Another big first quarter from Devin Booker had Phoenix in the game early against the Jazz in Utah, then the bench came alive and gave DBook a break in the Suns’ 117-103 win.
It looked like another night where the Suns’ one healthy superstar would again carry the team. DBook was awesome early, pouring in 15 in the first quarter and appearing well on his way to over 30 again. After scoring at least 30 in 9 of the 12 games in March heading into Utah, for Booker to have another big night seemed likely. However, as the third quarter entered the fourth and the Suns’ bench found its shooting touch, Booker got to a win in style and save some energy for another game.
The first half is a tale of two quarters
After a slow start where neither team seemed interested in scoring for the first five minutes, Phoenix, particularly Booker, came alive. Aggressive defense and some aggressive basketball leading to seven first-quarter free-throws for the team had the Suns bright early.
Phoenix was 13 of 24 in the first quarter, including three threes. The 37 points in the first quarter were the most either team would score in any period of the game. It was a good thing Phoenix started well because the second quarter was a different story.
In the second quarter, as both teams went to their benches, the game began to change, and most of all, the how shooting of the first quarter disappeared. After shooting 54% as a team in the first quarter, the Suns did far worse than regressing to the mean, shooting 21% on 6 of 28 shooting in the second.
After 37 first-quarter points, the Suns scored just 20 in the second and, if not for a little burst right at the end of the quarter, would have likely gone in trailing. However, TJ Warren hit a bucket right before the half, a good sign for the Suns and a harbinger of things to come for the Jazz.
Warren and Ross show what they can do for the Suns in the second half
In the first half, Warren and Terrence Ross combined to shoot just 17% from the field, going 2 of 12 from the floor. For some players, a performance like that, which included Ross going 0 of 6 from beyond the arc, would send them ducking for cover and shying away from the ball.
Warren (9 pts) and Ross (13 pts) are seasoned professionals whose calling card is scoring, and neither will stop shooting as long as they get the ball. Fortunately, for the Suns, in the second half, those shots fell.
In the second half, the two combined to go 7 of 11 (64%) from the field, making it possible for the Suns to extend the lead in the fourth quarter, easing the pressure to close the game.
Maybe the best part of the bench production for Phoenix was that it was a team effort. With Deandre Ayton (14 points, 8 rebounds) back in the starting lineup after missing three games, Bismack Biyombo was also coming off the bench with 11 points and 5 rebounds, while Cam Payne had a dozen points and 5 dimes.
Although there were a few rough shooting patches for the bench when Utah went zone, overall the Suns’ bench outscored Utah’s 57 to 25. Furthermore, every Phoenix bench player had a positive +/- rating, and as a group, the bench only committed one turnover.
It was the second straight game where the bench came through big, which helped the Suns win a second straight game and tighten their hold on fourth place in the Western Conference. With Kevin Durant reportedly returning soon, the Suns may have tread enough water not to lose ground in the standings while KD was out.