Tar Heels in NBA: Johnson’s white-hot shooting night, tough defense lead Suns to fifth straight win; Barnes scores 16

By R.L. Bynum

Cameron Johnson had one of those nights players dream about in the NBA — he was at the top of his game at both ends of the court.

With star teammate Devin Booker struggling with his shot and in late foul trouble, Johnson led Phoenix to a 116–107 home victory Tuesday over Minnesota. The 6–8 Johnson, in his fourth NBA season but first as a starter, also took on the challenge of guarding 7–0 Timberwolves star Karl-Anthony Towns.

In the best game by a Tar Heel this season and the second-best of Johnson’s career, he scored 29 points and seven 3-pointers, both game-highs, while tying his career-high with three steals (for a third time). Johnson, who had three assists, two rebounds and a block, was 10 of 17 from the floor and 7 of 11 from 3-point range for a 26.7 game score.

“Offensively, he was really aggressive,” said Suns coach Monty Williams, whose team scored a season-high 17 3-pointers. “Everybody was telling him to shoot the ball. He is more than a shooter. He has the ability to make plays. He is a really good passer.”

Johnson’s only better game in his NBA career was a 38-point, nine 3-pointer, 32.0 game-score effort on March 4 of last season in a 115–114 home victory over the New York Knicks.

Johnson’s game was so good that the Phoenix Suns’ official Twitter account made sure that the world knew his middle name was Jordan. His game did indeed have a Michael Jordan flair to it.

Johnson admitted that it felt like some of his games for Carolina.

“Yeah, a little bit. Felt good; felt good for sure,” Johnson said with a smile.

Johnson’s career-high at UNC was 32 points on Jan. 30, 2018, at Clemson in an 82–78 loss. His best perimeter shooting night was when he scored seven 3-pointers in a 27-point game at Wake Forest on Feb. 16, 2019, a 95–57 victory.

He surpassed 2,000 points for his NBA career with 2,003 in his fifth multiple-3-pointers game of the season after doing it last season in a career-high 22 games.

“I’m just so excited for him,” said teammate Mikal Bridges, who scored 19, said of Johnson. “Every time he shoots, I feel like it’s going to go in every single time.”

The Suns’ fifth consecutive victory pushed them to a Western Conference-leading 6–1 and the second-best record in the league behind 6–0 Milwaukee, doing it without center Deandre Ayton (sprained right ankle).

Johnson held Towns to 24 points, which he’s bettered three times this season.

“I think he is getting more comfortable with the role but defensively he was really good,” Williams said.

He welcomed the assignment to guard Towns.

“That is a challenge I really enjoy,” Johnson said. “They play a little bit different, so being able to execute what we worked on feels pretty good.”

In the third quarter, when the Suns pushed their lead to 18 points, Towns was 3 of 10 from the floor.

“You want to make it hard on them,” Johnson said of Towns and center Rudy Gobert. “They’re playing two bigs so they can have an advantage inside, advantage on the glass, post-ups, stuff like that. So, we want to make it hard on them to not get to what they wanted. If they think K-A-T is a little bigger than me and they try to post him up, we try to not let that be easy. And I think we did a good job tonight. And then offensively, just moving him, keeping him in actions, keeping the bigs occupied.”

Normally the scoring leader for Phoenix is Booker, and he still scored 18 points. But with Booker going 6 of 18 from the floor and 2 of 7 from 3-point range, the Suns needed Johnson’s play to beat Minnesota.


Harrison Barnes just missed a double-double with 16 points, nine rebounds and two assists in Sacramento’s 115–108 Monday win at Charlotte for a 14.1 game score. He’s scored in double figures in the last three games, averaging 15.7 points after scoring only 21 in the first three games.


Coby White missed the Chicago Bulls’ 108–99 Tuesday win at Brooklyn with a left quadriceps contusion and Bulls teammate Tony Bradley didn’t play (coach’s decision) for the fourth consecutive game and sixth time in eight games.

The Nets’ Day’Ron Sharpe didn’t play in that game (coach’s decision) after collecting four points and three rebounds in 11 minutes of their 116–109 home win Monday over Indiana. He hasn’t played in three of the last four games.

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Cole Anthony still is dealing with a right internal oblique injury and missed his third consecutive game, a 116–108 Tuesday loss at Oklahoma City.


Walker Kessler has been recovering from being sick and missed his third consecutive Utah game, a 121–105 Monday home Jazz victory over Memphis.

Cole Anthony, Orlando Magic guard

Age 22 | 6–3, 185 | third NBA season | UNC 2019–20 (1 season)

116–108 Tuesday loss at Oklahoma City — Anthony is out indefinitely with a right internal oblique injury
Season statistics — 4 games, 15.5 points, 41.5 FG%, 35.0 3P%, 73.4 FT%, 4.5 rebounds, 4.3 assists, 1.7 turnovers, 1.0 steal
Next games — 7 p.m. Thursday vs. Golden State; 5 p.m. Saturday vs. Sacramento
———————————————

Harrison Barnes, Sacramento Kings forward

Age 30 | 6–8, 225 | 11th NBA season | UNC 2010–12 (2 seasons)

115–108 Monday win at Charlotte — Started; 37 minutes, 16 points, 4–12 FG, 0–5 3FG, 8–8 FT, 9 rebounds, 2 assists, -1, 14.1 game score
Season statistics — 6 games, 11.3 points, 40.0 FG%, 2 of 18 3FG, 78.8 FT%, 5.5 rebounds, 2.5 assists
Next games 7:30 Wednesday at Miami; 5 p.m. Saturday at Orlando
———————————————

Tony Bradley, Chicago Bulls center

Age 24 | 6–10, 248 | sixth NBA season | UNC 2016–17 (1 season)

108–99 Tuesday win at Brooklyn Didn’t play (coach’s decision)
Season statistics — 2 games, 0 points, 0–1 FG, 1.5 rebounds
Next games 8 p.m. Wednesday vs. Charlotte, Bally Sports Southeast; 7:30 Friday at Boston, ESPN
———————————————

Reggie Bullock, Dallas Mavericks small forward

Age 31 | 6–6, 205 | 10th NBA season | UNC 2010–13 (3 seasons)

Off Monday and Tuesday
Season statistics 6 games, 7.2 points, 38.9 FG%, 41.4 3P%, 75.0 FT%, 3.0 rebounds, 0.8 of an assist
Next games 8:30 Wednesday vs. Utah; 8:30 Friday vs. Toronto
———————————————

Justin Jackson, Boston Celtics forward

Age 27 | 6–8, 220| sixth NBA season | UNC 2014–17 (3 seasons)

Off Monday and Tuesday
Season statistics — 2 games, 6 points, 2–5 FG, 2–5 3FG
Next games — 7:30 Wednesday at Cleveland, ESPN; 7:30 Friday vs. Chicago, ESPN
———————————————

Cameron Johnson, Phoenix Suns power forward

Age 26 | 6–8, 210 | fourth NBA season | UNC 2017–19 (2 seasons)

116–107 Tuesday win vs. Minnesota — Started; 29 points, 10–17 FG, 7–11 3FG, 2–3 FT, 2 rebounds, 3 assists, 3 steals, 1 block, +17, 26.7 game score
Season statistics 7 games, 14.9 points, 45.7 FG%, 44.0 3P%, 72.7 FT%, 3.9 rebounds, 1.9 assist
Next games 10 p.m. Friday vs. Portland; 10 p.m. Saturday vs. Portland, NBATV
———————————————

Walker Kessler, Utah Jazz center

Age 21 | 7–0, 245 | rookie NBA season | UNC 2020–21 (1 season)

121–105 Monday win vs. Memphis Didn’t play (recovering from illness but not cleared by medical staff)
Season statistics 5 games, 5.8 points, 62.5 FG, 60.0 FT, 5.2 rebounds, 1.2 assists, 1.6 blocks
Next games 8:30 Wednesday at Dallas; 10:30 Friday at Los Angeles Lakers
———————————————

Nassir Little, Portland Trail Blazers small forward

Age 22 | 6–5, 220 | fourth NBA season | UNC 2018–19 (1 season)

Off Monday and Tuesday
Season statistics 6 games, 5.3 points, 52.0 FG%, 38.5 3P%, 2.3 rebounds, 0.8 of an assist
Next games 10 p.m. Wednesday vs. Memphis, ESPN; 10 p.m. Friday at Phoenix
———————————————

Theo Pinson, Dallas Mavericks guard

Age 26 | 6–5, 212 | fifth NBA season | UNC 2014–18 (4 seasons)

Off Monday and Tuesday
Season statistics (1 game) — 7 minutes, 2 points, 2–2 FT, 2 rebounds, 1 assist, +8, 3.3 game score
Next games 8:30 Wednesday vs. Utah; 8:30 Friday vs. Toronto
———————————————

Day’Ron Sharpe, Brooklyn Nets center

Age 20 | 6–9, 265 | second NBA season | UNC 2020–21 (1 season)

116–109 Monday win vs. Indiana — 11 minutes, 4 points, 2–2 FG, 3 rebounds, 1 block, 2 turnovers, 2 fouls, -9, 2.6 game score
108–99 Tuesday loss vs. Chicago — Didn’t play (coach’s decision)
Season statistics 5 games, 4.0 points, 44.4 FG%, 0–1 3P, 4.8 rebounds, 1.0 block, 1.0 assist
Next games 7 p.m. Friday at Washington; 7 p.m. Saturday at Charlotte, Bally Sports Southeast
———————————————

Coby White, Chicago Bulls guard

Age 22 | 6–4, 195 | fourth NBA season| UNC 2018–19 (1 season)

108–99 Tuesday win at Brooklyn — Missed game with a left quadriceps contusion
Season statistics 7 games, 8.1 points, 38.2 FG%, 29.4 3P%, 1.7 rebounds, 1.7 assists
Next games 8 p.m. Wednesday vs. Charlotte, Bally Sports Southeast; 7:30 Friday at Boston, ESPN
———————————————
Out while recovering from surgery
Memphis forward Danny Green will miss most of the season after surgery to repair a torn ACL and LCL in his left knee suffered in May.
———————————————
Get an explanation of the game score metric here.

Photo via @Suns

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