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Center of the Sun, Part 1: Suns get 1st playoff win since 2010!

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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: Playoffs-Los Angeles Lakers at Phoenix Suns Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports

Welcome to the weekly news roundup of your Phoenix Suns.

Game Recaps

Phoenix Suns vs LA Lakers W (99-90) Full Recap

We’ve been waiting eleven looooooong years for the Suns to return to the playoffs and they did not disappoint on Sunday.

Many - including myself - were wondering how Suns star Devin Booker would handle his first time on the big playoff stage and he rapidly quelled any doubts as to whether he belonged there. 34 pts (59.36% TS%), 8 assists and 7 rebounds ranks right up there with his best overall performances during the regular season.

The pleasant surprise of the game was how Deandre Ayton performed. 21 pts (90.1% shooting percentage!), 16 rebs and a block with only 3 personal fouls against LA’s bigs was impressive. His 8 offensive boards were only 2 short of the Lakers’ team total!

Overall, the team played with poise and confidence... even after Chris Paul went down with a shoulder injury. I think my heart skipped a beat when it happened and I doubt I was alone in that respect. As a tough competitor, Paul returned to the game although he was clearly not quite himself afterward. CP3 isn’t too concerned about it though.

There were a few hiccups along the way and it wasn’t a perfect game but winning Game 1 against the defending World Champs has to be a huge confidence booster. Winning without it being a runaway victory is probably a good thing as it won’t make anyone overconfident.

The playoffs are here in The Valley and it looks like it’s going to be a wild and fun ride for Suns fans. Strap in tight.


Game Highlights

LAKERS at SUNS | FULL GAME HIGHLIGHTS | May 23, 2021

D-Book Shows Out In NBA Playoffs Debut

DeAndre Ayton vs Los Angeles Lakers 2021 Playoffs


Key Stats

Rebounds: 47 (Suns) vs 33 (LAL)

The Suns hugely out rebounded LA in this one. If they can continue this it will be a very big boost to their odds of winning this series.

Free throws: 10-12 (Suns, 83.3%) vs 17-28 (LAL, 60.7%)

As expected, the Lakers got over twice as many FT attempts as the Suns but thankfully only made slightly over 60% of them. If they had made the same percentage as the Suns it would have added another 6 points to their points total. That wouldn’t have changed the outcome of the game but it would have made the ending much more of a nail biter.

Scoring: Book & Ayton = 55 pts vs LBJ & AD = 31 pts

The Suns’ Booker/Ayton duo scored 55.6% of the Suns’ points while James and Davis scored 34.4% of the Lakers’ points. This looks good on paper but LeBron James only attempted 13 shots in Game 1. That won’t last. He also got 10 assists which likely will last even if he does go more into scoring mode to take on more of the load himself. Booker scored 34 and got 8 assists and LBJ is certainly capable of doing the same or better.

Benches: 19 pts (Suns) vs 26 pts (LAL)

At first glance it looks as though LA won the battle of the benches in Game 1. They certainly did score more points than the Suns’ bench but LA’s bench players were on the court for a combined 25 minutes more than the Suns’ bench players. They added an average of .34 points per minute on the court while the Suns’ bench added .37 PPM.

Random stats: Deandre Ayton is is the first Suns player in franchise history with a 20/15 playoff game on 90% shooting. Devin Booker’s 34 pts in Game 1 is the most points ever scored by a Suns player in a playoff debut.

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


Quotes of the Week

“These are the moments that we’ve been waiting on.” - Devin Booker

“This game is representative of how we’ve been all season long, next-man up. We just play together.” - Chris Paul

“I want our guys to be grateful for what we get to do. It’s not a right. We get to play basketball. We get to be in the NBA, and we get to move our program in a good direction and have a chance to win big someday.” - Monty Williams

“Phoenix is a Suns town. It always has been. It always will be.” - Al McCoy


Rookie Playoff Report

Jalen Smith - DNP-CD

Ty-Shon Alexander - DNP-CD


Injury Status Report

Chris Paul - Shoulder/Game Time Decision.

Abdel Nader - Knee/Game Time Decision.


News & Notes

It’s only Game 1, but the Phoenix Suns don’t look scared of the moment. Gerald Bourguet/The Step Back

Suns stars Devin Booker, Deandre Ayton shock LeBron James, Anthony Davis with historic playoff debuts. Clutch Points

The Phoenix Suns Are Chris Paul’s Latest Project. New York Times

Rally The Valley. Suns.com

Suns star Devin Booker’s epic promise for Phoenix ahead of first-round bout vs Lakers. Clutch Points

How the NBA would have been changed with Chris Paul on the 76ers. NBA Analysis Network

Monty’s Mantras. Suns.com

Measuring the Suns against previous NBA Champions. Zona Hoops


Previewing the week ahead

Tuesday, May 25 - Phoenix Suns vs La Lakers 7:00 pm AZT (TNT)

Thursday, May 27 - Phoenix Suns @ LA Lakers 7:00 pm AZT (TNT)

Sunday, May 30 - Phoenix Suns @ LA Lakers 12:30 pm AZT (ABC)

No one who watched Game 1 on Sunday needs me to tell them what a tough week the Suns have ahead of them. Phoenix got off to a good start but the Lakers kept making little runs to close in on the Suns’ lead that thankfully Phoenix was always able to answer and keep a fair points cushion until the final buzzer. One good thing about this week is that the Suns only have three games to play - unlike the usual four during the regular season - and there are of course no back-to-backs. With all that said, on to the predictions.

Game 2: If CP3’s shoulder injury proves to be minor, I’m predicting the Suns win this game but by a narrower margin than in Game 1.

Game 3: I think the Lakers will bounce back and win this game in their house, much as the Suns won Game 1. Not a runaway victory for LA but one where the Suns get behind in the 1st half and have to try to play catch up in the 2nd half.

Game 4: The homer in me wants to pick the Suns as the winner here but I think this is going to be a 50/50 game that could go either way. Yes, I’m punting here and not actually predicting a winner in this one. I do believe that it’s going to be a tough game for both teams that could be decided in the final few minutes... or seconds.

The Suns will get at least one win this week, possibly two, and have either a 2-2 or 3-1 record for the series going into next week.

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.

August 8-17 - NBA Summer League


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