There was one major bright spot in another Phoenix loss as one reserve continues to impress for the struggling Suns.
They were down their third opening-day starter, with Chris Paul joining Devin Booker and Cameron Johnson on the sidelines injured, but for three quarters, the Phoenix Suns held their own and went toe-to-toe with the Cleveland Cavaliers. Thanks mainly to the efforts of backup Duane Washington Jr., the Suns had a chance going into the fourth quarter. However, in the end, it was another blowout loss for the Phoenix Suns, who have now lost six straight games and nine of their last ten overall.
Starters are not carrying their weight for the Phoenix Suns
Calling out the starters is a little harsh, with only Mikal Bridges and Deandre Ayton left from the opening-day lineup. Nevertheless, Darius Garland and Donovan Mitchell had okay evenings and only scored four points less than the entire Suns starting five. Garland was more-or-less at his average, scoring 22, whereas Mitchell was seven points under his at 22, yet the Suns’ five starters combined for only 48 points.
Ayton, in particular, struggled, going just 6-16 from the field, although he did grab 11 rebounds to go with 14 points. Bridges added 15 points and Landry Shamet – the only starting guard – had 11 points.
As has been the case for the last month, the Suns needed more from Bridges and Ayton, but neither could deliver. The only reason Phoenix was in the game going into the final quarter was the play of Washington Jr.
Washington Jr. shines for the Suns to keep them close
With Cameron Payne still out in addition to CP3, Washington Jr is the only real point guard left on the team, but that is not to say Duane does not deserve minutes. Washington is one of the few available players on the team that can attack the basket and score in bunches, which he did on Sunday evening.
A late eight-point burst near the end of the third quarter – where Washington hit two threes and a layup – had Phoenix trailing by only one point entering the fourth quarter. Those eight points were more than his seven-points per-game average. Washington Jr. finished with 25 points in 25 minutes, including five of six from three-point land.
Unfortunately for Phoenix, they went ice cold – again – while Cleveland heated up, and a 17-2 run to start the fourth quarter put the Suns away. Phoenix was so poor in the fourth quarter that the Suns had only scored four points more than eight minutes into the quarter, while the Cavs had scored 24. It was a disappointing end to a back-and-forth game until the fourth quarter.