March 4, 2024

Brighton Journal

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Bol Bol provides a spark off the bench for the Suns in win over the Blazers

Bol Bol provides a spark off the bench for the Suns in win over the Blazers

PHOENIX — The Phoenix Suns are three-for-three midway through six games at home after defeating the Portland Trail Blazers 109-88.

The injury list at the tip-off defined a large part of what this game was about.

Kevin Durant was sidelined with right hamstring soreness, something he adjusted in the fourth quarter of Sunday's win and played through the rest of that game. Durant's total minutes played each day in the last four contests have been 43, 41, 39 and 39, lending to the idea that this is an off night on the second night of a back-to-back.

But head coach Frank Vogel dismissed that idea before the game, saying the Suns don't take days off and this is an injury. Vogel called it a day-to-day situation and was hopeful Durant would be available for the game hosting the Los Angeles Clippers on Wednesday, which is when Phoenix's schedule begins to work its way through a challenging January.

The Blazers were without Deandre Ayton (right knee tendonitis), Toumani Kamara (right knee soreness), Dube Reith (lower back strain), Anfernee Simmons (illness) and Robert Williams III (torn right knee ligament). That's Portland's best goalkeeper (Simmons), second-best winger (Kamara) and top-three centers.

Despite this, the team took a 29-20 lead through one quarter after the Suns couldn't bring down good looks and became somewhat sloppy defensively. Bradley Beal and Devin Booker are slowly starting to ask the question of what Durant's absence will be this Significantly to impact Phoenix's chances of defeating a bad, exhausted team.

But the momentum of the match turned thanks to Bill Plus's reserve line-up that included Eric Gordon, Josh Okogie, Chimezi Metu and Bol Bol.

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Yes. No typos there. It took a 35-18 second quarter to regain control of the game.

“I want to give credit to our bench. I thank those guys for staying ready,” Vogel said of the win. “We’ve had some games throughout this year where the other team’s bench outplayed our bench. Our bench tonight gets the game ball.

Paul, a player the crowd adores when he's in the game (and cheers for the check-ins during blowouts), makes a real impact! He was +15 in eight minutes of the first half with five points, four rebounds and an assist.

“I felt good,” Paul said. Arizona Sports. “We had a lot of energy, the crowd was loud out there, and most importantly we got the win.”

The former projected lottery pick in his lone season at Oregon was selected in the second round four years ago and was a one-year pilot by the Suns to get his immense ability into their own system to see if they could discover a difference-maker something two previous teams had never managed to do.

The 7-foot-3, 220-pound player doesn't really have a position. Ideally, it is large. But he has ball-handling and self-creating skills as well. He had a full 19 minutes on the night and more than double that on Monday. His only other appearance in the rotation was one of great basketball IQ and a sense of the issues that have plagued him, referring to his five fouls on the evening.

Vogel said Paul had a good few weeks in the postseason involving low-minute players, so Paul would have gotten another chance with Durant out.

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Paul is going to do some wrong things on the floor. It's an exciting choose your own adventure with him on a possession by possession basis. He won't raise his hand while defending a 12-foot player with a 7-foot-8 wingspan or end up slapping the ball for the easiest foul foul ever. He is also giant, agile, and highly skilled.

Vogel put it well before the game.

“When he plays with discipline, his talent is able to shine,” he said.

That's it. Paul is an energetic player at this point in his young career, and if he can find a way to string together positive plays while decisively avoiding mistakes, he could well build a place for himself in the NBA. Because his athleticism and talent will take it from there.

He finished with 11 points and nine rebounds in 20 minutes while playing within himself, which is hard to do when the crowd is audibly captivated every time you get the ball. It was by no means a stellar performance that signaled his arrival into a permanent role, but it was good for the Suns to see him put some things together and earn another opportunity should an opportunity like Monday arise again.

“He played well,” Vogel said of Paul. “I was really happy that he got that opportunity, and really happy that he took advantage of it and played a great game of basketball.”

Both the Suns were sharp coming out of halftime with an eight-point lead and strong enough to take advantage of Portland's terrible twelve minutes that allowed Phoenix to take a 25-point lead on a fourth-quarter cruise. Phoenix outscored Portland 66-32 in the middle quarters. The Blazers' 10-0 start to the fourth quarter briefly sparked some concern that Phoenix's problems in the period were coming in a big way before a 9-0 Suns response put that to rest.

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Booker had his worst game of the year shooting, 4-for-16, which is a way to describe what was a great basketball game from him when he missed a lot of the mid-range gimme attempts he almost always made. He finished with 10 points, eight rebounds, six assists and two turnovers.

“Yes. I missed some easy things. There are nights like that,” Booker said. “If the kids can learn anything from this situation, it's just keep shooting. He'll even back off, and I'll have the heater soon.

Jusuf Nurkic finished a strong December averaging 15.2 points and 12.3 rebounds per game, and he maintained that level with 18 points, seven rebounds, five assists, a steal and two blocks on Monday.

Chimezi Mito started in Durant's place and was solid with 14 points, the same highs as Beal (21 points) and Grayson Allen (12).

Nassir Little (left knee soreness) was available, meaning Durant and Damion Lee (torn meniscus) were the only ones out for the Suns. nearly there.