Reserves help Suns scorch Thunder

The Associated Press

Phoenix Suns forward Josh Jackson, right, drives on Oklahoma City Thunder guard Raymond Felton during the second half of Sunday’s game in Phoenix.

The Associated PressPHOENIX (AP) — Dragan Bender and Josh Jackson were fourth overall picks in the draft: Bender in 2016, Jackson in 2017.

Both are just 20 years old, and the jury is out on whether they deserved to go that high.

They sure looked good Sunday night, though.

Bender scored 17 of his career-high 20 points in the second half, Jackson had 17 points and 10 rebounds in the first double-double of his rookie season, and the Phoenix reserves played a big role in the Suns’ 114-100 victory over the Oklahoma City Thunder.

“We’re trying to develop young players here and they both stepped up big-time today,” Suns interim coach Jay Triano said.

“I thought they played really well together. Josh would drive and kick and find Dragan on the perimeter and I think there’s a comfort level really developing with those two.”

Bender made a career-best six 3-pointers, going 5 of 6 in the second half. The Suns beat the Thunder for the third straight time dating to last season, with all three wins coming in Phoenix.

Russell Westbrook had his 14th triple-double of the season and second in a row with 26 points, 11 assists and 10 rebounds, but Oklahoma City never led after the first quarter. Paul George added 19 points and Steven Adams 18 for the Thunder.

Devin Booker scored 26 and T.J. Warren 23 for the Suns, who made a season-high 17 3s in 39 attempts while Oklahoma City was 8 of 27.

“We like the way we played,” Triano said. “We shot a lot of 3s, which is what we want to do.”

Papa Ball’s quip draws fire

In other NBA news, Dallas Mavericks coach Rick Carlisle responded angrily Sunday after LaVar Ball’s claim that the Los Angeles Lakers no longer want to play for coach Luke Walton.

Ball, the outspoken father of Lakers point guard Lonzo Ball, made his latest outlandish statement to ESPN for a story published Sunday. He said Walton is too young to coach and “has no control” of the team — comments that Walton said didn’t bother him, but ones that clearly angered some of his NBA coaching colleagues.

Carlisle, the National Basketball Coaches Association president, called the article “a disgrace” and LaVar Ball’s words an “ignorant distraction.”

“ESPN is an NBA partner, and they’ve been a great one,” Carlisle said. “Part of that partnership is the coaches do a lot of things to help them with access, interviews, all those kinds of things, and in exchange for that, they should back up the coaches.

“Printing an article where the father of an NBA player has an opinion that’s printed as anything legitimate erodes trust. It erodes the trust that we built with ESPN, and our coaches are upset.

“Luke Walton does not deserve that,” Carlisle added.


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