Phoenix – When a team has high expectations, a glimpse of what it can be good to have early in the season.
The Phoenix Suns gave their fans a sneak peek into a potential Tuesday, smashing New Orleans Pelicans on National TV 111-86.
In the second quarter, Phoenix played a full 12 more minutes in some time. The defensive end started, with the Suns half a step away to open the match. Energy was present but courtship was separate from one another.
When coach Monty Williams used a form of zone defense, it seemed to bring it all together. Return the defense to attack, with the ball flowing beautifully through the 0.5 principle Williams preaches.
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– Matt Petersen (@ TheMattPetersen) December 30, 2020
“Once we started playing with that kind of strength on the defensive side we were allowed to play with a 0.5 where we didn’t have to call up a lot of plays because we were stopping,” said Williams. “I think it’s a fun way to play but it’s also something we can’t take for granted.”
Devin Booker and Chris Ball had two attempts related to field goal in the first half, by designing Pelican. It didn’t matter and Sunuz was leading 22. They rolled from there to lead one point in the second half by up to 40.
The Phoenix was recovering most of the night, which is what the teams have to do against the Pelican frontal area of Stephen Adams and Tzion Williamson. It was this constant and united energy that fed the team.
“There was a concerted effort to do everything we could to try to get these men out of the glass,” said Williams. “Stephen – it’s like moving a parked car and taking it off the paint.”
Williams said they emphasized “competition and survival” from surrounding players, making sure they bounce when they can rather than drop out. Michael Bridges took seven rebounds while Booker grabbed another six rebounds. The Suns plus-5 was on the offensive glass, as Deandre Ayton snatched five of his team.
“It was coloring tonight,” said Eton. “The paint battle, doing your job early, communicating, being carnal, not letting them bring the game to you. Just being physically ripped apart, being the aggressor.”
The Suns attempted 17 free throws in the first half after averaging the number of free throws per competition over three matches.
If the Phoenix (3-1) reached his level in defense while the extra pieces reached 3 seconds, it would be a very difficult team to beat. Yes, it doesn’t even happen without Paul and Booker building maximum cohesion, because they are already creating for their mates so much of the defensive attention they deserve.
New Orleans (2-2) Stan Van Gondy had a clear game plan of getting the ball out of Paul and Booker’s hands. The Suns responded by shooting 19 of 47 (40.4%) from a three-point range while scoring fouls and providing good passes from aggressive lockdowns. This was, again, thanks to the defense creating the base for building the offensive.
“We were shooting with our defense,” Bridges said. “It got us moving forward, especially in the first half we chose in that second quarter, and we took a round. Once we started getting stops and playing in transition, we are a tough team to stop.”
Jay Crowder scored 21 points on the team, Cam Johnson added 18 points, Eaton, Michael Bridges and Cam Payne each had 13 points. He scored those 13 points with two rebounds and seven assists. For the third time in four matches, the Suns bench hit the 40-point mark.
Arguably the best player on the Suns, Paul had only four shots. He was in the maestro position on both ends, keeping the rhythm where he must be on attack while doing the communication you’d expect defensively. Paul created nine points and nine assists in 23 minutes.
Payne is the guy with an objection case. Somehow he did better than he did in the bubble, playing a full offensive and defensive game while managing the attack. He’s way beyond the firing hotline – he’s turned himself into a legitimate NBA goalkeeper.
This four-game goalkeeper duo now has 60 assists and 10 turnovers, which is the best part of the team’s attack of the week of the season. Payne has been so good that there is no need to rank Paul and Booker at the moment, a suggestion that I would have personally judged as incomprehensible at any point with a perfectly healthy menu.
Eton had a bad first bout, which included an indescribable mistake of stopping a lap when he had no one between him and the basket. He responded very well after that, playing his best basketball through four matches by being the number one piece of the puzzle in the formidable Suns defense in the middle quarters.
On top of that, Suns didn’t do much to get him to spread his touches and instead make him conquer the edge of the endless screens. Eton has become active on the attack glass, and when he has done so the past two seasons, he’s been a monster. This is the formula that makes Eton the superstar of all stars. Not three pointers. Not spreading the movements or raising the ball.
“I thought Deandre did a really good job after about the first five minutes of the match.” He was just rolling around and had a lot of paint, Williams said.
When Williams talked about the post-match game, Langston Galloway and Jovon Carter were getting shots on the main court while Frank Kaminski ran for some conditioning work. There was a behind-the-scenes weightlifting session that also involved nearly everyone who was not seen on the field, Crowder said.
It’ll happen after the games, for sure, but the visualization of the program that Williams created was so perfectly suited that we heard a lot of good things about him. And it was all at the new Suns Stadium after winning the new jersey which was a blast as TNT switched to another game in the late fourth quarter.
It’s hard to see all of that and not feel like we’re in a new era of Suns basketball.