The Phoenix Suns needed a spark March 16 to snap their three-game losing streak. They got one from Josh Okogie, whose block sealed a 116-113 win over the Orlando Magic.
But to Okogie, the potentially game-saving block was “nothing new” to him.
“I’ve been doing this since I got to the league. It’s nothing new to me,” Okogie, now in his fifth year, told reporters after the game. “I love the challenge. I love the opportunity to go out there and guard Stephen Curry, go out there and guard Giannis [Antetokounmpo], Banchero, Franz Wagner. I think it’s fun, and I’m always up to the challenge.”
With the Suns up by 3 points with 4.7 seconds to go in the fourth quarter, Okogie stepped up to block a 3-point shot by rookie phenom Paolo Banchero. The ball came down into the hands of the Suns’ Ish Wainwright, who flung it downcourt to Okogie as time expired.
The Suns have been looking to find a defensive specialist after former wing Mikal Bridges was dealt to the Brooklyn Nets in the Kevin Durant trade. It appears as though Okogie is starting to answer the call as someone who can fill the void left by Bridges’ departure.
Suns head coach Monty Williams praised Okogie for the effort.
“He’s one of the few guards in the league that can get up fast enough and high enough to block jump shots,” Williams said, according to Sports Illustrated’s Remy Mastey.
Josh Okogie Is Delivering in a Starting Role for the Phoenix Suns
After Kevin Durant’s pregame injury on March 8, the Suns were put in a difficult position as it looked to come together and establish chemistry on the fly before the NBA playoffs. Since trading Bridges to the Nets, the Suns have needed a defensive stopper to guard the oppositions’ best players.
Fortunately for Phoenix, Okogie has been “playing the best basketball of his career,” according to Arizona Sports, after being “unable to carve out a consistent role” during his four years with the Minnesota Timberwolves.
Since the Durant trade in February, Okogie has started in all 14 games in which he’s appeared, and the Suns are 8-6 during that stretch. His 15.1 points per game since February 9 is more than double his career scoring of average of 6.5 points.
He had signed a one-year deal in July 2022 for $1.97 million, or just over the league’s minimum for a player with four years of experience.
Now, the Suns seem to be getting their money’s worth out of Okogie.
“He just plays the right way. He plays hard,” the Suns’ Chris Paul said in a December 18 story published in The Arizona Republic. “We keep talking about how contagious it is, so we just gonna keep it going.”
Phoenix Suns Look to Build Off Win Against Orlando Magic
Phoenix continues to wait for Durant to return to the floor, with enough time to gel quickly before the start of the playoffs. The Suns now find themselves at 38-33 for the year, good enough for fourth place in the Western Conference standings, but they remain just two games up in the standings from potentially falling to sixth place.
For now, the Suns will focus on the idea that the rest of the roster is starting to come together. If Okogie can keep making winning plays on a nightly basis, the Suns might have just found their new defensive anchor.