Hot Shooting Suns Not Hot Enough

By Jacob Withee | December 14, 2019

EL SEGUNDO, Calif. – The Northern Arizona Suns were stroking it all night, but they couldn’t come up with the win Friday at the South Bay Lakers.

The Suns (2-11) dropped their ninth consecutive game, this one 126-109 at the UCLA Health Training Center in El Segundo, California. Their three-game winning streak against the Lakers (8-5) was snapped. It was the Suns’ longest active winning streak against a single opponent.

The Suns’ offense was certainly not to blame in this one. Northern Arizona fell behind 39-29 after the first quarter before they went crazy in the second. In the second frame, NAZ made 16-of-22 (.727) from the floor, 6-of-10 (.600) from distance, with Jared Harper tying his career-high in assists in just the single quarter, dishing out eight in nine minutes. The Suns won the quarter 40-34, marking their highest scoring quarter of the season. They trailed 73-69 at halftime, shooting 27-of-45 (.600) from the field, 11-of-18 (.611) from beyond the arc.

The third quarter was the complete opposite, with Northern Arizona scoring just 18 points on poor shooting. In the frame, the Lakers took a 13-point lead, taking a 99-87 advantage to the fourth quarter. The fourth mostly belong to South Bay, who took its largest lead of 21 points, winning by 17.

The Suns finished shooting 43-of-86 (.500), 16-of-37 (.432) from distance. South Bay also shot well, finishing 50-of-97 (.515) from the field, 12-of-32 (.375) from distance. The Lakers outrebounded the Suns 47-33 and outscored them in the paint 72-40.

Several Suns had strong games, powered by Daxter Miles Jr.’s 27 points on 9-of-15 shooting, including 5-of-9 from deep. He added five rebounds, four assists, a steal and a block. This was his fourth 20+ point game on the season, now the second most such games on the team (Harper has seven).

Aaron Epps followed up his best game of the season with 18 points on 8-of-10 shooting (2-2 3PT) and four rebounds off the bench. He had several high-flying dunks in his 25 minutes of action. Over the last two games, Epps has averaged 20.0 points on 17-of-21 (.810) shooting, 6-of-7 (.857) shooting from three-point land, and 7.0 rebounds.

Ahmed Hill continued his latest string of great play with 17 points on 7-of-13 shooting (3-6 3PT) and two steals. Jalen Lecque made his first five shots, finishing with 14 points (5-6 FG, 2-3 3PT) and three assists. Harper had a career-high 11 assists, to go with eight points and four rebounds. He has 19 assists over his last two games. Anthony Lawrence II also scored in double figures (11 points, two steals), while Tariq Owens had the most blocks by a Suns player this season with five, adding eight points and five rebounds.

South Bay’s Gary Payton II just missed out on a triple-double, tallying 37 points (14-28 FG, 5-5 FT), 10 assists, nine rebounds, two blocks and a steal.

The Lakers had eight players available for the game tonight, and they played just seven. All seven scored in double figures, including Reggie Hearn (21 points, 8-14 FG, 5-10 3PT, eight rebounds, six assists, two steals) and Devontae Cacok (19 points, 9-13 FG, 15 rebounds, two steals).

The Suns next play on Sunday at the Findlay Toyota Center, where they’ll host Buckets’ Birthday Luau against the Santa Cruz Warriors at 3 p.m. MT. The first 1,000 fans in the door get the first bobblehead in team history. The Lakers will begin a two-game set against the Stockton Kings on Sunday at home at 6 p.m. MT.

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