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Suns’ Dominant Guard Play Outweighed by Clippers’ Bigs in Season Opener

By Jacob Withee | November 5, 2017

PRESCOTT VALLEY, Ariz. – The Northern Arizona Suns began their 2017-18 campaign at the Prescott Valley Event Center with a high-scoring game.

The Suns fell to the Agua Caliente Clippers 126-118, as three different players, all guards, scored 27+ points for the home team.

Josh Gray led all scorers with 30 points, recording his on 11-of-23 shooting, to go with seven assists, three rebounds and four steals. It tied Gray’s career-high, as he scored 30 points at the Greensboro Swarm on Valentine’s Day.

Askia Booker started in the backcourt with Gray, finishing with 27 points on 8-of-20 shooting, six rebounds and four assists. This was Booker’s 20th 20-point game in his NBA G League career.

Shaquille Harrison also poured it on, scoring 27 points on 11-of-17 shooting, including 4-of-8 from the three-point line, five rebounds and four steals. This marked Harrison’s fifth career 20+ point game, four of which have come off the bench.

The Suns forced 25 turnovers on the night, scoring 31 points off of Agua Caliente’s miscues in NAZ Suns Head Coach Cody Toppert’s first ever game at the helm, having been officially hired just hours before tip-off.

“We’ve got some scrappers. There’s no doubt we’ve got guys who have desire,” Toppert said. “They want to make the extra pass, they want to play fast. We’ve got some shooters on the team. From a scheme perspective, obviously we haven’t been able to put a lot in, so I’m extremely proud of the effort considering that we’re just now getting organized and essentially putting an entirely system in in two days.”

Although the Clippers were on the second of a back-to-back set, they sure didn’t show fatigue, starting the game shooting 52.0 percent in the first quarter. The Suns were just as hot and led 33-28 after one frame.

Agua Caliente took control of the game in the second quarter, shooting 13-of-20 (.650) in the frame compared to Northern Arizona’s 6-for-23 (.261) clip. They outscored them 34-20 and led 62-53 going into halftime.

A back-and-forth third quarter yielded an exciting finish, but it was the Clippers who came out victorious.

This was Agua Caliente’s first win in franchise history, as they lost to the Santa Cruz Warriors in their inaugural game Friday 131-98. Brice Johnson powered his team again, recording a double-double with 25 points on 11-of-15 (.733) shooting and 11 rebounds. He had a +27 in the plus-minus category, easily the best on the team.

Tyrone Wallace also earned a double-double, as the point guard secured 12 rebounds to go with 19 points. He was responsible for eight out of the Clippers’ 25 turnovers. Even though the Suns won the turnover battle by a wide margin, they were outrebounded 54-40 and scored 16 points less (56-40) in the paint.

C.J. Williams (18 points), Andre Dawkins (17 points) and JJ O’Brien (17 points) rounded out the double-digit scoring for Agua Caliente, while Xavier Silas (11 points) and Anthony Bennett (10 points) chipped in double-digit scoring for the Suns.

Each team’s next game is against the Iowa Wolves. The Clippers host the Wolves on Tuesday at 7 p.m. PT, while NAZ hosts the Wolves twice in a span of three days starting Thursday at 6:30 p.m. MT.