Phoenix now 1-1 in Summer League play.
The dream of an undefeated 2015 NBA Summer League is over.
The Phoenix Suns opened up Summer League play with an 86-77 win over the Washington Wizards. There were plenty of positives to take away after that victory on Saturday. On Sunday Phoenix fell behind 30-19 after the first quarter and were beaten soundly by the Houston Rockets, 108-89. There were considerably fewer nice things to say.
Like Saturday, the Suns were out-hustled early and did themselves no favors with sloppy ball handling and poor communication. Unlike Saturday Phoenix dug a hole that was a little too deep. Where was the team defense today?
Archie Goodwin: "I guess it's on the bus, I don't know. We have to get better at that. We weren't talking as much as we were yesterday, we weren't on our gaps, we weren't helping each other out. Also, you got to realize we didn't have Alex Len, which is a key anchor in the back for us. I think even without him we could have done better on our gaps, we could have done better at contesting shots, we could have done better helping each other out."
T.J. Warren: "They were more aggressive than us. Rebounding, they just got after it more than us today. Just got to bounce back next game. First day was pretty solid. Today it was kind of tired. Just got to lock in next game and just focus in on that end. The other end I'm not worried about, that's going to come easy. Just got to lock in defensively."
Coach Nate Bjorkgren: "Yeah it was different. Yesterday we came out and we jumped out to that lead. Today we were on the other end of it. You know, that happens. These games are long games, and they're never over, and you saw throughout the game that we did cut it to three or four a couple of times, or cut it to four with the ball, and we kept fighting on our way back, so just one of those things where we got to start a little bit better."
Bjorkgren also weighed in on Len's absence.
"You know, I just coach these guys so they'll say when he's playing and when he isn't. Alex Len looked great yesterday. Obviously when he's in the paint there he's altering a lot of shots and getting a lot of those boards but again, these guys are on the floor, they're off the floor, everybody's got to step in. All 12 guys that we have to rebound and to do their job on defense and we'll be better against Utah."
A positive to take away from Sunday's performance was the improved shooting from Goodwin. He followed up a Saturday effort of 6 of 13 from the field and 1 of 4 from behind the arc with 6 of 10 and 2 of 3 on Sunday.
"Well if you look at the game yesterday I shot two of them that were, well three of them, and one of them was at halftime, when I shot a full-courter. One was with one second left, and the other one was towards the end of the game, that I shot with like two seconds on the clock. So I don't count those as misses towards how I was shooting. The shots that I shot when I was set, I'm like 3 for 4 or something like that. So I was 1 for 4 from three yesterday just for that simple fact."
Coach Bjorkren praised his team's effort on Sunday.
"You know I saw a lot of good things out there. The effort was there. I just think we needed to rebound the ball better and that's not one guy or two guys, that's team rebounding. We need to do a better job with that, making that a focus. I thought we left a lot of shots, you know three or four bunnies that we missed today. That could have maybe tied the game or put it to a one possession game. We did, we kept crawling back, and it just didn't work out."
"I didn't think we quit. We kept battling back. I know it got away from us a little bit there at the end. We kept fighting back and our guys are together in the locker room, and that's the most important thing."
Devin Booker struggled mightily on Sunday for Phoenix. The number 13 pick in the draft hit 4 of 11 shots for 12 points on Saturday. Sunday he hit just 2 of 12 attempts including 0 of 4 from three point range. Booker has yet to connect from behind the arc on 8 attempts in Summer League play.
Warren: "I told him to keep shooting. I'm not worried, Devin is a great shooter, great player. I believe he's going to come back, bounce back next game and shoot it tremendous. That's the type of player he is, he's a great player. Devin, he's very crafty on the offensive end, he can do a lot of stuff for us, he's a great shooter."
Coach Bjorkgren praised the other things that Booker does well when his shot isn't falling.
"He's been great. Defensively he's been great as well. And he had some good looks today they just didn't go down, but they'll go down next time. He shoots the ball nice. He shoots it clean. The guys were finding him, so he's going to be really good."
"He's a great teammate. Like really good teammate, really understands the game. In practice, he just fills it up. You're going to see him fill it up out here too, it's just a matter of time. He does a great job of running the floor, getting to those corners. He can handle it as you saw in game one, he handled an off the ball screen, hit a big jumper for us late in that first game, so he can do some nice things."
Looking forward to Tuesday's matchup with the Utah Jazz, Goodwin and Warren talked about their goals at Summer League.
Goodwin: "Win. Personally I don't really have anything I'm trying to really do just for the simple fact I wanted to just come out here and show that I've gotten better. My objective really is to win a championship."
"I mean I'm just playing the game how it goes. If you watch me play you know you can see that I've gotten better. So I'm not how here just trying to prove a point, I'm just out here playing."
Warren: "Just freshen up everything. Tone up my defense and do what I do best which is score. Just be aggressive when I'm out there and try to just lock in defensively and just communicate more on the defensive end."
Goodwin had another goal in mind for Warren this season.
"He's obviously showing what he's able to do. He's known as a scorer and he's stayed doing that. If we can get him to talk a little bit more, he'll be a great guy to come in and do what he does."
Phoenix is back in action against the Utah Jazz Tuesday at the Thomas and Mack Center in Las Vegas. Tip off is scheduled for 4:30p PT.
Welcome back to Bright Side's Las Vegas summer league coverage! I'll be bringing you my daily analysis like last year straight from Vegas. At least three games a day from Sunday to Wednesday is what you can expect. Let's get into it.
The start of this game would be the story of this game. The Rockets were engaged right out of the gate. They were communicating on everything defensively and consistently moving the ball defensively. They were missing Nick Johnson, Sam Dekker, and Clint Capela, but they still had enough team basketball to beat the Suns.
The main outlook here from a Suns perspective is what the plan is with Alec Brown. He only played 10 minutes on Saturday and had only 14 minutes today. He was consistently getting out-manned down low by Alan Williams and others, but that's his main weakness. The Suns coaching staff thought this was too much of a detriment and rolled with Josh Harrellson and Luke Harangody through most of the game, despite neither having a chance at a roster spot in the future, unlike Brown.
It became clear what they were doing with Brown when he checked into the game with 0.5 seconds left in the second quarter to box out. It was still nice to see him chatting with Mark West on the bench throughout the game.
This one had a fascinating matchup at SF between Bruno Caboclo and Doug McDermott. The two of them couldn't be more different. Caboclo is an incredibly young and raw prospect while McDermott already knows what he is at a seasoned 23 years old.
Caboclo presents what McDermott should struggle with at the next level. He's tremendously long and athletic, potentially causing problems for McDermott on both ends. McDermott made up for it by always being in the right place at the right time and really working hard the entire time he was on the floor. He never gets credit for his motor or how agile he is despite being an average athlete for the NBA.
Caboclo looked so much better than last year. The fabled "two years away from being two years away" 2014 first-round pick looks like he really benefited from practices with the Raptors last season. He doesn't look lost on the floor anymore and has figured out the rhythm of the game. Now it comes down to his skills developing and continuing to get smarter, which is something I could definitely see happening with how he handles and shoots the ball for his size.
As Dougie McBuckets does, he got going in the second half with all 11 of his points coming in that half. Watch out for him to get some serious playing time under Fred Hoiberg.
Coming to Summer League is a joy because of games like this. Seeing Emmanuel Mudiay and Willie Trill Cauley-Stein in person was a treat.
Mudiay's court vision is sensational. His main appeal is his pick-and-roll play and that was on full display Sunday. He makes the right play almost every time when he has the ball. He creates angles for passes on his own by the way he moves with the ball. I'm not sure how many guys at his age can do that. It's going to be interesting to see how he handles teams going under screens because his jumper did not look ready still. There's still a lot to worry about on defense as well. Regardless, the Nuggets should be thrilled he fell to No. 7. He is so large for a point guard by the way.
Cauley-Stein was here and there because of the type of player he is. He had some fantastic defensive plays that only he could make. Nobody is exaggerating when they talk about the way he moves for a guy his size. He is so fast, agile, and mobile for a big. There was a good post move or two there as well. He's going to be great next to Boogie.
Houston jumped out to a 30-19 first quarter lead against Phoenix on Sunday.
The Suns turned the ball over 6 times and were bullied on the boards 16-8 in the first quarter. Phoenix played catch up the rest of the game. Alex Len did not dress for the Suns who were again plagued by generally sloppy play early.
Per usual, T.J. Warren did T.J. Warren things. A day after a 20 point effort against Washington, Warren scored 22 points on 9 of 15 shooting. His 30 minutes of playing time were the most of any Sun.
Archie Goodwin again struggled handling the ball early, but played significantly better in the second half he finished with 20 points on 6 of 10 shooting and led the team with 6 rebounds.
Devin Booker had a rough afternoon. Suns fans have to wait for the dazzling shooting performance that I'm sure we will see on Tuesday. Booker connected on just 2 of his 12 shot attempts including 0 of 4 from behind the arc.
A bright spot for the Suns on Sunday was the contribution of Justin Harper. In 8 first half minutes of play, Harper managed 9 points on 4 of 6 shooting and 4 rebounds. He would play a total of 17 minutes. Harper provided a much needed shot in the arm for a Suns team that struggled to find its footing in the first half.
Houston got 21 points from D.J. Kennedy and another 20 from Glen Rice Jr. Six Rockets scored in double figures. Montrezl Harrell and Alan Williams led the Rockets with 8 rebounds a piece.
The Summer Suns are back in action on Tuesday at the Thomas and Mack Center for a 4:30p PT matchup with the Utah Jazz.