The Arizona Republic
Suns’ Landale impacts win over Jazz
SACRAMENTO – Phoenix Suns coach Monty Williams may stick with Bismack Biyombo as his backup five, but Jock Landale only gave him reason to reconsider that decision.
After not playing in three straight games, Landale provided Phoenix a necessary spark to open the fourth quarter in Saturday night’s 113-112 win over Utah at Footprint Center.
“It was good,” Landale said. “I think that’s the benefit of being on this team is we have three guys pretty much at every position that can hold it down. They call on me to come in and help out and I just went in there and played hard and that’s the stuff I can control is going in and playing hard and helping the team out.”
The 6-11 Landale delivered four points on 2-of-2 shooting, an offensive rebound and an assist in just five minutes of work.
“He had the loudest five minutes I have ever seen,” Suns big Deandre Ayton said.
Landale gave Phoenix the lead twice on back-to-back buckets off Devin Booker finds. Then he delivered his own dime to Damion Lee for a 3 to put the Suns up for good, 95-93, with 8:05
remaining in the game.
“Sitting for two hours a night after warmups,” Booker said. “That says a lot about him, his personality and his drive. He came in and had five minutes. That is a big five minutes right there. That is a big part of what we did in the fourth quarter.”
The Suns went from trailing by three points to start the fourth to having a four-point advantage, 97-93, when Ayton checked into the game for Landale with 6:36 left in the game.
Before the start of the quarter, Ayton walked onto the court and gave Landale words of encouragement – and a special request.
“I told him I need your energy,” Ayton said. “I knew when you get in this thing, you’re going to turn this up. I need that energy.”
Then Landale brought the energy and then some.
“It turned the whole thing around, put us in a comfortable position to really close this thing out the right way,” Ayton said. “That is what we need, Coach says this is the system and that is how we run our system. Next man up.”
Averaging 7.1 per game and 14.1 minutes in his second NBA season, Landale had played in Phoenix’s first 15 games as the backup five to Ayton, but Williams went with Biyombo against New York to help match the physical size of the Knicks’ bigs.
Biyombo responded with 10 rebounds in the 116-95 victory.
As he’s done in the past, Williams stuck with the rotation the next three games against the Lakers, Pistons and Jazz. Biyombo plays with great energy and physicality, rebounds and puts pressure on the rim on his drives and rolls, all qualities Williams values.
However, Landale is more of an offensive threat than Biyombo, who is averaging 3.2 points this season.
Seeing how Biyombo had not only failed to score Saturday, but didn’t have a rebound in eight minutes, Williams went with Landale to open the fourth.
“I just felt like we needed some type of injection,” Williams said. “It wasn’t like we weren’t playing hard. We just needed a bit of a boost.”
Williams has said it’s tough for him to play three bigs in game, but the move to Landale after playing Ayton and Biyombo contributed to the win.
“I told the coaches like it looks good because it worked,” Williams said.
Landale’s family made the global trip from Australia to Phoenix going into the four-game homestand as they had never seen him play in an NBA game in person.
Not playing against New York stung Landale, but he kept working, and his family finally saw him play in America in the league.
“My brother and sister are out here,” Landale said as his siblings were in arena waiting to see him after the game.
Williams isn’t promising Landale will play Monday at Sacramento, but the second-year big plans to remain ready if his name is called.
“Always,” Landale said. “That’s nothing new. We’ve stayed consistent with that with the playing time and not playing. Obviously when I’m not playing, I go a lot harder in practice. We’ve been getting after it twice a day. That’s always important. It’s something I have to maintain even if I get called on to play extended minutes again.”
Landale has been working extra after practice with assistant coach Mark Bryant to stay prepared.
“MB has been telling me about his work and what he’s been doing away from the game,” Williams said about Landale.
“He’s been preparing himself for the moments like this. Look, I could go right back to Biz the next game. We’ll just have to wait and see, but we were having a tough time in the pick-and-roll and finishing around the basket outside of DA and I just felt like we needed some type of injection, something new that could help us have a competitive advantage. That’s all your trying to do. Every decision is based on that.”