Smart, Bridges headline NBA All-Defensive First Team

Marcus Smart of the Boston Celtics and Mikal Bridges of the Phoenix Suns lead the 2021-22  NBA All-Defensive First Team, the league announced Friday.

Smart and Bridges comprise the two guards on the NBA All-Defensive First Team.  Smart, the 2021-22 NBA Defensive Player of the Year, received 198 points (99 First Team votes) to earn his third selection to the NBA All-Defensive First Team.

Bridges, who finished in second place for the Defensive Player of the Year Award in his third NBA season, received 193 points (95 First Team votes).  This is Bridges’ first selection to the NBA All-Defensive Team (First Team and Second Team).

Joining Smart and Bridges on the NBA All-Defensive First Team are Utah Jazz center Rudy Gobert; Milwaukee Bucks forward Giannis Antetokounmpo, and Memphis Grizzlies forward Jaren Jackson Jr.

Gobert, a three-time Kia NBA Defensive Player of the Year, has been voted to the NBA All-Defensive First Team for the sixth consecutive season.  Antetokounmpo, the 2019-20 Kia NBA Defensive Player of the Year and a two-time Kia NBA Most Valuable Player, is an NBA All-Defensive First Team honoree for the fourth straight season.  Jackson, a four-year NBA veteran and the 2021-22 season leader in blocks per game (2.27), is making his debut on the NBA All-Defensive Team.

The 2021-22 NBA All-Defensive Second Team consists of Miami Heat forward Bam Adebayo, Bucks guard Jrue Holiday, Philadelphia 76ers guard Matisse Thybulle, Celtics center Robert Williams III, and Golden State Warriors forward Draymond Green.

This is the third NBA All-Defensive Team selection for Adebayo, the fourth for Holiday and the second for Thybulle.  Williams joins Bridges and Jackson as a first-time member of the NBA All-Defensive Team.  Green, the 2016- NBA Defensive Player of the Year, has earned his seventh selection to the NBA All-Defensive Team.

Paul on Bridges: ‘He doesn’t miss games, he guards the best players every night’

Coming into Game 5 of their first-round series against the New Orleans Pelicans, the Phoenix Suns won two games because of two 19-point fourth quarters from Chris Paul. CP3 got the job done for the Suns in Game 5 as he had 22 points and 11 assists. However, Mikal Bridges was the star of the game.

Bridges, who finished second for the Defensive Player of the Year Award, tied a playoff career-high with 31 points on 12/17 shooting from the field, including 4/4 from downtown, five rebounds, two steals, and four blocks in 47 minutes of action as the Suns defeated the Pelicans 112-97 at Footprint Center to take a 3-2 series lead.

Game 6 is Thursday night in New Orleans.

Bridges did it on both ends of the court. According to StatMuse, the players he guarded were 3/17 from the floor with seven points.

“He doesn’t miss games, he guards the best players every night, and then he has 31,” Paul said.

Bridges, who has never missed an NBA game in four seasons, was ready to keep on playing after the win.

“I’m ready to play tomorrow. I’m teed up, man,” Bridges said. “I’m energized; my teammates keep me going. You got me itching my knee right now because I’m talking about it. I need to calm down, I need to breathe, but I’m just ready, man.”

Deandre Ayton, who had 19 points and nine rebounds, added on Bridges: “The man takes care of his body, and he approaches the game the same way every day; he doesn’t change.”

Without Devin Booker, it’s all hands on deck for the Suns, and Bridges got the job done. The Suns have to end this series in Game 6; Phoenix does not want to be in a position where they have to play a Game 7. The Suns are the better team, and as the better team, they have to put the Pelicans away Thursday night.

Suns’ Crowder: ‘We have to get back to being the hunter instead of just being hunted’

The Phoenix Suns fell to 1-3 on this young season after losing to the Kings 110-107 at the buzzer on Wednesday night.

Sacramento’s Harrison Barnes hit a three at the buzzer to get the victory for the Kings. With the loss, the Suns fall to 0-2 at home. Last season, Phoenix lost only nine times in their building.

Here is the Great, Not So Great, and the Bottom Line of the Suns’ loss to Kings.

The Great for the Suns:

-Devin Booker scored a game-high 31 points on Wednesday to go along with six rebounds and eight assists. It marked Booker’s 114th career 30+ point game, which ties for the 11th most 30+ point games in league history prior to a player’s 25th birthday. 

-Deandre Ayton notched his 96th career double-double, pouring in 21 points to go along with 21 rebounds, which matched his career-high. It marked Ayton’s second career game of 20+ points and 20+ rebounds.

-Mikal Bridges tallied 15 points, his fourth consecutive game of 10+ points, to go along with five rebounds and a team-high two blocks. It marks the first time in Bridges’ career that he’s scored 10+ points in each of the first four games to begin a season. 

Not So Great for the Suns:

-Chris Paul was 1/10 from the field and scored only six points, but he dished out eight assists.

Third-quarter: The Suns had a 61-53 lead at halftime, but they were outscored 29-15 in the third. Phoenix shot 7/22 from the field, including 0/6 from three-point range in the quarter. In addition, the Suns had six of their 11 turnovers in the third.

Bottom Line:

Teams will be gunning for the Western Conference. They will and do have a bullseye on their back. According to Jae Crowder, the Suns have to get back to being the hunter.

“We have to get back to being the hunter instead of just being hunted,” he said. “In each game, we talk about how teams are coming at us, and we’re stepping up the challenge, but not for 48 minutes. We have to find a way to take that challenge on for 48 minutes and quit talking when the game is over about how teams are coming, respecting us now, and we’re getting team’s best shots. We have to get back to being the hunter and stepping into the ring, and right now, we’re not.”

What’s next:

The Suns get back at it on Saturday night when they continue their five-game homestand against the Cavaliers

Best of the Rest:

Kings’ Buddy Hield knocked down a team-high seven three-pointers on 11 attempts in 27 minutes off the bench tonight en route to a team-high 26 points and five rebounds.

Barnes tallied 22 points, nine rebounds, and four assists.

Suns’ Bridges on contract extension: ‘I’m happy we got it done’

The Phoenix Suns have signed forward Mikal Bridges to a multi-year contract extension, the team announced on Monday.

According to ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski, it’s a four-year, $90 million deal.

“Like I been preaching for a long time, I always wanted to be here, and I always want to be here,” Bridges said after shootaround on Monday. “So, just for that happening, I take nothing for granted. Just blessed and grateful for the position I’m in. The people I have around me, my family and friends. it’s just great, and I’m happy we got it done.”

Last season, Bridges averaged career-highs of 13.5 points, 4.3 rebounds, and 0.88 blocks while shooting career highs of 54.3% from the field and 42.5% from three-point range. The Philadelphia native recorded one of just four qualified seasons in NBA history of a player shooting at least 54% from the field and 42% from three-point range, joining John Stockton, Karl-Anthony Towns, and Michael Porter Jr.

In addition, he received the 11th-most votes for the 2020-21 NBA All-Defensive teams, just missing selection. During the Suns’ run to the NBA Finals, Bridges started all 22 playoff games, averaging 11.1 points on 48.4% shooting from the field plus 4.3 rebounds and 1.00 steals.

In three NBA seasons, the 25-year-old Bridges has appeared in all 227 of the Suns’ regular-season games. He’s the only player in the NBA to have played in every regular-season game during the past three seasons.

The Suns acquired Bridges in a draft-night trade in 2018 as he was the 10th overall pick following a decorated career at Villanova University, where he helped the Wildcats win two national titles.

Suns extend Shamet:

Phoenix also agreed to a contract with Landry Shamet. According to Wojnarowski, it’s a four-year, $43 million deal. Shamet, 24, was acquired by Phoenix in a trade with Brooklyn on August 6 and he averaged 11.0 points on 48.4% from the field and 44.4% from three-point range in four games this preseason. Shamet has completed three NBA seasons, appearing in the playoffs three times, and averaged a career-best 9.3 points for the Nets in 2020-21.

No deal for Deandre Ayton:

The Suns and Deandre Ayton reportedly could not come together on an extension before Monday’s 6 p.m. ET deadline. According to Wojnarowski, the number one overall pick in the 2018 draft wanted a  max contract, but Suns owner Robert Sarver did not offer it.

Last season, the 23-year-old Ayton averaged 14.5 points and 10.3 rebounds per contest. Ayton can become a restricted free agent at season’s end.

Listen below as Bridges talks contract extension:

 

Suns’ Paul on Bridges: ‘He’s a winner’

The Phoenix Suns are now two games away from winning their first NBA title after defeating the Bucks 118-108 in Game 2 of the NBA Finals at Phoenix Suns Arena on Thursday night.

Devin Booker scored a team-high 31 points tonight to go along with five rebounds and six assists. Booker knocked down seven three-pointers on 12 attempts, while Mikal Bridges scored a playoff career-high 27 points in Game 2 on 8-of-15 shooting (3-of-9 3FG) to go along with seven rebounds.

The Suns are 11-1 this postseason when Bridges scores in double figures.

Chris Paul, who had 23 points, eight assists, and four rebounds on Thursday night, believes Bridges is a winner.

“He’s a winner,” Paul said. “When we won the Western Conference finals, I looked at him, and I had a flashback of him being at Villanova. I remember him winning a championship there. He’s just a winner. He’s going to do whatever you need him to do, offensively or defensively, and it’s good to see him playing like this.”

The Suns knocked down 20 three-pointers on 40 attempts on Thursday night. It marked just the third time in NBA Finals history that a team has made 20 threes or more in a Finals game. Additionally, the 20 threes marked a franchise record for threes in a postseason game.

Phoenix led by as many as 11 points in the first half and as much as 15 points in the third quarter, and then Giannis Antetokounmpo came alive. The two-time MVP scored 20 of his game-high 42 points in the quarter and was able to get the lead to as low as five points in third, but it wasn’t enough. Antetokounmpo also added a team-high 12 rebounds, four assists, and three blocks.

Game 3 is Sunday night in Milwaukee.

The Bucks are down 0-2 in this series, and they have been here before in the second round against Brooklyn, and ultimately, they were able to win that series in 7, so Antetokounmpo is still confident.

“We’ve been here before, and we were able to get the job done,” Antetokounmpo said. “Hopefully, we can put ourselves in position, and we can believe in one another, and we can play together, and we can have fun. We can compete, and we can dive on the floor, we can make shots, put ourselves in a position to win the game. But like we know what the deal is, man. Like we got to go back home and protect home.”

The series does not start until the road team wins, so let’s see what happens in Milwaukee.

Notes:

-According to Stathead, Antetokounmpo became just the fourth player in NBA Finals history to record 40-plus points, 10-plus rebounds and 3-plus blocks in a Finals game, joining Shaquille O’Neal (3 times), LeBron James and Kareem Abdul Jabbar.

In addition, Antetokounmpo got to the free throw line 18 times, knocking down 11 of them. It marked the most free throw attempts by a single player in an NBA Finals game since June 7, 2015 (LeBron James).

-Deandre Ayton recorded his fifth-straight double-double tonight and 13th of the postseason, notching 10 points and 11 rebounds to go along with four assists and a game-high three steals. With his double-double tonight, Ayton moved into sole possession of second place for the most double-doubles in one postseason by a Suns player in franchise history, trailing only Charles Barkley’s mark of 22 during the 1993 playoffs.