronto] only 23. ”
Williams then described a playoff basketball mark that erupted in the fourth quarter he called a “slugfest.”
One of the contributing factors was Booker’s funk lately in the last 12 minutes.
In a turn of events we haven’t seen from him in his young career so far, Booker is 3 of 18 off the field in the fourth quarter of the last seven games. He was 0-for-4 against the Raptors and missed two shots with the Suns up two and under 70 seconds left.
That latest failure was the one Bridges snatched six seconds from the end and then the Suns called timeout. Entry went to Booker, who to his credit sank both free throws to seal it.
Booker now shoots 39.9% in the last frame of the season and 30.4% in the clutch, meaning the last five minutes of a game when the score is within five points. He’s proven himself in Phoenix for six years as a clutch player, and when asked if he’s noticed anything in particular about his film in recent games, Booker said he didn’t. hadn’t even noticed it.
“The victories are coming,” he said. “That’s the main goal every night. I have shown many years of scoring basketball, so all I need to do to win: whether it’s defensively, offensively, lead by example, lead by voice. We have a selfless team. We can win by a point, we can win by 20 – I’ll be happy anyway. ”
And he’s been a very happy man this year, as the Suns improved to 30-14 with the win.
Booker finished with 16 points, six rebounds and two assists on 6 of 14 shots. Combining Booker’s shooting attempts and assists with a count of 16, this is the lowest in 24 games, a testament to the Toronto head coach Nick Nurse’s game plan to limit its impact.
At this point, the nurse threw a variety of defensive looks at the Suns. The basics strongly helped Booker on dribbling penetration to force Phoenix shooters to play and collapse on Ayton’s post touches once he dribbled the ball to force him to make decisions.
The Raptors have won a championship because of their ability to do things like this as a defense, like having defenders furthest from the action in the right places to help, and then having the ability to scramble and scramble. recover from there. However, they’re far from a championship-quality defense, and the Suns have been able to poke holes in them fairly consistently.
With that in mind, the Suns only shot 9 of 36 (25.0%) from three points, so part of the nurse’s plan was successful as well.
But Ayton wasn’t bothered at all, as he was asserting himself and acting like the tallest guy on the pitch, which he was. As Toronto grew small and imposed the long, solid 6-foot-7 OG Anunoby on him, Ayton was 9-for-12 with 19 points and nine rebounds.
His defense continues to trend upward in the previous half-dozen games and get back on track with the level he played last year. This aforementioned block against Pascal Siakam of Toronto was a big game with less than two minutes to play:
Ayton credited his technique with his hands and feet while saying Williams was on top of him about it.
A solid first half from Paul and contributions from all over the bench helped the Suns be able to win.
Paul finished the night with 19 points, six rebounds, eight assists and two steals. Langston Galloway (eight points), Cam Johnson (seven), Cam Payne (four) and Dario Saric (eight) all scored at least two field goals while Johnson (three assists), Payne (two) and Torrey Craig ( three) combined for eight of the Suns’ 26 assists.
The Raptors’ biggest lead in the game was four points and they were lagging for the entire second period. Siakam performed well with a high of 26 points and 11 rebounds, plus six assists.
As the Suns near the end of the four-game road trip with a Sunday morning game in Charlotte against the Hornets, again avoiding a losing streak in the past two-and-a-half months, even with how the victory is. occurrence. Friday is always positive.
“I’d rather have a lousy win than a pretty loss,” said Williams.