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Center of the Sun, Part 1: Suns still clinging on to 2nd in the West

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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.

Phoenix Suns v Brooklyn Nets Photo by Sarah Stier/Getty Images

Welcome to the weekly news roundup of your Phoenix Suns.

Game Recaps

Phoenix Suns @ Milwaukee Bucks W-OT (128-127) Full Recap

Phoenix Suns @ Philadelphia 76ers W (116-113) Full Recap

Phoenix Suns @ Boston Celtics L (99-86) Full Recap

Phoenix Suns @ Brooklyn Nets L (128-119) Full Recap

Two years ago going 2-2 in a week against some of the best teams in the NBA would have been considered an amazing success. Now it’s thought of by many as at least mildly disappointing.

With just three weeks and 12 regular season games remaining for the Suns, they are clinging on to second place in the West by virtue of a tiny fraction of a percentage point. The Clippers have one more win than the Suns but also one more loss. Although they’re both considered 2 games behind the Jazz in the standings, the Suns still edge out the Clips .700 to .694. That could change quickly as both teams play tonight and then square off for the final time this season on Wednesday.

With another very challenging week ahead, can the Suns hang on to that second spot? The homer fan inside me wants to say yes but the Suns face another tough three games this week before they get a chance to catch their breath in a game that’s not against one of the NBA’s top teams. Maintaining their present spot as the second seed - or moving up to first - may not be in the cards and in no way would it be a stain on this season if it doesn’t happen.

For the first time since 2010, the Suns’ season won’t end with their regular season finale. At best they get the team machine in high gear and squeak by Utah to capture the number 1 seed in the West by the end of the season. At worst, they realistically should at least wind up with a top-4 seed and home court advantage in the 1st round of the playoffs.


Game Highlights

SUNS at BUCKS | FULL GAME HIGHLIGHTS | April 19, 2021

Devin Booker Full Game Highlights vs MIL (24 PTS, 7 REB, 7 AST, 3 STL, 1 BLK)

Chris Paul Full Game Highlights vs MIL (22 PTS, 7 REB, 13 AST, 1 STL)

SUNS at 76ERS | FULL GAME HIGHLIGHTS | April 21, 2021

Chris Paul 28 Points, 5 Threes Full Highlights vs 76ers | April 21, 2021

SUNS at CELTICS | FULL GAME HIGHLIGHTS | April 22, 2021

Chris Paul Full Game Highlights vs BOS (22 PTS, 8 REB, 8 AST, 2 STL)

SUNS at NETS | FULL GAME HIGHLIGHTS | April 25, 2021


Key Stats

34.0 ppg, 50.0% FG & 40.5% 3-pt vs 20.3 ppg, 40.9% FG & 22.3% 3-pt

The first set of stats are Devin Booker’s averages during a 6-game stretch between 3-28 an 4-7. The second set are his averages over 9 games between 4-8 and 4-22 before his 36 point performance against the Nets yesterday in which he made 50.0% of his field goals and hit 80.0% (4 of 5) from three. The Suns were 6-0 during that first stretch and 6-3 during the second. Hopefully his superb performance against Brooklyn is a sign that whatever sort of shooting funk he had been in is over.

6.0 NetRtg (4th) vs 4.4 NetRtg (9th)

The first figure is the Suns’ net rating for the entire season. The second is for the month of April in which they’ve been 9-4. During April their offensive rating dropped slightly from 7th for the season to 8th but their defensive rating dropped from 5th to 15th.

Random stats: 75.1% of Deandre Ayton’s shots come after zero dribbles. Opponents shoot 10.3% worse from inside six feet when Ayton is on the floor. The Suns rank 2nd in the NBA with an assist-to-turnover ratio of 2.08.

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


Quotes of the Week

“Every single day, you have goals. You know the steps it takes to get there and you can’t shortcut any of them.” - Devin Booker

“He (Mikal Bridges) just works until we have to kick him out of the gym.” - Monty Williams

“I’m inspired every day. I tell Chris (Paul) that every day. It’s not something I’m going to take for granted. I pick his brain. I listen to him - closely.” - Devin Booker

“Shit, I ain’t done yet.” - Chris Paul


Rookie Report

Jalen Smith - 4.2 mpg, 1.2 ppg, 0.9 rpg, 0.1 apg, 0.0 spg, 0.1 bpg, 0.2 TO, 0.5 PF, 18.2 3PT%

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

Injury Status Report

Abdel Nader - Knee/Expected to be out until at least Apr 28.

Jae Crowder - Ankle/Game Time Decision.

Dario Saric - Ankle(rest)/Game Time Decision.

Langston Galloway - Personal/Expected to be out until at least Apr 26.


Previewing the week ahead

Monday, April 26 - Phoenix Suns @ New York Knicks 4:30 pm AZT (NBATV)

Wednesday, April 28 - Phoenix Suns vs LA Clippers 7:00 pm AZT (ESPN)

Friday, April 30 - Phoenix Suns vs Utah Jazz 7:00 pm AZT

Sunday, May 2 - Phoenix Suns @ Oklahoma City Thunder 5:00 pm AZT

While this week doesn’t look to be quite as difficult as last week, it’s still going to be very tough. Thankfully, there are no back-to-backs this week and two of the four games are at home but the 1st three games are against very tough opponents.

Tonight the Suns finish up their East coast road trip in New York against the 34-27 Knicks. The surging Knicks are on a 9-game win streak, 4th in the East and the 9th best team in the NBA by Net Rating (plus-2.3). They have the NBA’s 4th best defense but are slightly below average (19th) on offense. Over their last 10 games, their offense has really clicked though and was 4th in the NBA. Julius Randle is their top player averaging 24.0 pts, 10.5 rebs and 6.0 asts per game but during the Knicks’ 9-game win streak he’s averaged 30.1 ppg while playing 40.6 minutes. He’s going to be more than a handful for whomever the Suns use to guard him. As the Knicks are also one of the NBA’s best 3-point shooting teams (5th, 38.6% from three), I really have a hard time believing that the road weary Suns will get a win tonight and am calling this one a loss.

Next the Suns head back to Phoenix for a two-game homestand but that’s the only relief they get as thier 1st game back is against the very strong LA Clippers. The Clips have already beaten the Suns twice this season and will be looking to make it a season sweep of the Suns. As the Suns and LA are running neck-and-neck for the 2nd seed in the West and both are still within range of overtaking the 1st place Jazz, expect a battle royal in this one. While logic tells me this looks like another close loss for the Suns, my gut tells me that the Suns will be determined to avoid the season series sweep and will finally get a win against the Clippers.

On Friday the Suns face their final matchup of the season with the league leading Utah Jazz. Utah’s star player, Donovan Mitchell, will likely miss this game as he recovers from an ankle sprain. The Jazz are still a very solid team without him and his absence won’t make this an easy win for the Suns but I do believe it will give them just enough of an edge for them to get their 3rd win of the season against Utah.

Finally the Suns get a break on the difficulty level of their games and head to OKC for a game against the floundering 20-40 Thunder. OKC is on a 13-game losing streak and on the verge of being the 3rd team to be mathematically eliminated from not just the playoffs but the playin games as well. As long as the Suns don’t take this game lightly I don’t see how they don’t get another win.

Although 2-2 is very possible, I believe that 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 published on Tuesday morning this week.