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Center of the Sun, Part 1: Suns regain homecourt advantage as series returns to Phoenix

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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-Phoenix Suns at Los Angeles Lakers Gary A. Vasquez-USA TODAY Sports

Welcome to the weekly news roundup of your Phoenix Suns.

Game Recaps

Phoenix Suns vs LA Lakers L (109-102) Game 2 Recap

Phoenix Suns vs LA Lakers L (109-95) Game 3 Recap

Phoenix Suns vs LA Lakers W (100-92) Game 4 Recap

Some people said the Suns were done when they went down 2-1 but - NEWS FLASH - it ain’t over yet. In LA, the Suns tied the series up and took back homecourt advantage with a convincing win in Game-4. Yes, Anthony Davis did not play in the second half due to injury but he had only 6 points in 19 minutes before leaving the game in the 1st half.

The Suns’ defense came back to play and made a big difference but mostly the Game-4 win was due to Chris Paul finally looking like Chris Paul again. His 18 points, 9 assists and 3 steals in this one were his best of this playoff series by far and showed that he’s probably at least 85-90% recovered from the shoulder injury he suffered in Game-1.

Surprising to some, Deandre Ayton has played like an All-Star this series and has at least some of his doubters rethinking their former opinions. So far he is the Suns’ second leading scorer (19.8 ppg) and has 4 double-doubles in 4 games while shooting 80.9% from the field and playing an average of 39.7 minutes per game... well above his 30.6 mpg average for the regular season. Cam Payne has also proven himself as a real spark off the bench during this series as the Suns’ 3rd leading scorer (13.0 ppg) while adding 4.5 assists, 1.5 steals and hit on 42.1% of his attempts from three.

Devin Booker’s scoring average is slightly down from the regular season (25.3 vs 25.6 ppg) but his rebounds and assists are up as well as his playing time (33.9 vs 41.5 mpg). While his FG percentage is also down (40.8% vs 48.4%), he’s been getting to the free throw line more often in the playoffs (9.3 vs 5.9 attempts per game) and hitting them at a higher rate (91.9% vs 86.7%).

Mikal Bridges has been surprisingly off offensively so far in the post season. While his 3-pt shooting has been on par with the regular season (42.5% vs 42.9%), his overall FG percentage is way down from 54.3% to 34.3%. If he can get his offensive production back to his regular season standards in the next few games, it could be a difference maker in this series.

If you thought I was going to give Jae Crowder a pass in this review, you were mistaken. While Jae has been strong defensively, his 17.9% shooting from three has been horrible... especially since he leads the Suns in three point attempts per game in the playoffs (7.0 attempts per game). Thankfully that changed in Game-4 (37.5%) but if he can’t keep his 3-pt percentage up in the next 2-3 games then the Suns’ post-season hopes could possibly be derailed.

The Suns have basically been playing an eight-man rotation during the playoffs with only 7 players getting more than 20 minutes per game. With the minutes being that tight, everyone needs to contribute at their highest level while on the court. Two more wins gets us to the second round and one step closer to the ultimate goal.

Two more wins... one game at a time.

Keep that pile of wins growing.


Game Highlights

Los Angeles Lakers vs Phoenix Suns Full GAME 2 Highlights 2021 NBA Playoffs

Deandre Ayton 22 pts 10 rebs vs Lakers 2021 PO G2

Devin Booker 31 PTS: All Possessions (2021-05-25)

Cameron Payne 19 Points/7 Assists Full Highlights (5/25/2021)

Los Angeles Lakers vs Phoenix Suns Full GAME 3 Highlights | 2021 NBA Playoffs

Deandre Ayton 22 pts 11 rebs vs Lakers 2021 PO G3

Cameron Payne 15 pts 3 threes 6 asts vs Lakers 2021 PO G3

#2 SUNS at #7 LAKERS | FULL GAME HIGHLIGHTS | May 30, 2021

Chris Paul 18 points and 9 assists in Game 4 vs Los Angeles Lakers


Key Stats

Rebounds: 162 vs 173

The Lakers have so far out rebounded the Suns by a total of only 11 in four games (43.3 rbg vs 40.5 rpg) but rebounding has played a big part in individual games. In the Suns’ Game-1 win they won the rebounding battle 47-33. In the Game-2 and 3 losses the Suns were out rebounded by LA 39-31 and 51-35 respectively. In Game-4 the Suns also lost the rebounding war but only by a narrow 50-49 margin. As long as the Suns can keep the rebounding relatively equal, they have a good chance at getting a win. This will be a key to their chances at winning this series.

True Shooting and Effective Field Goal Percentages

For the series, the Suns have higher percentages in both TS% (55.1% vs 53.9%) and EFG% (50.6% vs 48.8%) than the Lakers. Their TS% and FG% have actually been slightly higher in losses than in wins but the opposite has been true for LA.

Random stats: Deandre Ayton’s 80.9% FG percentage is 2nd in the NBA among players that have averaged playing at least 30 minutes per game during the playoffs and 1st among players who have averaged at least 10 shots per game. Deandre is also leading all centers in minutes per game with 39.7. In the Suns’ two wins, Devin Booker had his highest (34 points in Game-1) and lowest (17 points in Game-4) point totals during the series.

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


Quotes of the Week

“Times get tough. We don’t separate. We stay together. We’re going to fight through it together. No matter what the situation is.” - Mikal Bridges

“It’s gonna be tough, but we all have to step up.” - Devin Booker

“We stick to our culture and we still have each others’ back til the end.” - Deandre Ayton


Rookie Playoff Report

Jalen Smith - DNP-CD

Ty-Shon Alexander - DNP-CD


Injury Status Report

Abdel Nader - Knee/Expected to be out until at least Jun 6.


News & Notes

MyCover: Mikal Bridges And The Suns Control Their Own Destiny. UPROXX

Playoff Payne. Suns.com

The Phoenix Suns have reached their ‘hard’ with Chris Paul’s injury. Gerald Bourguet/The Step Back

‘This is a Suns town’: Team remains atop Phoenix sports hierarchy. ABC15 Arizona

The Lakers May Have Found a Way to Burn Out the Suns. The Ringer

Did LeBron James flop after Chris Paul foul? Twitter reacts to play that led to Lakers-Suns scuffle. Sporting News

Living Up To The Moment. Suns.com


Previewing the week ahead

Tuesday, June 1 - Game 5 Phoenix Suns vs LA Lakers 7:00 pm AZT (TNT)

Thursday, June 3 - Game 6 Phoenix Suns @ LA Lakers TBD

Saturday, June 5 - Game 7 Phoenix Suns vs LA Lakers TBD

We have at least two games left to play in this series and I’m liking the Suns’ chances at moving forward into the second round.

Game-5 returns to the friendly confines of the Phoenix Suns Arena with what seems to be a near fully healthy Chris Paul and possibly no Anthony Davis or an injury hampered AD. There’s no need to muck around with saying anything other than I think that the Suns will get the win at home and take a 3-2 series lead.

Game-6 will take the Suns back to LA and I honestly believe that the determining factor in this game will be whether the Suns can take Game-5 at home or not. If the Suns win Game-5 convincingly, then I think they have a better than 50% chance of closing out this series in LA with a win and move on to the second round. If Game-5 is a close win for the Suns, then I have to give the edge to the Lakers on their home court. If the Suns somehow manage to lose Game-5... then I think it’s very likely that the Lakers win the series in Game-6 at home.

If this series goes to seven games... the Suns win Game-7 at home and it’s on to the 2nd round.

I predict that the Suns will win this series against the Lakers 4-2 or 4-3.

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 (12:01 p.m. ET). Free agents can officially be signed.

August 8-17 - NBA Summer League 2021 (Las Vegas).


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