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Center of the Sun, Part 1: After the All-Star break it’s time for the Suns to get back to work

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

Golden State Warriors 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 @ LA Lakers W (114-104) Full Recap

Phoenix Suns vs Golden State Warriors W (120-98) Full Recap

Like many fans I was disappointed that Devin Booker had to sit out his 2nd All-Star game but the honor remains whether he plays or not. Just ask Chris Paul. This was his 11th time to be named as an All-Star but only the 10th time he actually played in the AS game after having to miss it due to injury in 2010. He’s always referred to as an 11-time All-Star and Book is now a 2-time All-Star. The honor remains whether the player is actually able to play in the game or not.

Being named an All-Star is a very nice honor but I think that the players would agree that the real goal is the playoffs. And for the first time in many, many years the Suns’ playoff outlook is really good.

With a record of 24-11 the Suns are not only sitting at 2nd in the West but 2nd in the NBA as well. They are just 2.5 games behind the league leading Utah Jazz (27-9) and are a full game ahead of the 3rd place Lakers (24-13). Their destiny is in their own hands as the second half of this season is set to begin... and their hands will be full as they complete the race to the finish.

The Suns have the 11th hardest schedule for the remainder of the season and, among the upper crust of the West, only the Lakers, Trail Blazers and Spurs have more difficult schedules. The league leading Jazz have the easiest remaining schedule.

The Suns have already beaten the Jazz - in Utah - once this season so winning the tie breaker between the two teams is certainly within reach as both of the remaining matchups between the two will be in Phoenix. Even with a possible sweep of the Jazz the difference in the strength of the two teams’ remaining schedules could make that irrelevant. There’s still a lot of season left to play before worries over tie-breakers start to become important.

The Suns are presently on track for 49 wins though which would equal a 56 win pace in a normal 82-game season. That would make this their best season since 2006-07 when they finished 61-21. Unless something goes massively wrong between now and the end of the season, the Suns’ 11-year playoff drought will soon be coming to an end.

I can hardly wait.


Game Highlights

SUNS at LAKERS | FULL GAME HIGHLIGHTS | March 2, 2021

Dario Saric Highlights vs. Lakers - 21 points, 5 rebounds, 3 assists off bench!

WARRIORS at SUNS | FULL GAME HIGHLIGHTS | March 4, 2021

Cameron Payne Highlights vs. Warriors - 17 points, 10 assists, 3 steals off bench!

Chris Paul Drop 16 DIMES To Move Past Magic Johnson For MOST ASSISTS in NBA All-Star​ Game History!


Key Stats

13.3 NetRtg (1st), 121.2 OffRtg (2nd), 107.9 DefRtg (3rd)

These ratings are for the Suns’ last 15 games. They were 13-2 over this stretch, winning more games than any other team in each’s last 15. During this period they were also 1st in Assist to Turnover Ratio (2.39) and Assist Ratio (21.0)

Graphic by Kirk Goldsberry (@kirkgoldsberry on Twitter).

59.3% Effective Field Goal Percentage (2nd), 62.2% True Shooting Percentage (2nd)

These number are also for the Suns last 15 games. For the season the Suns are 6th in EFG% (56.0%) and 4th in TS% (59.3%). During the period, Deandre Ayton (62.3%) and Mikal Bridges (61.2%) have led the team in FG percentage while Devin Booker (51.9%), Chris Paul (50.6%), Dario Saric (50.6%), Cameron Payne (50.9%) and Abdel Nader (53.8%) have all shot over 50% from the field.

Bridges (49.0%), Paul (45.3%), Payne (46.4%), Frank Kaminsky (47.4%) and Jevon Carter (40.0%) have led the team from three, all hitting on at least 40% pf their 3pt attempts. Booker (39.0%) and Saric (39.4%) were just shy of that 40% mark from three.

Random stats: Chris Paul’s 8.8 assists per game rank 5th in the NBA while he averages playing at least 2.4 minutes less per game (31.8 mpg) than each of the four players ranked above him. His Per 36 assist rate of 10.0 is 3rd when compared to other Per 36 assist rates. Mikal Bridges and Deandre Ayton are the only Suns players to have played - and started - in all 35 of the Suns games this season. They are also 1st and 2nd in minutes played (1,131 and 1,088 respectively). Two months short of his 36th birthday, Chris Paul has played in 34 of 35 games and is 3rd on the team in total minutes played (1,080).

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


Quotes of the Week

“The succession plan for Chris Paul could be Chris Paul. It could be him for the next X amount of years. You never know to what level great players will respond as they age, but they often find a way to figure it out.” - James Jones

“We’re one of the few teams in the league that has a bench that comes in, and they’re basically starters. So that’s why we’re a team. We pick each other up on any given night, and it’s great to be a part of it.” - Chris Paul

“Games get a lot more intense when guys start jockeying for playoff position. So we’re just going to stay the course, keep our head down and keep doing the work.” - Chris Paul


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 - 3.7 mpg, 2.0 ppg, 1.0 rpg, 0.0 apg, 0.0 spg, 0.0 bpg, 0.0 TO, 0.0 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%

Assigned to NBA G League (Canton Charge - 15 games)

  • Charge Stats - 24.7 mpg, 9.3 ppg, 2.9 rpg, 1.9 apg, 0.5 spg, 0.1 bpg, 1.1 TO, 0.7 PF, 38.8 3PT%

Statistics courtesy of NBA.com.


Injury Status Report

Devin Booker - Knee/Game Time Decision.

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


Previewing the week ahead

Thursday, March 11 - Phoenix Suns @ Portland Trail Blazers 8:00 pm AZT

Saturday, March 13 - Phoenix Suns vs Indiana Pacers 8:00 pm AZT

Only two games for the Suns this week following the All-Star break but both are against another two strong, competitive teams.

First up, the Suns take to the road for a rematch with Portland. The 21-14 Trail Blazers are on a three game win streak which was preceded by a four game losing streak that included the 132-100 beating that the Suns handed to them in their first meeting in Phoenix 2 weeks ago. Damian Lillard (29.8 ppg) always makes this team dangerous and the Blazers might have center Jusuf Nurkic back from injury for this one which certainly makes them an even better team. With Devin Booker and Cameron Johnson both possibly out for this game, it becomes an iffy call as to the outcome. If both miss the game, I expect a loss for the Suns. If Booker is back to 100%, I expect a Suns win. Either way I expect the final score to be much closer than in their previous meeting.

On Saturday the Suns host the 16-19 Indiana Pacers. This will also be the second meeting of these teams and the second “make-up” game for the three games that were postponed due to health and safety protocols back in January. The Suns won their first meeting in Indiana 125-117 powered by Mikal Bridges’ career high 34-point game. The Pacers were without former Sun TJ Warren in that game and will still be without him as he continues to recover from a stress fracture in his left foot. It is possible - although unlikely - that Caris LeVert could make his season debut for the Pacers in this game. LeVert was traded to the Pacers back in January and diagnosed with a cancerous growth on one of his kidneys. He had successful surgery to remove the mass and is close to completing his recovery. LeVert was averaging 18.5 points, 6 assists and 4.3 rebounds for Brooklyn before the trade and could provide a nice lift for Indiana if he’s available to play. I expect the Suns to get another win in this one though even if Booker and/or Johnson are still sidelined. The Suns are just the better team overall and Indiana will be playing on the second night of a B2B on the road.

I believe the Suns have a very good chance of going 2-0 this week... if Booker returns from his injury. If not, I’m predicting the Suns will go 1-1.

What’s your prediction?


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