Suns stunned by NBL’s Adelaide 36ers in preseason opener

PHOENIX — Well, get what you want from it, but the Phoenix Suns lost 134-124 to the National Basketball League (NBL) Adelaide 36ers in Sunday’s preseason opener Team, this is undeniably shocking.

Phoenix is ​​favored by about 30 points in most sportsbooks and has been trailing for most of the game. Its biggest lead was 6 points, and it was the first time an NBA team had lost to an NBL team. Even though the Suns starters only played 22 minutes, that didn’t escape the surprise of the result.

“Just not giving them the respect they deserve as a professional team,” Suns coach Monty Williams said. “It was a great learning opportunity for us.”

Adelaide looked like a number one in the first half. The No. 14 seed from the NCAA Tournament is starting to show that it will be a serious threat to its opponents, with a high “we’ll take it” shot. The 36ers knocked down some off-the-dribble 3-pointers but also got some free kicks at the rim and the free throw line thanks to some of Phoenix’s sub-optimal defensive rotations.

Add to that a lackluster opening 18 minutes on offense for the Suns, actually 16 points late in the second quarter.

Phoenix at one point cut to six before Adelaide stretched their lead to a dozen at half-time.

“I just think they played hard,” Williams said. “You can look at the shots and be like ‘that’s the game,’ but I think they played really hard. I thought they played like it was the game of their lives, and they did play the game of their lives. … …Australian players are tough. They play physical basketball. They play in 0.5 and are aggressors. A lot of times, they just beat us off the dribble.

“They made some tough shots off the 3-point line and off the dribble. They were aggressive all night. They got the win. It wasn’t anything we gave them. They took it, so this is to their credit.”

As you’d expect, the Suns’ starters showed up in the second half looking to lead the field and give the reserves the lead. Phoenix’s starting lineup didn’t quite do it, but they trailed by three on the night with 4:29 left in the third quarter.

Undeterred by the pushback, Adelaide immediately shifted its magic to the Suns’ second unit. After trailing by 10 points, Phoenix had to fight back awkwardly in the fourth quarter, feeling twice as hard.

With 5:51 left in the game, it finally returned to the first single-control game in the fourth quarter, only for Adelaide to score five points in a row to overtake seven points, and never looked back.

The 36ers’ 3-point magic continued and finished the night with a staggering 24-for-43 (55.8 percent). Guard Craig Grande II treated Sunday night like he had the green light from Stephen Curry. At one point, he scored a 3 on a 2-on-1 fast break opportunity, and for good reason, as he had a game-high 35 points.

Randle’s nine 3-pointers matched the Suns’ total. Also involved was 36ers guard Robert Franks, who himself had 32 points on 18 attempts on six attempts.

Suns center Deandre Ayton was asked if it was the loss of the Suns’ massive buy-in or just a quick flush and move on. He said it was more of the latter.

“It’s just preseason,” Ayton said. “We’re still learning at the end of the day. It’s unacceptable, but at the same time, we’ve just come back and we’re trying to perfect something and make ourselves better.”

Wing Mikal Bridges noted that it is better for this to happen now than seven months from now.

“It’s not our standard, we watch movies and get better,” he said. “But it’s nice, things like this — that’s what October is for. Instead of being a little later, and not freaking out May and June. We’re just going to learn from it, we’ve got to get into our habits.”

Williams uses a hockey-style line change to get better engagement across the unit. Given the current lack of depth, I highly doubt we’ll see a lot of full bench lineups this season.

A reserve without Paul or Booker at the other three positions will be left alive and dead on offense by Cam Payne and Landry Shamet due to a lack of possession, scoring and shooting. Sunday provided a preview of the units’ lack of offensive creation.

When it became clear the offense would continue to stall, Payne himself attempted to lead the comeback, scoring 23 points on 8-of-19 shooting.

Panye, Damion Lee and Torrey Craig finished at -21.

Williams inserted newcomer Jock Langdale as a backup 5 in particular on Dario Saric and Bismack Biyombo.

Landale, an Aussie, has what most people have in terms of physicality around the rim, which almost annoys opponents. He’s a smart passer, and while Langdale shot just 32.9 percent from the field last year as a rookie in San Antonio, he hits the ball beautifully. The Suns are excited about the 26-year-old’s performance in practice and camp, but Williams himself said they hope to lower expectations in early October.

Saric did not play. Williams said he wants Saric to play in the preseason, but they want to see Langdale’s second unit.

As for takeaways elsewhere, Chris Paul’s mission statement of playing less is on full display. Bridges and Devin Booker spent more time trying to figure it out, while Bridges brought his defensive rebounds to the court to start the ball.

Bridges and Cam Johnson are both very aggressive off the dribble. Bridges, in particular, scored 19 of his 22 points in the first half.

The same goes for Ayton, who slips on his screens more often, meaning he jumps to the rim earlier to get a head start on rotation defenses, rather than steadfastly waiting to touch his screens.

It’s a combination of those two things, Bridges doing the ball screen and Ayton rolling quickly.

That looks great, as does what Ayton said about dribbling down the post. Phoenix put him in a lot of singles against a 36-man squad.

This one, which was called off for a foul, was through the type of touch-and-dribble that always brought success for Ayton.

Ayton had 22 points on 11-of-14 shooting in 22 minutes.

All starters are +11.

Penguin Airlines

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