When your team is 13-51 on the season you don’t get any recognition in the national spot light, unless you beat a team that has the worlds greatest player and they are fighting for their playoff lives.
Saturday night the Phoenix Suns, the team with the worse record in the NBA, beat the Los Angeles Lakers and dropped them 4 1/2 games behind their city rivals the Clippers for the eighth playoff spot in the west.
The lowly Suns played a “what do we have to lose” type of game and scrapped all game to hold off the desperate Lakers with a 118-109 victory.
The box score don’t tell all of the story of this contest, as the Suns were beating the Lakers to all of the 50/50 balls and forced seven steals and 11 turnovers and forced the Lakers to shoot a low 32% from the three and 48% from the field.
The Lakers came into the game shooting 68% from the free throw line and that was the horrific stat that came back to haunt them, as super star Lebron James choked down two free throws in the closing minutes of the game when the Lakers were making a run and closed to five points.
Suns played together as a team and got out and ran the Lakers. Both teams coming off back to back playing nights, but the Suns looked like they took this one personal and they played like it for the majority of the game. Getting their hands on balls and played more physical causing the lakers to turn and complain to the refs all night, and look lethargic at times on defense. The orange were very locked in after seeing more than half the building at Talking Stick Arena were wearing Gold with their purple instead of orange.
The Suns came into the game with the lowest win percentage .190 and were able to take down Lebron and lakers, in fact this is the lowest win percentage team to beat a Lebron James lead team. The Suns were in an intense mode of not taking this lying down. Coach Igor Kokoskov was intense as well and picked up his second technical on the year and seems like he is starting to get this group to play all out.
The most intriguing event in the game was the strategy that first year Head Coach Igor came in with. Playing his star rookie Deandre Ayton on Lebron James the entire game and did not allow him to switch off him. He also gave James plenty of room to take the jumpers on threes but not allow him to get a head full of steam to the rim. This was very effective all night as Ayton forced James to shoot out side and pass inside.
The mismatch this strategy created underneath, the Suns were able to overcome by playing Dragon Bender a little at times and sacrificed Josh Jackson, who gave up on several easy dunk plays to Javale Mcgee.
But the scheme worked to throw the lakers off their game and Ayton was excited for the challenge and played well. We even saw a great glimpse into the future of how good Ayton and Booker can be together. The two had a play where Ayton blocked a jump-shot from Reggie Bullock, the ball sailed upward and Booker tapped it over the defenders hands to Ayton, who then dribbled from half court into the lane drawing a foul.
The moment between the two players after that play was refreshing to see, as Booker gave his rookie star center a low five and a pound on his chest with an intense look as if to say ” that’s what we should look like together” it was awesome. Booker gave the rook major props in an interview after the game praising his play.
When Ayton was asked, when did he know he was guarding James in this game, the rookie smiled and said “ ok I will try and I excepted the challenge and our game plan worked all night” Ayton finished with 26 pts and 10 rebounds.
The Suns recorded only their 13th win out of 64 games but none can be sweeter than this one, punching a bigger gap in the playoff hopes of the dreaded Lakers.