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Center of the Sun, Part 1: Suns finish season strong, win 2nd seed 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.

NBA: Phoenix Suns at San Antonio Spurs Scott Wachter-USA TODAY Sports

Welcome to the weekly news roundup of your Phoenix Suns.

Game Recaps

Phoenix Suns @ Golden State Warriors L (122-116) Full Recap

Phoenix Suns vs Portland Trail Blazers W (118-117) Full Recap

Phoenix Suns @ San Antonio Spurs W (140-103) Full Recap

Phoenix Suns @ San Antonio Spurs W (123-121) Full Recap

Watching how all yesterday’s games began to shake out and the Suns path forward through the playoffs became clearer, an old song came to mind... “It Don’t Come Easy.” That falls into line with what Monty Williams has be preaching from the start, “Everything you want is on the other side of hard.”

Well, nothing is going to come easy for the Suns in the playoffs and what they want - a championship - is at the other end of an extremely hard Western Conference playoff road.

After an unexpectedly thrilling win by the Suns in their regular season finale in San Antonio with several starters sitting out, the Utah Jazz - as expected - later thumped the Sacramento Kings in their final game to insure they got the number one seed and the Suns finished 2nd. Unless the 8th seed Warriors can pull off an upset against the 7th seed Lakers this Wednesday, the Suns will have to face the defending NBA Champions in their first playoff series in 11 years. That’s a very big bump in the road to overcome. If the Warriors do pull off the upset... well, that’s a smaller bump to overcome but still a bump as long as Steph Curry is playing.

While I personally do not fear a first round matchup with the Lakers, I hope the Warriors win that play-in game just so that the Lakers wind up in the same bracket as the Clippers who blatantly tanked their last two games in an attempt to avoid playing the Lakers until a possible WC Finals matchup between the two.

The graphic below (from NBA.com) details the play-in and 1st round playoff brackets for both the West and East.

If the Suns do make it to the 2nd round, there they would meet the winner of the Nuggets/Blazers series which won’t be a picnic either. Beyond that awaits the WC Finals with yet another tough team from the other WC bracket to face.

Every single playoff game is another big bump on the road to a championship. They’re also all bumps that Phoenix will have to focus on taking one at a time without trying to look too far ahead as not paying enough attention to any single one along the path could upset the applecart and send the Suns tumbling home. It’s certainly going to be a bumpy ride but let’s all hope it’s a long one.


Game Highlights

SUNS at WARRIORS | FULL GAME HIGHLIGHTS | May 11, 2021

Devin Booker 34 points, 4 threes vs. Warriors

Chris Paul 24 points, 10 rebounds vs. Warriors

TRAIL BLAZERS at SUNS | FULL GAME HIGHLIGHTS | May 13, 2021

Chris Paul 26 PTS 7 AST: All Possessions (2021-05-13)

Mikal Bridges 21 PTS 11 REB: All Possessions (2021-05-13)

SUNS AT SPURS | FULL GAME HIGHLIGHTS | May 15, 2021

Devin Booker 27 PTS: All Possessions (2021-05-15)

Mikal Bridges 18 PTS: All Possessions

SUNS at SPURS | FULL GAME HIGHLIGHTS | May 16, 2021

E’Twaun Moore Hits the GAME-WINNER vs Spurs


Key Stats

121.7 ppg (3rd), 62.1% True Shooting Percentage (4th)

Those are the Suns’ figures for the month of May (last 9 games). The 121.7 points per game average is 3rd best in the NBA and the best in the West. The 62.1% TS% is 4th in the NBA and 2nd in the West just behind Golden State’s 62.2%. Both stats are higher than the Suns’ season averages of 115.3 ppg (tied for 6th) and 59.7% TS% (3rd). The Suns’ offense has been humming lately which is always good but has especially important lately as the Suns’ defense has been off lately.

110.4 DefRtg (for the season) vs 118.5 DefRtg (for May)

Saying that the Suns’ defense “has been off” lately was a bit of an understatement as for the entire season their defense was 6th in the NBA but 26th for the month of May. That’s not a good sign going into the playoffs and Monty Williams should pushing the team to up it’s defensive effort from now until the opening tipoff of Game 1 of the Suns’ first round series. Despite having the 3rd best OffRtg for May (121.5), the Suns’ defense caused their Net Rating to drop from 4th for the season to 15th for May.

Random stats: Chris Paul was the only player in the NBA this season to average more than eight assists and less than three turnovers per game (8.9 assists, 2.2 TOs per game).

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


Quotes of the Week

“You can’t duck nobody if you want to win it all… you gotta go through it.” - Chris Paul

“We just showed how deep we are as a team.” - Jevon Carter

“We are not satisfied. We are not settling.” - Monty Williams


Rookie Report

Jalen Smith - 5.8 mpg, 2.0 ppg, 1.4 rpg, 0.1 apg, 0.0 spg, 0.2 bpg, 0.3 TO, 0.6 PF, 23.5 3PT%

  • This week - 26.5 mpg, 7.5 ppg, 7.5 rpg, 1.0 apg, 0.0 spg, 1.5 bpg, 0.5 TO, 1.5 PF, 20.0 3PT%, 2 DNP-CD

Ty-Shon Alexander - 3.2 mpg, 0.6 ppg, 0.7 rpg, 0.4 apg, 0.0 spg, 0.1 bpg, 0.2 TO, 0.1 PF, 22.2 3PT%

  • This week - 5.4 mpg, 3.0 ppg, 3.0 rpg, 2.0 apg, 0.0 spg, 0.0 bpg, 1.0 TO, 0.0 PF, 100.0 3PT% (1-1), 3 DNP-CD

Injury Status Report

Deandre Ayton - Knee/Game Time Decision.

Cameron Johnson - Wrist/Game Time Decision.

Jae Crowder - Ankle/Game Time Decision.

Abdel Nader - Knee/Game Time Decision.


News & Notes

5 reasons Phoenix Suns can win 2021 NBA championship. Gerald Bourguet/The Step Back

Suns Should Dominate Awards Season. Sports 360

Suns’ Chris Paul on Playoffs: ‘You Can’t Duck Nobody If You’re Trying to Win It All’. Bleacher Report

3 reasons Devin Booker, Suns can’t panic after back-to-back losses against Warriors, Lakers. Clutch Points

Phoenix Suns News: Chris Paul’s Back-Up Almost Quit NBA. International Business Times

Uncanny Parallels Connect Four Phoenix Icons. Suns.com

2021 NBA Predictions. FiveThirtyEight


Previewing the week ahead

As I’m sure you’re already aware of, the Suns’ 1st round playoff opponent won’t be decided until Wednesday night when the Lakers and Warriors face off with the winner getting the 7th seed.

Although the time of the Suns’ first playoff game hasn’t been determined yet, it will be on Saturday, May 22 and it will be in Phoenix as the Suns will have home court advantage. No matter which team they play, I’m expecting some initial jitters on the Suns’ side as this will be the first time 60% of their starters (Booker, Bridges and Ayton) have ever been to the NBA playoffs. Hopefully the vets can help smooth out any excessive nervousness and get the team on an even keel early.

If the Suns continue into the playoffs with their regular season goal intact - just trying to pile up wins - and don’t get shaken, I expect them to win their first game regardless of whether they face the Lakers or Warriors.

What’s your prediction?


Important Future Dates

June 7 - Conference semifinals begin.

June 21-27 - NBA Draft Combine.

June 22 - NBA Draft Lottery. Conference Finals begin.

July 8-22 - NBA Finals.

July 29 - NBA Draft.

August 2 - 2021-22 season Free Agency period begins (6 pm ET).

August 6 - Moratorium ends. Free agents can officially be signed.


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