Suns Roll-Out New Starting Lineup Ft. Ayton & Baynes, Defeat Knicks

Deandre Ayton Aron Baynes
by Cody Cunningham

Phoenix Suns Head Coach Monty Williams teased a surprise while on Arizona Sports 98.7 FM’s Doug and Wolf show on Friday morning and his lineup against the New York Knicks definitely lived up to the hype. 

Deandre Ayton rejoined the Suns starting lineup, but at a new position. The Big Fella threw back to his college days as he started the game as the team’s power forward alongside Aron Baynes in the frontcourt. 

“I love it,” Kelly Oubre Jr. said about the lineup change. “A lot of size. A lot of length, athleticism. We’ve got athletes. We’ve got strong, physical specimens like Aron Baynes. It’s just amazing that we can switch up the lineups and still play the right way.” 

However, with little to no practice with this rotation, the starting lineup came with a bit of an adjustment period. The Suns struggled defensively in the first half as they trailed the Knicks by 10 at halftime, down 61-51. The Suns shot 0-9 from three-point range in the first half as their NBA-record streak of 1,256 straight games with a made three-pointer seemed to be in jeopardy, but their luck quickly turned to open up the third.

“Honestly they came out and punched us first, we just had to respond and continue to punch,” Oubre said. 

The Suns came out of the break with high energy and pace as they locked-in defensively and began to connect from deep. They went on a 10-0 run to force the first of what would be 19 lead changes and eight ties in the second half alone. The three-point shot that hurt them in the first half quickly became their bread and butter as they converted on 10-of-19 from deep at 52.6% in the second half.

Devin Booker and Kelly Oubre Jr. combined for 28 of the Suns 32 points in the third quarter as the back-and-forth second half continued. Ultimately though, it was Aron Baynes stepping up with his offense, defense and screens in the fourth to seal the victory for the Suns.

The Suns trailed 103-102 with under six minutes remaining in the game before going on a 12-4 run that began with five straight points from Baynes. Baynes finished with 14 points in the fourth quarter alone as the Suns never surrendered the lead again, defeating the Knicks 120-112.

Booker scored a game-high 38 points on 14-of-27 from the field and a perfect 8-of-8 at the free throw line while also adding 7 assists and 3 rebounds. Booker notched a career-long and franchise-tying record fifth consecutive 30-point game. He matches Charlie Scott (twice in 1973) and Charles Barkley (March 1993) for the longest 30-point streak by a Sun. 

“I’m just taking it a day at a time and just try to impose my will on this game and every night do whatever I have to do to get wins,” Booker said. “I feel like we’ve dropped a few games that we shouldn’t have, so we have to make those up. So this homestand is very important for us. It’s that time of year where we have to lock in for sure.”

Over this five-game stretch, Booker is averaging 33.8 points on 52.6 FG% and 91.5 FT% plus 7.0 assists. This was also Booker’s 75th career 30-point game, surpassing Paul Westphal (74) to take sole possession of 3rd-most in Suns history behind Walter Davis (90) and Amar’e Stoudemire (86). This was Booker’s fifth time scoring 30-plus points in nine career games against the Knicks.

Oubre scored 29 points on 11-of-16 from the field and 5-of-7 from three-point range plus 5 rebounds and 3 steals. This was Oubre’s third straight game scoring 25+ points, the longest such streak of his career. Over his last three games, Oubre is averaging 28.0 points on 60.8 FG%, 5.0 three-point makes on 68.2 3P%, 5.3 rebounds and 3.0 steals. Oubre has 3+ three-pointers and 3+ steals in each of his last three games; he joins Dan Majerle (April 11-14, 1993) as the only players in Suns history to do so in three consecutive games (Basketball-Reference).

Monty Williams lineup featuring the two-head monster paid off as both big men notched a double-double in the victory. Ayton posted his fourth double-double in five games this season with 15 points and 13 rebounds. He ne has 10-plus boards in each of his first five games becoming the first Suns player to do so in each of his first five games since Shawn Marion in 2007-08. 

“I think the league is changing to where dudes are big and strong and versatile as well,” Ayton said. “So, we want to be the same thing and we want to join them, so just us putting pressure on the rim, protecting the rim and cleaning up the glass.”

Baynes notched his second double-double of the season with 20 points and a season-high-tying 12 rebounds. This was his fifth time scoring 20-plus points in 26 games this season after scoring 20-plus points just fourth times in his previous 427 career games entering 2019-20. 

Rubio finished just shy of a double-double himself, scoring 9 points with 10 assists. He now has at least 8 assists in four straight games and 16 of his last 17.

The Suns will look to continue this momentum through their homestand as they tip-off against the Memphis Grizzlies on Sunday. Be sure to catch the action on Fox Sports Arizona.

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