Film Room: Inside the Suns Overtime Loss to the Clippers

The Suns lost their ninth straight game. Reading the initial headlines it may seem like it was another routine loss for the Suns or another slow start that ended in a 20 point beat-down. But this game was nothing like we have seen in the current losing streak.

The Suns played hard – they competed from start to finish – and were almost rewarded with their first win in over two weeks. The short-handed Suns without Devin Booker and a limited TJ Warren (who was ejected early in the second half) gave the fans an entertaining game on Monday night.

It all started with the Suns effort on the defensive end. This was the best defensive performance the Suns had all season.

“In a way our effort was there…Very pleased with the way we played, the way we’re competing. We gave ourselves a chance to win this game”, head coach Igor Kokoskov said after the game.

Defensive Energy

The Suns were pressuring the ball all night, making things difficult on a Clippers team that features many established veteran players.

The defense continued late into the fourth quarter and overtime, this is a possession that had the Suns bench and the entire arena on their feet.

Rookie center Deandre Ayton put together one of his better games this season finishing with 20 points, 12 rebounds and 3 blocks. This chase-down block was his best defensive play all season.

Feed the Big Men

Offensively, Ayton put up one his better lines while backup center Richuan Holmes played his best game this season. This is a set the Suns call ‘Elbow 5’ that is designed to get Ayton a post touch on the right or left block.

Kokoskov consistently runs this set almost every game – they go to it in overtime and Ayton gets a clutch bucket.

This is another set the Suns ran out of their ‘0’ series to start the second half where they set up the double-drag action but instead Ariza cuts to the weak side and they set up the Jackson/Ayton two-man game.

Richaun Holmes also made an impact with his high energy play on the offensive end. Holmes finished with 19 points, 7 rebounds and 3 blocks. This is a great example of his value on the offensive end in consistently creating extra possessions for the Suns.

The play of Holmes is contagious throughout the rest of the team. As Josh Jackson summed up after the game about Holmes’ energy, “It’s really contagious…he brings it every game and that’s his role for us.”

Xs and Os

I thought the Suns coaching staff did a solid job throughout this game offensively, the Suns ran their sets with more “sharpness”, something Coach Kokoskov has been preaching to his team during this losing streak.

A concept in the Kokoskov offense is the re-screen action to free up a shooter for three. The first video looks at a ‘Pistol’ set from the Suns game against the Heat where Ayton does not set the second re-screen – as Kokoskov says the sharpness was not there.

On Monday night, Kokoskov ran the action out of his ‘Chin’ series and the Suns were able to execute with better sharpness for the Daniels three.

I though the biggest difference in the game down the stretch was the Suns young group playing a veteran team in the Clippers.

A common set Kokoskov runs is called ‘Fist Shirt Pull’ where he puts his fist up with the shirt pull. Opening night against the Mavericks, the Suns were able to get a smaller guard switched onto Booker and they executed.

On Monday night, the Clippers read the Daniels back-screen is coming so Gallinari moves away from Holmes and the set is not ran exactly right.

Another example that further illustrates how the Clippers veterans impacted the details of the game is how Tobias Harris “top locks” (fronts) Mikal Bridges in this set. This is the same set I showed earlier with the Ayton lob but this time the Suns run it for Bridges and the veteran Harris reads the action perfectly.

The rookie Bridges should cut back-door in this situation.

If the Suns can match their energy from Monday night for the season they should look like a much better the second half of the season, especially with a healthy Devin Booker.

For the Suns to stay in games, it really comes down to energy, effort, and playing within themselves. Finishing games will be a challenge. It’s going to be about someone stepping in the absence of Booker, I look forward to seeing who that player will be.

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