Torrey Craig, Phoenix Suns
#0 Torrey Craig of the Phoenix Suns. The Bright Side/Twitter


  • Monty Williams starting Torrey Craig drew the ire of the Suns fanbase
  • His back-to-back performances justified him getting the starting nod
  • "It was the timing of the shots that he made," Chris Paul said of Craig's game

The 2023 NBA playoffs has had its fair share of unsung heroes thus far with most matchups heading into a pivotal third game and has tested the resolve and wit of many coaches.

For the Phoenix Suns, starting Torrey Craig over Josh Okogie was a decision by head coach Monty Williams and their coaching staff that drew mixed reactions from fans as the latter forward was firmly entrenched as the starter to close out the regular season.

Against a Los Angeles Clippers team that has a player like Eric Gordon who could catch fire at any time, putting Craig in the starting lineup gave the Suns an opportunity to match his production.

In Game 1, Gordon knocked down three triples as part of his 19 points that helped the Clippers stay in step with the Suns throughout, but his last three cemented the upset as the Suns were just three points behind.

Craig would go on to be the third-best player for Phoenix as he scored two three-pointers of his own en route to 22 points that helped keep them afloat.

Looking towards the recently concluded Game 2, Craig again played an even bigger role to help the Suns even up the series at one game apiece despite the looming threat of Gordon once again.

While it certainly did not hurt their chances that Devin Booker would explode for 38 points on 14-of-22 shooting and Kevin Durant pouring in 25 of his own, Craig's 17 points while going 5-of-8 from beyond the arc was the x-factor for them in Game 2.

The Clippers already had their hands full defending inside the arc with the Suns' midrange-heavy quartet of Booker, Durant, Chris Paul and Deandre Ayton, which allowed Craig to put on his best Kyle Korver impersonation.

Unlike Game 1 where Craig took a lot of shots inside the paint, he was strictly limited to just one and it happened late in the fourth off an assist from Booker.

Of his eight attempts, five of them were from the corner and he made all but one.

Ball movement appeared to be a major point of emphasis for the Suns in Game 2 as they amassed 30 total assists with Booker's nine leading the way and it certainly helped open up the floor.

Craig's attempts were relatively unchallenged for the most part as he was the beneficiary of the ball zipping around the floor combined with his ability to get into position at the right moment - effectively killing the Clippers' scoring runs.

Additionally, serving as the primary defender on Kawhi Leonard helped prevent him from going off for 38 points like in Game 1, relatively limiting him to 31 points in a must-win for Phoenix.

Going into Game 3, the Clippers' defense will surely key in on leaving a man to guard Craig at all times as he cannot go off like this once again if they hope of stopping a seemingly rejuvenated Suns squad from going up 2-1 in the series.

As for Williams and his coaching staff, starting Craig may have been the unpopular option at the time, but the results are speaking for themselves thus far and his hustle on both ends of the floor will continue to be a factor moving forward.

The stars of each team will always put up big numbers when it comes to the playoffs, but even they know that the so-called "others" will have to pull their own weight as evidenced by Paul's comments about Craig in the postgame press conference.

"Craig made just about every big shot for us tonight. If you watch games, it's the timing of the shots. Sometimes when the team's got a chance to cut it from six [points] to four, three, and then Craig would hit a three to put us up nine," he said.

"It was the timing of the shots that he made. That's big in a series."

Game 3 between the fourth-seeded Suns and the fifth-seeded Clippers takes place at Arena on Thursday, April 20 at 10:30 PM ET.

Torrey Craig, Kawhi Leonard
#0 Torrey Craig of the Phoenix Suns (right) guarding #2 of the Los Angeles Clippers Kawhi Leonard (left). Ultimate Sports & Entertainment/Twitter