The Phoenix Suns are a machine.
In beating the Washington Wizards on Thursday night, the Suns extended their streak of home wins to 13 straight.
By holding the Wizards to 98 points, the Suns are now 10-0 when the other team scores less than 100 points. And they are now 20-0 when holding teams under 110 points.
They have the most wins in the NBA (23), the best winning percentage on the road among West teams (10-3, 76.9%), the best record in the clutch (12-1, 92.3%), the most wins against winning teams (12) and the best winning percentage (12-3, 80%) against winning teams.
That’s just the major categories they’re best in. They are top five in many other categories as well.
Phoenix moved to 13-2 on the season when playing at home and extended their home winning streak to 13 games, the 11th time in franchise history the team reached a 13-game winning streak at home.
Thursday marked the 10th time this season the Suns have held their opponent to fewer than 100 points, moving to 10-0 in such games. Phoenix is 20-0 this season when holding their opponent to fewer than 110 points.
With the win, the Suns moved to 18-0 on the season when leading entering the fourth quarter. The Suns are tied with Golden State for the best record in the league, and yet not one player is having a career year.
Two of their top four players have missed significant time. The Suns went 7-1 in the eight games Ayton has missed. They’ve so far gone 5-2 in the seven games Devin Booker has missed (6-2 if you count the game he left in the second quarter). When healthy, Booker’s averages are down. He has posted 23.2 points, his lowest mark since the 2016-17 season. His 45.8 FG% is the lowest since 2017-19.
How is this possible? How are the Suns recording the above statistics without breakout performances for their superstars?
It begins with the Point God. Chris Paul has been instrumental in the success of the Suns and continues, even at his advanced age, to set the standard for excellence. He is leading the league with 10.1 assists despite not being the most athletic player on the court.
Players averaging 10+ assists this season:— StatMuse (@statmuse) December 17, 2021
Chris Paul, that's it. pic.twitter.com/Fm1fJlBwPF
“He’s a megamind when it comes to basketball,” JaVale McGee said of CP3 following the Suns win on Thursday night. “And the fact that he’s a point guard who controls the ball the whole game is even better. He sees things before they happen, he sees things that happened four plays ago that he can tell you about.”
“His mind is just really basketball oriented,” McGee continued, “and he knows where guys are supposed to be, and he knows where to put the ball. And when you have a point guard like that as your starting point guard, the backup point guard looks up to him, and takes nuances from him, and it just trickles down.”
Hall of Fame leader/mentor/maestro? Check.
Key acquisitions by James Jones this past offseason has raised the basement of the Suns’ roster. The depth the team possesses has allowed them to put forth quality outings despite being without their top scoring threats.
“We’re deep for sure,” Landry Shamet observed. “I think more than anything is we play together, we trust each other, play the right way and a way that enables us to have those numbers and multiple guys in double figures. Every night it could be somebody different in the spot. We have a lot of interchangeable pieces, guys who are comfortable in filling in different roles.”
Eight Suns scored in double figures against the Wizards on Thursday, including all five starters, as Phoenix moved to 15-1 on the year when six or more players scored 10+ points each. Thursday marked the first time at least eight Suns players scored in double figures since May 16, 2021 at San Antonio.
“The ability to have that many guys score, especially on a night like this, when the energy, it wasn’t bad at all, but we knew we were going to be hurting in this game,” head coach Monty Williams commented after the win over the Wizards. “I think the guys are still sore from that Portland game because it was long and physical. It’s just cool to see that many guys score the ball like that, and to get that kind of production from your bench is an indicator of the depth we have.”
Due to the depth of the team, coupled with the team’s performance relative to putting the Wizards away, the starters received some much needed rest on Thursday. It’s one thing to get players game day rest on the front end of a back-to-back; you know they’ll have to play the next night. But with a day off, rest on a game day, and then two days off afterwards, the rest comes at a key time for Phoenix.
“To rest our guys in that situation, the starters anyway, is a bonus to us after Chris (Paul) playing 40 plus the other night,” Monty noted. “The energy exerted in that game against Portland, I didn’t know what to expect tonight, first game back from a back-to-back on the road, but I was just proud of how our team responded to the week that we’ve had.”
The culture in Phoenix has changed drastically over the past few seasons. Gone are the days of “I dont wanna be here”. This team has bonded in a way that few Suns’ teams in the past have. There is a buy-in into what their vision is and a comradery unlike any we’ve seen in the franchise's past.
They go to Mercury games together. They miss each other on days off. They are in team in every aspect of the word.
This translates to their performance on the court.
“We’ve handled a number of things thrown at us, and we continue to band together, and continue to get better, continue to want to get better,” said Landry Shamet. “There haven’t been any nights where it’s felt like we’ve taken the foot off the gas or lacked any sort of attention to detail or urgency.
“I think everybody from top to bottom knows what we’re here to do, what we’re trying to do, and just ebbing and flowing with what comes, what comes our way,” he added. “And so that’s one thing I’ve learned about our pedigree here, everybody is locked in on that and that feels good.”
Organic chemistry? Check.
With the win, the Suns move to 23-5 on the season, the team’s best start to a season through the first 28 games since opening the 2004-05 season 24-4. It ties as the second-best record in franchise history through the first 28 games, matching the 1992-93 and 1980-81 Suns’ 23-5 starts.
They are doing it not by lighting up the advanced metrics or on the back of a superstar. They are doing it in a team manner, led by a Point God, and executing their game plan from top to bottom of the roster. They are designed for sustainable success.
We will see how the remainder of the season progresses and how Devin Booker responds when coming back from his injury. But you have to be pleased not only with where the Suns are t, but the manner in which they are doing it.