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Center of the Sun, Part 1: Suns keep rolling on toward playoffs

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

Minnesota Timberwolves v Phoenix Suns Photo by Michael Gonzales/NBAE via Getty Images

Welcome to the weekly news roundup of your Phoenix Suns.

Game Recaps

Phoenix Suns vs Memphis Grizzlies W (122-99) Full Recap

Phoenix Suns vs Minnesota Timberwolves L (123-119) Full Recap

Phoenix Suns vs Minnesota Timberwolves W (113-101) Full Recap

Phoenix Suns vs LA Lakers W (111-94) Full Recap

Despite a disappointing loss to the Timberwolves, the Suns had a very good week. In winning 3 of 4 games they cut the first place Jazz’s lead over them to 2 games, put themselves up one full game over the 3rd place Lakers and ensured they own the playoff tiebreaker over LA.

With 31 games left to play, the Suns will have plenty of opportunities to keep chipping away at that Jazz lead and move to the top of the Western Conference standings. While that won’t be an easy task, it’s not out of reach as long as the Suns keep piling up wins.

The Suns are 8-2 in their last 10 games while the Jazz have gone 5-5 in their last 10. They aren’t immune to losing a few games that they shouldn’t either as 2 of their 5 losses came at the hands of the 18-24 Pelicans and the 15-26 Wizards. The Jazz do have an easier remaining strength of schedule than the Suns but they’ve hit a bit of a rough patch lately. In their last 10 games their 7th ranked defense (for the entire season) has dropped off to 22nd, their offense went from 3rd to 6th and their number 1 net rating slipped to 10th. During the Suns past 10 games their net ranking rose to 2nd while their offense and defense remained steady at 8th and 3rd respectively.

All that could turn out to just be a blip on the radar and meaningless in the long run but for now it’s encouraging. The Suns need to continue to work to better themselves and the team though as they certainly can’t count on anyone doing them any favors in the race to the playoffs. There are other playoff hungry teams nipping at their heals as well.


Game Highlights

GRIZZLIES at SUNS | FULL GAME HIGHLIGHTS | March 15, 2021

Devin Booker 27 pts 3 threes 5 asts vs Grizzlies

TIMBERWOLVES at SUNS | FULL GAME HIGHLIGHTS | March 18, 2021

Devin Booker 35 pts 3 threes 6 asts vs Wolves

TIMBERWOLVES at SUNS | FULL GAME HIGHLIGHTS | March 19, 2021

Langston Galloway Highlights vs. Timberwolves - 14 points, 3 assists in 16 minutes!

LAKERS at SUNS | FULL GAME HIGHLIGHTS | March 21, 2021

Deandre Ayton Highlights vs. Lakers - 26 points, 8 rebounds, 2 assists!


Key Stats

98.38 (23rd) vs 102.50 (4th) in Pace

It’s been often noted that the Suns were generally playing at a slow pace this season and were at one time dead last in pace. Now they are up to 23rd in pace for the season and last week they played at the 4th highest pace in the NBA. They have been gradually increasing their pace as the season has progressed and the players have grown more accustomed to each other.

114.8 OffRtg (8th), 108.2 DefRtg (3rd), 6.5 Net Rtg (3rd)

Those are the Suns offensive, defensive and net ratings for the season.

Random stats: In last week’s four games Chris Paul doubled his 1.4 steals per game rate for the season to 2.8 per game. There are currently 7 players on the Suns’ roster that are in the top 50 of the Suns All-Time list for the average number of 3-pointers made per game (C.Johnson, D. Booker, C. Paul, M. Bridges, D. Saric, F. Kaminsky and J. Carter).

Statistics courtesy of NBA.com and/or Basketball-Reference.com.


Quotes of the Week

“He (Chris Paul) gets you kind of mentally locked in before the game starts. Before you even know your opponent yet.” - Mikal Bridges

“D.A. is full of personality. If you’re around him, you can’t help but to love him because of his energy and how good of a person he is. I think myself as well as Jae [Crowder] and ‘Book,’ all of us are showing him what it takes to make it to the next level... I think he is more than capable, and it’s great to be a part of this process with him.” - Chris Paul

“He (Chris Paul) thinks about things that normal players don’t think of throughout the game. Know what you’re going to do in the fourth quarter. Especially as a player my age, knowing what you’re going to do in the fourth quarter, knowing that there’s no mistakes tolerated in the fourth quarter.” - Deandre Ayton


Rookie Report

Jalen Smith - 4.6 mpg, 1.4 ppg, 1.1 rpg, 0.1 apg, 0.0 spg, 0.1 bpg, 0.2 TO, 0.5 PF, 22.2 3PT%

  • This week - 2.4 mpg, 1.0 ppg, 1.3 rpg, 0.0 apg, 0.0 spg, 0.0 bpg, 0.7 TO, 1.0 PF, 0.0 3PT%, 1 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 - 4 DNP CD

Injury Status Report

No current injuries.


Previewing the week ahead

Tuesday, March 23 - Phoenix Suns @ Miami Heat 5:00 pm AZT

Wednesday, March 24 - Phoenix Suns @ Orlando Magic 5:00 pm AZT

Thursday March 25 - NBA Trade Deadline (Noon AZT).

Friday, March 26 - Phoenix Suns @ Tampa Bay Raptors 4:30 pm AZT

Sunday, March 28 - Phoenix Suns @ Charlotte Hornets 10:00 am AZT

It’s another four-game week for the Suns, this time all on the road against Eastern Conference teams.

First up is the 22-21 Miami Heat on Tuesday. Miami got off to a rough start this season but has been clawing their way back into the playoff picture in the East. While not quite at the level of the Sixers, Nets or Bucks (yet), they’re a dangerously good team. They’re on a 3-game losing streak but are 6-4 over their last 10 games and are one of the top 10 defensive teams in the NBA (6th for the season, 3rd in their last 10 games). Offense is where they’ve struggled this year (25th) and should continue to struggle against the Suns’ 3rd ranked defense. If the Suns’ 8th ranked offense doesn’t have another of their occasionally bad shooting nights, I think they’ll add another W to the win column in Miami.

Next the Suns head to Orlando for their second meeting with the 14-28 Magic. Orlando was very shorthanded in the Suns 109-90 win back in February and are likely to be shorthanded again. With rumors flying that they might be sellers before the trade deadline (the day after this game), they may be even more shorthanded for this game if those rumors are true and they have players possibly on the move and sitting out. The Suns can’t count on that though and honestly shouldn’t need to. The Magic are 14th in the East and this one should be another win for the Suns even if it is on the 2nd night of a B2B.

After a precious day of rest, the Suns will be in Tampa Bay to take on the 17-24 Raptors. Yes, I said Tampa Bay. Because of the pandemic and quarantine restrictions involved in crossing the US/Canadian boarder, the Raps have been playing all of their “home” games in Florida this season. They have not been playing well this year though and are presently fighting just to stay in range of the play-in tourney stage. They’re 1-9 in their last 10 games with their lone win coming against the cellar dwelling Houston Rockets who are on an epic 20-game losing streak. The Raps won’t often go down without a fight though as evidenced by their recent loss by just three points to the league leading 30-11 Jazz. The Suns bested them 123-115 in their first meeting back in early January and I expect a similar outcome this time around.

Finally, the Suns leave Florida behind to head to Charlotte for their 2nd meeting with the 20-21 Hornets. The Hornets edged the Suns 124-121 a month ago after Phoenix gave up an early 17 point lead. Charlotte is a tough team and 5-5 in their last 10 games although all 5 of those wins were against sub-.500 teams. They’re a solid team but one the Suns should be able to defeat if they play at or just near their best, especially now that LaMelo Ball is likely out for the rest of the season with a broken wrist. After being stung by the Hornets last month in Phoenix, I expect the Suns to return the favor and burn the Hornets in Charlotte in this Sunday afternoon game.

I believe the Suns have a very good shot at going 4-0 this week.

What’s your prediction?


COTS2 : Inside the Suns with the Fantable, Suns news, trivia, weekly history, etc. will be posted later today.