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No slowing Phoenix as it shreds the Nets' defense

Phoenix Suns guard Devin Booker drives past Nets

Phoenix Suns guard Devin Booker drives past Nets guard Kyrie Irving during the first half of an NBA basketball game on Sunday, Nov. 10, 2019. Credit: AP/Matt York

PHOENIX — Maybe the Suns are last season’s Nets in the sense that they are the surprise team of the NBA under first-year coach Monty Williams, who said before they faced the Nets on Sunday night at Talking Stick Resort Arena that he just wanted his team to “play free.”

The Nets complied from the outset, allowing the exciting young Suns a free pass to the basket all night on their way to a 138-112 victory.

In the absence of their defense, the Nets needed to pack calculators to keep track of the Suns (6-3), who had seven players score in double figures, including 27 points by Devin Booker, 22 points and 12 assists by Ricky Rubio and 18 points by Kelly Oubre Jr.

They converted 19 of 42 three-point shots (45.2 percent), scored at least 31 points in each quarter and had a season-high 37 assists and a season-low seven turnovers. Booker finished with a plus-40 defensive rating.

“They dominated us in every fashion,” Nets coach Kenny Atkinson said. “They were unbelievable. These games happen in the NBA. I don’t love that it’s this early in the schedule, and I don’t love that we gave up 140 points or whatever. Those are two big issues for us, and obviously, we have to get it fixed.”

The Nets cut a 20-point deficit to two midway through the second period when they put together a 27-9 run spanning the first and second quarters. That was as good as it got. The Suns finished the second quarter on a 22-6 run to push their halftime lead back to 18 points, and they led by as much as 29 in the second half.

Kyrie Irving, who scored 15 points and was held to fewer than 20 for the first time as a Net, blamed himself for the slow start.

“It starts at the outset, especially with me setting the tone,” he said. “I don’t think I shot one free throw tonight, and that just tells you it’s a sign of how aggressive I am not in the game, getting downhill and really getting to my spots. A lot of the accountability falls on me and really just the game plan of guarding Ricky and not being in the right spots.”

The Suns came in ranked third in field-goal percentage (.468), seventh from three-point range (.373), second in true shooting percentage (.582), first in assists (27.0) and first in fourth-quarter scoring (31.0). The Nets were first in scoring (120.8) and three-point percentage (.405) and fourth in true shooting (.574).

Atkinson stressed the importance of not trading baskets, but saying it and doing it were two different things. After getting a stop on the Suns’ first possession, the Nets allowed them to score on 10 straight possessions, including four three-pointers to fall into an early 24-11 hole that grew to a 20-point deficit.

“They came out really attacking our defense and our switching, moved out to a 10-1 lead and really never looked back after that,” Irving said. “We cut it to [two points], and then they get it back up to 18 at halftime. They kept it going. We went into zone, and they started attacking the zone. Ricky started getting downhill, and they just really started picking apart our defense.”

Spencer Dinwiddie led the Nets (4-5) with 18 points off the bench and DeAndre Jordan added 16 points and 12 rebounds. The Nets shot just 23.5 percent from three-point range (8-for-34).

Looking ahead to Tuesday night’s game against the Jazz, Irving said: “We’re going to Utah, an even more hostile environment. For me personally, it’s just really starting out and getting to the rim and being aggressive and getting into the paint and making some extra opportunities for my teammates.”

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