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Center of the Sun, Part 1: Suns lose opportunity to close the gap between them and the WC leading Jazz

Your weekly roundup of Suns news, rumors, notes and videos from the prior week plus a preview of the week to come.

Phoenix Suns v Utah Jazz Photo by Melissa Majchrzak/NBAE via Getty Images

Welcome to the weekly news roundup of your Phoenix Suns.

Game Recaps

Phoenix Suns @ Portland Trail Blazers W (127-121) Full Recap

Phoenix Suns vs Indiana Pacers L (122-111) Full Recap

After a great win in Portland followed by a disappointing loss to the Pacers at home, the Suns finished last week still with the 2nd best record in the West. With that loss, they missed an opportunity close the gap between them and the League leading Utah Jazz to 2 games as they also went 1-1. The distance between the Suns and Utah in the West remains at 2.5 games.

It wasn’t a great week but not a disaster either. The Suns are 17-4 since their 0-3 losing streak way back in late January and have not lost consecutive games since then. Every team is going to experience a loss or two to a team that “on paper” they should have beaten every season. That’s just a fact of life in the NBA although that doesn’t make it much of an easier pill to swallow for Suns fans who have already had to gulp down way too many bad tasting pills over the last decade.

At 25-12 the Suns are looking good for the playoffs this year. Their record is no fluke and the question is no longer ‘Will they make it?’ but rather “How far can they go?’ If you pay any attention at all to the news regarding the Suns this year, you don’t need me to tell you why. They’re just plain good again and that’s all that really matters... with the exception of how they could possibly get even better.

In the past our hopes for getting better were most often tied to the NBA Lottery and Draft. The NBA has yet to announce dates for this year’s Lottery drawing or the Draft and I couldn’t care less. The Suns are looking at drafting in the mid- to high-20’s this year and I dare say there’s not a lot of Phoenix fans that are concerned about draft position right now. It still feels kind of odd to think it but I’d be one of the happiest guys in the world if the Suns wind up with the very last pick in the 1st round of this year’s draft.

It surely feels odd but in a good sort of way.

Game Highlights


Devin Booker drops 35 points as Suns come back to beat Trail Blazers


Key Stats

108.1 OffRtg (9th), 115.6 DefRtg (9th), minus 7.5 NetRtg (1st) in losses

This is a fairly odd statistic that says to me that even in losses, the Suns are still playing pretty good basketball. In their 12 losses this season they were defeated by an average of 7.9 points per game. When you take out the two blowout losses (by 21 to the Wizards on Jan. 11 and by 22 to the Pelicans on Feb. 3), that figure drops to 5.2 ppg in losses.

32.2% 3PT shooting by opponents in Suns wins (5th), 40.5% 3PT shooting by opponents in Suns losses (20th)

Overall the Suns are 4th in the NBA in defending the 3-point line (34.9%). Whether it’s a drop-off in defensive intensity, a lack of concentration or just opposing teams getting hot from deep, opponents are usually killing the Suns from three in Suns losses. The average number of three point attempts by opponents in losses (32.1) and wins (32.5) is negligible though. The Suns also only average hitting 32.8% from three in losses (17th) as opposed to 41.5% in wins (6th). The average number of 3-point attempts by the Suns in wins (32.5, 20th) vs losses (39.4, 5th) is not negligible.

Random stats: 14 of the Suns’ 25 wins this season have been by 10 points or more (56.0%). Only 3 of their 12 losses have been by 10 points or more (25.0%). In just 146 games played (18 games short of two full seasons’ worth) Deandre Ayton is already 33rd on the Suns’ list of All-Time Rebounding leaders with 1,581. His current per game career average of 10.83 rebounds is 4th All-Time.

Statistics courtesy of and/or

Quotes of the Week

“We did our job (in the) first half (of the season) and (the) second half is where we see how really tough and mentally tough we are as well to go out there and keep fighting every night.” - Mikal Bridges

“Those guys, Chris, Jae (Crowder), E’Twaun (Moore), Langston (Galloway) — older players have an understanding of the psyche of other teams, what’s coming as far as the season is concerned. Those are things that you appreciate when they’re conveyed to guys that don’t have the experience.” - Monty Williams

“We have a lot of hoopers on this team that know how to play the game of basketball so you know it can be anybody, any night.” - Devin Booker

“Offense takes care of itself when you’re playing good defense.” Cameron Payne

Rookie Report

Jalen Smith - 5.2 mpg, 1.5 ppg, 1.0 rpg, 0.2 apg, 0.0 spg, 0.2 bpg, 0.1 TO, 0.4 PF, 25.0 3PT%

  • This week - 2 DNP-CD

Ty-Shon Alexander - 2.5 mpg, 0.0 ppg, 0.5 rpg, 0.5 apg, 0.0 spg, 0.0 bpg, 0.0 TO, 0.5 PF, 0.0 3PT%

  • This week - 2 DNP-CD

Injury Status Report

Cameron Johnson - Health & Safety Protocols/Game Time Decision.

Previewing the week ahead

Monday, March 15 - Phoenix Suns vs Memphis Grizzlies 7:00 pm AZT

Thursday, March 18 - Phoenix Suns vs Minnesota Timberwolves 7:00 pm AZT

Friday, March 19 - Phoenix Suns vs Minnesota Timberwolves 7:00 pm AZT

Sunday, March 21 - Phoenix Suns vs LA Lakers 7:00 pm AZT

It’s back to the grindstone this week for the Suns with four games scheduled although they catch a bit of a break with them all being played at home.

First up, the 17-18 Memphis Grizzlies come to town for the third and final meeting of these two teams this season. The season series is tied up at 1-1 and the Griz are likely looking for some payback for the 31 point pounding the Suns handed them on Feb. 20 in Memphis. They were very shorthanded that night and will still be without Jaren Jackson Jr. tonight but are otherwise healthy. Memphis is 4-6 in their last 10 games with only one of those wins coming against a team with a winning record. They are a tough defensive team (6th in DefRtg) but not nearly as sharp on the offensive end (19th in OffRtg). The Suns are just the better team overall and after a disappointing loss to the Pacers on Saturday, I think they will regroup and come into this game more focused and determined which will result in another Suns win.

After two days off, the woeful 9-30 Minnesota Timberwolves come to Phoenix for a back-to-back set of games on Thursday and Friday nights. The T-Wolves are 2-8 in their last 10 games with their wins coming at the expense of the New Orleans Pelicans who are even worse defensively (28th) than Minnesota (26th) and against Portland whose defense is also very bad (29th) last night. Although only a 2-point win, it was still fairly impressive to beat the 22-16 Blazers in Minnesota but it shouldn’t overly worry Suns fans. That win took a career high 34 point game from rookie Anthony Edwards (whose season average is 15.4 ppg) to push them over the top and it’s unlikely to happen against the Suns defense. Minnesota has been pretty bad on offense and defense this year (26th in both) and has the 2nd worst Net Rating behind only Cleveland. The Suns should win both of these games as long as they don’t decide they can win them with only a half-hearted effort.

Finally the big test of the week comes on Sunday when the 25-13 Lakers come to town. Although LA will still be without Anthony Davis, they will be eager to get revenge for the 114-104 loss the Suns handed them back on March 2 that put the Suns a half game ahead of them in the Western Conference standings and tie up the season series between the teams at 1-1. The Suns will also be eager to get a win as this would give them a potential playoff seeding tie-breaker against LA at the end of the season regardless of the outcome of their 3rd game to be played May 9th. With Booker getting ejected in the 3rd quarter of that first game, the Suns’ win was a team effort fueled by good defense and excellent 3-point shooting by the Suns (55.2%). Will they get that again on Sunday? I’d say yes on the defense but probably not on the 3-pt shooting. As much as I want to call this a win for the Suns, I’m going the other way and saying that the Lakers get their revenge and tie up the Suns/Lakers season series.

I believe the Suns will go 3-1 this week.

What’s your prediction?

COTS2 : Inside the Suns with the Fantable, Suns news, trivia, weekly history, etc. will be posted on Tuesday morning this week.

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