Nets vs. Suns Recap: Foul Trouble Prevents Brooklyn from Overcoming Deficit
After Saturday night’s loss in Golden State, the Brooklyn Nets took a trip down to Arizona, facing off against the red hot Phoenix Suns. James Harden made his welcomed return to the lineup after missing the previous two games due to hamstring and hand injuries.
Coming into the matchup, both teams were heading in opposite directions. Phoenix had won 10 straight, while Brooklyn lost four in a row. These trends continued in Tuesday night’s showdown between the two teams, as the Suns’ offensive attack proved to be too much for Brooklyn to handle.
To start the game, both offenses found a rhythm quickly, with almost every possession resulting in a score. Devin Booker was unstoppable in the first quarter, seamlessly getting to his spots on the floor no matter who was guarding him. Meanwhile, Kyrie Irving and Kessler Edwards hit important buckets to keep things close. With the absence of LaMarcus Aldridge, Blake Griffin saw plenty of early minutes, making the most of his opportunities at the rim.
As the quarter progressed, Phoenix produced points at an incredibly fast pace, which the Nets could not keep up with. The Suns went into the second period with a 10 point lead, and maintained that separation for most of the first half. Occasionally, Brooklyn went on runs to close the gap, but could not find a way to get over the hump. A three-pointer from DeAndre Bembry pulled the Nets within three points, but lackluster defense allowed Phoenix to hold an eight point lead going into the second half. This was blatantly obvious on the final play, as Chris Paul went coast to coast with no opposition, scoring as the clock expired.
A flurry of points to start the third quarter allowed Brooklyn to regain the lead, as Patty Mills buried a three-pointer, giving the Nets a 70–69 lead. It was short-lived, however, as the Suns took control and never looked back. Certain sequences in the third period seemed to determine the game’s outcome, as debatable calls continued to go Phoenix’s way. Heading into the fourth quarter, the Suns held a nine point lead.
Once again, Brooklyn had their opportunities to cut into the deficit. Irving went on a run in the opening minutes of the period, dicing up the Suns defense on multiple occasions. With Phoenix leading 97–94, the game was in reach for a comeback. Unfortunately, that would be the closest it got. Only two minutes into the quarter, Brooklyn found themselves in the bonus, and that proved to be deadly down the stretch.
Paul and Booker cooked Brooklyn’s defense in the final minutes, and put the game away by staying true to what they do best. Both Mikal Bridges and Deandre Ayton feasted on sweet dimes from Paul, while Booker and Cameron Johnson got the job done on the perimeter. The Suns went on to win their 11th straight game, with a 121–111 victory over Brooklyn.
Blake Griffin’s Resurgence
Despite all of the struggles Brooklyn has faced the past few weeks, there have been a few positives to take away; one of those being the resurrection of Blake Griffin in Brooklyn’s current offensive unit. Griffin played a key role on Tuesday night, hitting timely buckets and creating open looks for teammates. While his three-point shot isn’t nearly as accurate as it was last season, the gritty power forward continues to leave his all on the court; making the hustle plays that not everyone wants to make.
Griffin finished the night with 17 points on 60% from the field, alongside six rebounds and two assists. Without his contributions, the Nets would have been in an even bigger hole than they were during most of the night. If Blake can return to the level he was able to provide Brooklyn with last season, he should continue to see important minutes for the franchise.
Referees Bias Toward Phoenix
Without a doubt, referees played a part in Brooklyn’s loss, as untimely calls killed the team’s momentum in crucial moments. For example, during the third quarter, JaVale McGee appeared to goal-tend a shot from Harden, but it was overlooked. Then, seconds later, Edwards was called for the same foul. A four point turnaround crushed the Nets rhythm, and within a couple of minutes, the Suns held a 12 point lead after Brooklyn had pulled within two.
This wasn’t the only questionable occurrence during the night. On multiple occasions, the Suns had a friendly whistle that the Nets simply were not granted. Harden was clearly frustrated, as he had trouble drawing fouls while driving towards the rim. Meanwhile, every time Phoenix had the ball, it seemed like they scored and were also rewarded with a foul.
Now, this isn’t to say that the refs caused Brooklyn to lose. The Nets had chances to take the lead, and couldn’t find a way to do so. That being said, it was difficult for Brooklyn to find a groove when the whistle was only being blown for one team. Even Ashley Nicole Moss, a New York Knicks fan, had this to say about the nationally broadcasted matchup:
Ultimately, Brooklyn was unable to come away with a win in Phoenix. However, this type of loss should not discourage the team, as they were without important pieces. Kevin Durant, Joe Harris and now Aldridge are all dealing with injuries, unable to participate in team activities. If these two squads were to face off in the finals, a complete Brooklyn team with everyone available would likely play better basketball. All fans can hope for right now is that the Nets can actually be fully healthy come the playoffs—and only time will tell.