The story coming into the game between the Los Angeles Lakers and the Phoenix Suns was the stars were not playing. However, the game itself was about the players that starred.
When the season started, depth was one of the biggest questions surrounding the Phoenix Suns. Whether or not the Suns have enough firepower off the bench is going to be a question throughout the season. That question has been asked even more as injuries have left Phoenix depleted, particularly at the wing position.
With four players out on Monday against LA, a couple of regular bench players were thrust into the starting line-up, moving everyone up the rotation. The good news is that it was the next man up for the Suns, whose bench followed the starter’s lead and dominated the Lakers at Footprint Center.
Bench players play big in the starting five
Without Devin Booker, Cameron Johnson, Cameron Payne, or Duane Washington Jr., the bench was much shorter on Monday, and two regular bench players were in the starting line-up.
Torrey Craig has been starting for much of the time Johnson has been out, so maybe it is unfair to consider him a bench player at this point; however, Craig’s game is more about hustle and effort than it is about highlights and hammer time.
On Monday, Craig was at his best, especially early as the Suns jumped out to a first-quarter lead, with Torrey handing out three early assists during the Suns’ run. As the game progressed, Craig found his shot, going 6-7 overall, including 4-4 from three-point range. When you add in eight rebounds – including three on the offensive end – to go with his 17 points, it was a big night for Craig.
Damion Lee was also a spot starter against the Lakers, and he responded tremendously. Lee shot 5-10 from three-point range, scoring 15 points, and pulling down six rebounds. Lee also had the best plus/minus of the evening at +23.
With 32 points from two players normally coming off the bench, it was a lot to expect from the st of the roster, but the Suns’ rotation ran deep against LA.
The Suns’ bench busted LA
The Suns had four bench players play at least 10 minutes against LA and had two, Ish Wainright and Landry Shamet play more than 20 minutes. Shamet was the best of the bunch, scoring 13 points, although his shot is still not there, going just 4-12 from the field.
However, those 13 points just told part of the story because Shamet has a +15 plus/minus, indicative of the entire Suns’ bench, where every player has a positive plus/minus score. Even Dario Saric, who only played for five minutes, went 2-4 for five points and a +2 plus/minus.
Wainright scored eight points, including two three-pointers, and had a +15. Maybe most impressive was Bismack Biyombo, who did not score in 17 minutes but had a couple of monster blocks and eight rebounds as the Suns went +13 when Biz was on the floor.
Maybe the only disappointing aspect of the Suns’ bench was Josh Okogie, who was playing hard but could not find his shot, going 1-5 for 3 points in 10 minutes of play. The good news is that the Suns didn’t need much from Okogie as other players were stepping up left and right, which Phoenix will need to succeed.