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Center of the Sun, Part 1: Suns face grueling week ahead on the road

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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.

San Antonio Spurs v Phoenix Suns Photo by Barry Gossage/NBAE via Getty Images

Welcome to the weekly news roundup of your Phoenix Suns.

Game Recaps

Phoenix Suns vs Houston Rockets W (126-120) Full Recap

Phoenix Suns vs Miami Heat W (106-86) Full Recap

Phoenix Suns vs Sacramento Kings W (122-114) Full Recap

Phoenix Suns vs San Antonio Spurs L (111-85) Full Recap

At 40-16, the Suns are still in great shape as the regular season enters it’s final four weeks. For the Suns those final four weeks include 16 games (four games per week) with 12 on the road and 11 against teams above .500. There are also four back-to-backs which are all on the road.

If you read John Voita’s “Suns Seven Games at a Time” BSotS article published yesterday, you already have a good idea of what the Suns are up against this week as well as the beginning of the next one. The good news is that final 9-game stretch of the Suns’ 2020-21 schedule doesn’t seem nearly as daunting but overall the Suns have the 3rd most difficult remaining schedule in the NBA while their main Western Conference competitors for the number 1 seed, the Jazz and the Clippers, have the 2nd and 3rd easiest remaining schedules.

That makes losses like that to the Spurs on Saturday sting even more.

If you look closely at the chart above you’ll notice that 4 of the 25 biggest upsets of the season were against the Suns. The Suns especially can’t afford any more losses like those in the final few weeks of the season. While opportunities for big upsets will be few in the remaining games, some will be there and those games also can’t be taken lightly.

But before the Suns can concern themselves with those, they have to make it through the upcoming 7-game gauntlet.

While almost anything could happen during these final four weeks, rest assured that the possibility of the Suns dropping completely out of the playoff picture is NOT a real consideration. The first two of those four weeks will be the key though as all but one of the Suns’ opponents (OKC) during that period of time will also be playing to improve their positions in the final standings and gain or maintain home court advantage for at least the 1st round of the playoffs. It’s very possible - perhaps even likely - that where the Suns wind up in the Western Conference standings after the next seven games will be where they will end up in the final standings.

Just to maintain their present 2nd place spot in the West the Suns are going to have to be at the top of their game over the next two weeks. I think they can do it but the real question is whether they will do it.


Game Highlights

SUNS at ROCKETS | FULL GAME HIGHLIGHTS | April 12, 2021

Devin Booker Full Game Highlights vs HOU (24 PTS, 7 REB, 7 AST, 1 BLK)

Jae Crowder 26 points Highlights vs Houston Rockets

HEAT at SUNS | FULL GAME HIGHLIGHTS | April 13, 2021

KINGS at SUNS | FULL GAME HIGHLIGHTS | April 15, 2021

Deandre Ayton Full Game Highlights vs SAC (26 PTS, 11 REB, 1 BLK)

Devin Booker Full Game Highlights vs SAC (23 PTS, 3 REB, 4 AST)

SPURS at SUNS | FULL GAME HIGHLIGHTS | April 17, 2021


Key Stats

40.0% (33.6 attempts) vs 32.5% (37.1 attempts)

These are the Suns’ stats for 3-point shooting in wins and in losses. Overall they’re making 37.7% of their threes but there’s a 7.5% difference in accuracy between losses and wins. The Suns also toss up 3.5 more 3-point attempts in losses than in wins.

105.5 DefRtg vs 116.2 DefRtg

Those figures are for the Suns’ defensive rating in wins vs losses. The Suns have a 108.6 DefRtg (5th) for the season which of course improves slightly in wins (3.1) but drops significantly in losses (7.6). The 116.2 DefRtg in losses would put the Suns at 29th in defense if it was their DefRtg for the entire season. Their 105.5 rating in wins would be the best in the NBA if it was for the entire season. As 10 of their 16 losses have come against teams that currently have records under .500, their defensive drop-off in losses can’t be directly attributed to the quality of their opponents in those games.

Random stats: Chris Paul now has 15 games this season with 10+ assists and 2 or fewer turnovers (the most in the NBA).

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


Quotes of the Week

“The best way to learn is to experience it. Being in the fire and learning from it.” - Devin Booker

“[Ayton] is really settling into his roll. He’s really focused on being a beast in the paint. He keeps staying locked in.” - Monty Williams

“Deandre (Ayton) is always getting more consistent. Playing big games night in, night out, that’s tough. But he just keeps growing and growing.” - Chris Paul


Rookie Report

Jalen Smith - 4.4 mpg, 1.3 ppg, 1.0 rpg, 0.1 apg, 0.1 spg, 0.1 bpg, 0.1 TO, 0.5 PF, 18.2 3PT%

  • This week - 4.5 mpg, 1.0 ppg, 1.5 rpg, 0.0 apg, 0.5 spg, 0.0 bpg, 0.5 TO, 0.5 PF, 0.0 3PT%, 2 DNP-CD

Ty-Shon Alexander - 3.2 mpg, 0.7 ppg, 0.6 rpg, 0.1 apg, 0.0 spg, 0.1 bpg, 0.1 TO, 0.1 PF, 14.3 3PT%

  • This week - 4.0 mpg, 1.0 ppg, 1.0 rpg, 0.0 apg, 0.0 spg, 0.5 bpg, 0.5 TO, 0.0 PF, 0.0 3PT%, 2 DNP-CD

Injury Status Report

Abdel Nader - Knee/Game Time Decision.


Previewing the week ahead

Monday, April 19 - Phoenix Suns @ Milwaukee Bucks 5:00 pm AZT

Wednesday, April 21 - Phoenix Suns @ Philadelphia 76ers 4:00 pm AZT

Thursday, April 22 - Phoenix Suns @ Boston Celtics 4:00 pm AZT

Sunday, April 25 - Phoenix Suns @ Brooklyn Nets 12:30 pm AZT (ESPN)

As I’ve already stated, in my opinion this is the toughest week of the Suns schedule. All four games are on the road and are against 4 of the top 5 teams in the Eastern Conference.

Tonight will be Torrey Craig’s first time facing his previous team... the one that traded him away for “cash considerations”. I don’t think that his desire to prove to the 35-21 Milwaukee Bucks that they made a mistake in that trade will have a big impact on the game but a little extra bit of incentive to win likely won’t hurt. The Suns and Bucks are 2nd and 3rd respectively in Net Rating with the Suns having a slight edge defensively (5th vs 6th) with the Bucks ranking a bit higher on offense (5th vs 7th). The Suns shoot better overall (49.1% FG% vs 48.5% for the Bucks) but Milwaukee is the better 3-point shooting squad (39.5% vs 37.9% for the Suns). Phoenix squeaked out a 125-124 win at home in their 1st meeting but Jrue Holiday did not play in that game. The Suns were also without Cam Payne, Dario Saric and Abdel Nader back then and both teams have changed since then so it really has little bearing on the outcome of this game. I think the Suns will bounce back after the embarrassing loss to the Spurs on Saturday and get a win in Milwaukee in what will likely be a close game.

Next the Suns head to Philadelphia to take on the Sixers. Philly has the 2nd ranked defense in the NBA but offensively are 14th and their net rank is 6th. They’re a big, tall team that rebounds very well (5th in rebs per game) and is number 1 in blocks and 2nd in steals. They also lead the NBA in free throw attempts which isn’t good for the Suns. The Suns defeated the Sixers in their 1st meeting 120-111 despite a so-so game by Deandre Ayton (11 pts, 6 rebs) and falling behind early. The Suns bench came up big in that game outscoring the Sixers’ bench 49 to 20. If the Suns’ bench can dominate Philly’s bench as they did in the 1st game, I think that the Suns would get another win but I’m not counting on that happening again. I think the Suns will lose this one.

On the following day, the Suns will be in Boston to face the Celtics. You know it’s a tough week when you can honestly say that the Celtics are the easiest team on your schedule but that’s the case. The Celts are 9th in Net rating, 11th in offense and 12th in defense. Easiest doesn’t mean easy though and Boston is presently on a 6-game winning streak. When the Suns defeated the Celtics 100-91 back in February Boston was playing without Jaylen Brown and Marcus Smart. As the Suns will be playing on the second night of a B2B and the Celtics will be coming off two days of rest, I have to give the edge to Boston and predict another Suns loss in this one.

Finally the Suns get a couple of days off before an afternoon tilt with the Nets in Brooklyn. Despite having members of their Big Three in and out of the lineup on numerous occasions this season, the Nets still have the number 1 offense in the NBA. Their defense however isn’t nearly as formidable at 25th but their offense has been so good that their Net rating is 7th even with a sub-par defense. In their last meeting the Suns gave up a 21-point halftime lead in the second half to ultimately lose 128-124 to the Nets. I don’t think the Suns have forgotten that, will come into the game focused and get the win.

I predict that the Suns will go 2-2 this week.

What’s your prediction?


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