The vision is this game.
The Brooklyn Nets were a team that shot 48% from the field and scored 27 points at the foul line, and they faced the Phoenix Suns on Tuesday night with Devin Booker returning but with limited minutes and Chris Paul scoring just nine points.
The Suns team, which has deservedly been under fire for lacking offensive potency in its supporting cast, would generally be doomed by that kind of statement, even though the Nets were without a few key players, including Kevin Durant.
But the reason their development is so crucial is because Deandre Ayton and Mikal Bridges shone in a 116-112 victory. For this reason, calls for Ayton and Bridges to play a bigger role in the Suns’ offense have persisted.
Phoenix will need further performances from Ayton and Bridges in the postseason if the team doesn’t round out the margins on Thursday’s trade deadline rather than sparking a major movement.
Bridges added eight rebounds to his 21 points during the third quarter. The scoring output for Ayton in each quarter was six, eleven, nine, and nine. He concentrates on running the floor, setting hard screens, diving to the rim with purpose, and taking up solid position near the basket like a big man in his offensive role.
If he accomplishes that, the ball will naturally find him in an offense like the Suns’. When Ayton plays like that, it’s impossible for him to have any impact on offense other than winning, even if he’s not scoring. See how he creates room for Paul here.
And to the point we made earlier, the Suns will put an emphasis on getting the ball to Ayton in his midrange and deep areas, especially while playing switching teams like the Nets.
On this particular night, you could immediately tell that Ayton was paying attention and making decisions while playing. The game’s longest sequence, if not its biggest, reflected that.
With four minutes left, Booker missed a 3-point attempt after the Suns were able to capitalize on two of their own missed shots to go up seven. Ayotn was successful in grabbing that one as well, and in a situation when he would typically look to send the ball back out, he swiftly used one dribble to get underneath the hoop and shot through contact for a and-1.
With Booker back in the lineup, Bridges naturally received fewer offensive possessions, but that didn’t stop him from using the confidence that has now led to 11 20-point performances in his last 13 games. Both Booker and Bridges will need to acclimatize to it over the course of the following few weeks.
This subsequent play type returns to our starting point. Defenders will frequently cover up Booker while he is motionless off the ball and it appears that he will receive the ball. Occasionally, Booker likes to take advantage of this by converting the defender into a super screen.
As a result, Booker did exactly that in the final seconds of the quarter to set up Bridges’ downward drive for the wing’s own and-1. The Suns eventually pulled away in the fourth quarter thanks to the scoring boost Ayton and Bridges provided throughout a close game, but not before they endured the customary foul-up-3 hijinks late.
Over the past two weeks, head coach Monty Williams has emphasized both Ayton and Bridges equally while employing Bridges as a main ball-handler more than ever before. Both of those two and the Suns’ system experienced critical growth, which they both hope will serve them well in April and May when the games will actually count.
Booker scored 19 points in 26 minutes of action (6-of-15). His touch was there from the start, but it will undoubtedly take some time for him to physically recover to the point where he can compete with the world’s greatest two-guard.
Paul contributed 12 assists, 5 steals, and 2 blocks in addition to his 9 points. 14 more points came from Cam Johnson. Phoenix is presently seventh in the Western Conference standings after winning nine of its previous 11 games. They are 1.5 games behind third place.
Cam Thomas of Brooklyn scored 43 points, giving him an unbelievable string of three straight games with 40 or more points. Thomas has yet to nail down a specific position with the Nets, but the manner he capitalized on the most recent Kyrie Irving fiasco has garnered him a lot of attention going into the postseason.