Tar Heels in NBA: Cam Johnson has efficient career night for red-hot Suns; White shakes off rough season start with 14 points

By R.L. Bynum

Cameron Johnson had a career-best game on the same night that Coby White finally found a rhythm after coming back from an injury.

Johnson was efficient with 22 points in 23 minutes in the Phoenix Suns’ 126–97 home victory Sunday over Denver for their 13th consecutive victory.

He shot 9 of 15 from the floor and his four 3-pointers gave him 250 for his career. His 16.2 game score was his best since putting up a 19.1 last season on Dec. 27 at Sacramento when he scored 21 points.

“Just being aggressive,” said Johnson said, who also had two assists and a steal. “A lot of it is the unselfishness we play with. I was the beneficiary of some open looks.”

Johnson has scored in double figures in four of the last six games, and has 17 3-pointers in his last seven games

The red-hot Suns, 13–3 and second in the Western Conference, scored 48 points in the first quarter to take a 20-point lead.

“I think we can get to 50,” said Johnson, who netted 11 of his points in the fourth quarter.

Johnson’s previous best scoring game was 21 points, which he scored March 3, 2020, in his rookie season against Toronto and on Dec. 27 last season at Sacramento. His previous season-highs were 13 points on Nov. 19 against Dallas and a 10.4 game score in a 10-point game at Houston on Nov. 14.

Johnson bettered that 22-point total seven times during his college career (five times at Carolina), topped by scoring 32 points in UNC’s 82–78 loss at Clemson on Jan. 30, 2018.

After mustering only one field goal and two points in his first three games of the season, White scored 14 points in 20 minutes in the Chicago Bulls’ 109–103 victory over the New York Knicks, his first home game of the season.

The night was a big confidence-builder after he struggled from 3-point range and inside the arc, and even missed layups during those first three games.

“For me to just have a game like I had tonight, everybody was basically like, ‘I told you so,’ ” White said. “I feel like every teammate has told me, ‘It’s coming, bro. Just stay patient, your time is coming.’ ”

Zach LaVine, one of the few current teammates who White played with last season with the Bulls, and Derrick Jones Jr. poured water on White’s head while the former UNC star was doing a postgame interview. But he just kept smiling.

“Nothing happens overnight. I feel in society nowadays, everyone thought my first game back I was supposed to do what I did tonight,” White said. “And that’s just not reality. I haven’t played in six months. I’m on a new team. I knew a game was coming. I just had to trust my work but also take my time. Nobody rushed me — the front office, the players, the coaching staff. They all just told me to be confident.”

White, who made his season debut on Nov. 15 after recovering from offseason surgery to repair a torn labrum in his left shoulder, was 5 of 11 from the floor and 3 of 6 from 3-point range and added two assists.

“I’m just personally happy for him,” Coach Billy Donovan said. “People look at him the last couple games and [wonder] how far off is he. But, for me, when you watch a guy every single day work the way he does and never points fingers at anything, always tries to figure out what he can do better, as a coach you have a real appreciation for a professional like that.”

With White getting little practice time, there was speculation about having him get some action in the G League.

‘‘I haven’t really talked to him about that,’’ Donovan said. ‘‘The way our schedule is set up now, it’s pretty hard. The West Coast trip and then the back-to-back, we haven’t had any practice time. I think he does need some of that, quite honestly.’’

Not only does White have to get back into game shape, he’s learning to play with new  teammates.

‘‘He’s trying to figure out his role and how he can play, all those types of things,” Donovan said. “He wants to do the right thing. But I think he’s been out of sorts a little bit, which I fully anticipated with the amount of time he’s missed.’’


White reflected after the game about all that he’s been through beyond comparatively minor issues such as surgery and a shooting slump to explain how handling adversity isn’t difficult for him.

“I’ve been going through stuff my whole life,” he said. “Growing up where I grew up, where I came from. My parents are resilient. My brother is resilient. My sister is resilient. I think my whole family kind of defied the odds of a typical family from Goldsboro, North Carolina, living in a single-wide trailer growing up. So, I feel like for me, my whole life, I had to fight and I’m going to continue to fight.”

Tony Bradley had seven points and four rebounds for the Bulls, who are 12–5 and tied with the Brooklyn Nets for the best record in the Eastern Conference.

It was another rough night for Reggie Bullock, who was scoreless in 31 minutes, missing both of his shots, in a 97–91 Dallas (9–7) road loss to the Los Angeles Clippers.

It was his third scoreless game this season and his sixth consecutive game without scoring in double figures. In the last six games, Bullock is 2 of 19 from 3-point range.

Wayne Ellington was 1 of 5 from 3-point range and scored four points in 11 minutes in the Los Angeles Lakers’ 121–116 road loss to Detroit. In the last four games, he’s made only there of 21 3-point attempts.

Cole Anthony, Orlando Magic guard
Off Sunday; has been ruled out for Monday’s game in Milwaukee because of a sprained right ankle, marking the second game he has missed.
Season statistics — 15 games, 19.9 points, 41.1 FG%, 37.3 3FG%, 86.7 FT%, 6.9 rebounds, 5.7 assists
Up next — 8 p.m. Monday at Milwaukee; 7 p.m. Wednesday vs. Charlotte, BSSE
Harrison Barnes, Sacramento Kings forward
Off Sunday
Season statistics — 17 games, 19.9 points, 48.4 FG%, 41.2 3FG%, 85.6 FT%, 7.5 rebounds, 2.5 assists
Up next — 10 p.m. Monday vs. Philadelphia, NBATV; 10 p.m. Wednesday vs. Portland
Tony Bradley, Chicago Bulls center
109–103 win vs. New York —
18 minutes, 7 points, 3–5 FG, 1–1 FT, 4 rebounds, 1 turnover, +11, 5.3 game score
Season statistics — 14 games, 3.7 points, 53.3 FG%, 4.5 rebounds, 0.5 of an assist
Up next — 8 p.m. Monday vs. Indiana; 8 p.m. Wednesday at Houston
Reggie Bullock, Dallas Mavericks guard/forward
97–91 loss at Los Angeles Clippers
31 minutes, 0 points, 0–2 FG, 0–2 3FG, 5 rebounds, 1 assist, 1 turnover, -1, -0.6 game score
Season statistics —
16 games, 5.9 points, 36.4 FG%, 28.4 3P%, 60.0 FT%, 2.9 rebounds, 0.9 of an assist
Up next —
10:30 Tuesday at Los Angeles Clippers; 8:30 Saturday vs. Memphis
Ed Davis, Cleveland Cavaliers center
Off Sunday
Season statistics —
5 games, 2.6 points, 66.7 FG%, 50.0 FT%, 5.2 rebounds, 0.2 of an assist
Up next — 7 p.m. Monday vs. Brooklyn, NBATV; 7 p.m. Wednesday vs. Phoenix
Wayne Ellington, Los Angeles Lakers guard
121–116 win at Detroit
11 minutes, 4 points, 1–5 FG, 1–5 3FG, 1–1 FT, 1 rebound, -6, 1.2 game score
Season statistics — 10 games, 6.2 points, 33.3 FG%, 33.9 3FG%, 1.8 rebounds, 0.5 of an assist
Up next — 7:30 p.m. Tuesday at New York, TNT; 7 p.m. Wednesday at Indiana
Danny Green, Philadelphia 76ers forward
Off Sunday
Season statistics — 11 games, 7.5 points, 45.2 FG%, 41.8 3FG%, 4–4 FT, 2.5 rebounds, 1.0 assists
Up next — 10 p.m. Monday at Sacramento, NBATV; 10 p.m. Wednesday at Golden State, ESPN
Cameron Johnson, Phoenix Suns wing
126–97 win vs. Denver
23 minutes, 22 points, 9–15 FG, 4–10 3FG, 0–1 FT, 1 rebound, 2 assists, 1 steal, +19, 16.2 game score
Season statistics —
16 games, 8.4 points, 40.5 FG%, 36.8 3FG%, 3.3 rebounds, 1.1 assists
Up next — 8:30 Monday at San Antonio; 7 p.m. Wednesday at Cleveland
Nassir Little, Portland Trail Blazers wing
Off Sunday
Season statistics — 17 games, 7.9 points, 48.5 FG%, 31.4 3P%, 82.6 FT%, 5.5 rebounds, 0.7 of an assist
Up next — 10 p.m. Tuesday vs. Denver, TNT; 10 p.m. Wednesday at Sacramento
Day’Ron Sharpe, Brooklyn Nets center
Off SundaySeason NBA statistics — 7 games, 2.4 points, 50.0 FG%, 33.3% 3P%, 2–4 FT, 2.3 rebounds
Season G League statistics — 2 games, 15.5 points, 4–12 FG, 40.9 3P%, 71.4 FT%, 12.5 rebounds, 4 steals, 6 blocks
Up next — 7 p.m. Monday at Cleveland, NBATV; 7:30 p.m. Wednesday at Boston, ESPN
Coby White, Chicago Bulls guard
109–103 win vs. New York —
20 minutes, 14 points, 5–11 FT, 3–6 3FG, 1–2 FT, 2 assists, +9, 8.5 game score
Season statistics — 4 games, 4.0 points, 27.3 FG%, 27.3 3P%, 1.0 rebounds, 0.8 of an assist
Up next — 8 p.m. Monday vs. Indiana; 8 p.m. Wednesday at Houston
In G League
Justin Jackson, Texas Legends (Mavericks affiliate) forward
Season statistics — 4 games, 23.8 points, 55.9% FG, 52.6% 3FG, 62.5 FT%, 9.5 rebounds, 2.8 assists, 0.8 of a steal
Up next — 8:30 Friday and Saturday vs. Greensboro (Hornets affiliate)
Theo Pinson, Maine Celtics guard
Season statistics —
6 games, 17.7 points, 49.3 FG%, 43.6 3FG%, 91.7 FT%, 4.8 rebounds, 4.0 assists, 1.3 steals
Up next — 7 p.m. Saturday and Monday at Westchester (Knicks affiliate)

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