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COTS2: Inside the Suns - Can Suns close out LA series in 6? Who needs to step up? Thoughts on Monty’s player rotation

Your weekly Inside the Suns analysis straight from the BSotS community who live and breathe the team.

2021 NBA Playoffs - Los Angeles Lakers v Phoenix Suns Photo by Michael Gonzales/NBAE via Getty Images

Welcome to ‘Inside the Suns’, your weekly deep down analysis of the current Suns team as well as a peak at Suns teams throughout history in this week.

In this weekly article, we focus on you the community to tease out the good and bad of the Suns who finished the 2021 regular season with a 51-21 record to earn the 2nd seed in the Western Conference playoffs. They are currently up 3-2 in their first round playoff series with the LA Lakers and one win away from progressing to the second round.

First up... the Fantable — a round table of Bright Siders who give their takes on the Suns latest issues and news.

Fantable Questions of the Week

Q1 - What do you think will be the key factors in Game-6 for the Suns to close out this series Thursday night in LA?

Sun-Arc: The most important aspect is determination. They need that same determination they showed in game 5. Chris Paul being healthy wouldn’t hurt. Also; AD being hurt wouldn’t hurt either.

They have to come out determined to shut down the Lakers and play their game. Yet, if they get in trouble they have to adjust on the fly.

SDKyle: To close out the Lakers in Los Angeles, the Suns will need to minimize mistakes. The place will be loud and partisan, and the Lakers will have their backs to the wall ready to fight. The Suns can finish them off if they play their game and don’t gift the Lakers a lot of easy buckets off turnovers or ill-advised shots. Any of those sloppy 7 turnover quarters, and the Lakers could survive to play another day.

Alex S: Key factor is simply “keep that same energy”.

Shots might or might not fall early on but if the Suns play the level of defense and create a wall as effective as they did in Game 5 on LeBron, they’ll win this game.

I fully anticipate the Lakers to come out swinging so I will not say this game is a cakewalk by any stretch. But the Suns currently have the 2-8 best players in this series and need to continue to play like it.

Rod: With or without Anthony Davis, the Lakers aren’t going to roll over and play dead just because they are down 3-2 so the Suns can’t expect anything less than LA’s best effort in Game 6. They need to go into the game focused and never lose their poise because LA will likely try to return the favor after the Suns’ 30-point win on Tuesday. No lazy passes that lead to turnovers, sharp execution on offense and staying focused on D at all times should carry them through... plus going hard after rebounds. They’ve got to at least keep the rebounding near equal and keep LA from getting too many offensive rebs and second chance points.

The Lakers are going to throw their best punch at the Suns and they can’t let that faze them.

Q2 - Which Suns player/players do you still think can step up their performance?

Sun-Arc: Is it ok to answer: All of them? There is another gear we’ve seen they haven’t shown in this series. The game 5 blitzing was amazing - but the Lakers really did not show up. If they show up in game 6, we’ll need everyone to step up again and maybe with more than they showed on Tuesday. I think about that amazing overtime they had against the Cavs when they won by 16. They might just need THAT gear to close it out.

Bridges, who was a big part of that overtime win, really could step up more than he has thus far in this series. His defense has been good/great, but if he (and Crowder) could get back to their season average from three on good volume, that will help them close out the series and take down the next opponent.

SDKyle: I’ll toss out the name of Mikal Bridges. He’s played reasonably well, bringing his usual defensive energy, but on the series he is only averaging 9 points per game on much lower efficiency than his very very high regular season numbers. He hasn’t been a problem, but I think he is a Sun with room to step up.

Alex S: The answer heading into G5 was Booker and he delivered. Now for G6, it’d be great to see some production from Kaminsky. It’d help tremendously if he were able to knock down a couple 3’s in limited minutes. But this question is tricky because I think the majority of the squad is playing their type of basketball right now. Just need to keep at it.

Rod: There are several I’d like to see better performances from but I’d mostly like to see Mikal Bridges get a little more aggressive on offense. He’s shooting the three well (42.9%) but is hitting just 37.8% from the field and has yet to get to the free throw line in this series.

Q3 - What’s your opinion of Monty’s player rotation during this series?

Sun-Arc: Two items I might complain about, which I’ve read others comment about, are:

  1. Craig over Johnson all day long for me. Cam cannot defend LBJ, Craig can defend him to a much better degree and is a better rebounder. To me if Cam isn’t hitting his threes, its an easy decision. Took Monty until game 4 to get the memo.
  2. Sprinkle in a little Jevon on Schroeder during the game. Get him tired out so he cannot hound CP3 during his next run. Dennis has been a pain in the neck and never seems to run out of energy. Maybe Carter can help with that and keep the Lakers from getting into a comfy offense.

Mostly the rotations have been fine, though. And what ever pep talk he gave before game 5, it frigging worked. Hard to complain there.

SDKyle: I don’t have any major complaints, actually. The Lakers have made a lot of adjustments to their plans this series, and Monty has responded mostly pretty effectively. He’s also doing a good job managing minutes where possible.

Alex S: I’ve really liked the adjustments Monty has made in the past couple of games. It’s true that you can’t play DA 48 minutes so it was great to see Torrey getting some run at the 5 and limiting Frank’s minutes. If Frank isn’t supply spacing or playmaking, his impact is quite minimal. Torrey has also shown how good of a rebounder he is as well.

The only issue I have with Monty is I wish he would have put Payne back in earlier in the 3rd for G5 so Chris didn’t re-aggravate his injury up 30+.

Rod: Considering the backup bigs the Suns have, I think he’s done pretty well and has adjusted accordingly as the series has progressed. I haven’t been happy that Deandre Ayton has had to play so many minutes but I have been extremely pleased with how DA has performed and stayed out of foul trouble. I did think Monty was wrong in playing CP3 so many minutes in games 2 & 3 after his injury though. Hopefully, Chris is okay after getting hurt again in Tuesday’s game and Monty won’t have to make that decision again or at least he learned something from it and won’t repeat that mistake.

As always, many thanks to our Fantable members - GuarGuar, Sun-Arc, SDKyle, SouthernSun and Alex S. - for all their extra effort every week! (GuarGuar & SouthernSun did not participate this week.)

This Week in Suns History

On June 1, 1993, Dan Majerle set a then-playoffs record by sinking eight 3-pointers during the Suns’ 120-114 win over Seattle in Game 5 of the Western Conference finals. Majerle finished the game with 34 points and was 8 for 10 from three (80%) and made 70.6% of his FG attempts. The rest of the Suns team took only 2 shots from three and went 1 of 2. Sir Charles (Barkley) led the Suns in scoring with 43 points while adding 15 rebounds and 10 assists... without attempting a three point shot. Tom Chambers was the only other Sun to make a three in the game.

On June 4, 1976, the Suns lost Game 5 of the NBA Finals to the Boston Celtics 126-128 in the first triple-overtime game in NBA Finals history. That game came to be called “the greatest game ever played” and Gar Heard’s buzzer beater at the end of the second OT to tie the game and send it into a third OT was dubbed “The Shot Heard ‘Round the World”. Gar Heard set a then Finals record by playing 61 minutes. This record stood until Kevin Johnson broke it 17 years later when he played 62 minutes in the Suns triple OT win against the Chicago Bulls on June 13, 1993.

Interesting Suns Stuff

Pierre Kardin - P.H.O.E.N.I.X Suns [official music video]

Los Angeles Lakers vs Phoenix Suns - Anime (Jun. 01, 2021) | 2020-21 NBA season

Author’s Note - I just stumbled across this on YouTube and thought it was kinda cool.

Suns Trivia

With his 6 assists in Game-5, Chris Paul now has 936 career playoff assists and passed Suns Ring of Honor member Kevin Johnson (935) for 16th most in NBA Playoffs history. He needs just 2 more in Game-6 to pass Bob Cousy (937) for 15th.

Devin Booker’s current average of 26.2 points per game in the playoffs is 5th on the All-Time list of Suns scoring leaders for single season playoff performances. Amar’e Stoudemire holds the Suns record with 29.93 points per game during the Suns’ 2005 playoff run

Deandre Ayton’s current average of 12.2 rebounds per game in the playoffs is 8th on the All-Time list of Suns rebounding leaders for single season playoff performances. Paul Silas holds the Suns record with 15.86 rebounds per game during the Suns’ first ever playoff appearance in 1970 against the LA Lakers.

Mikal Bridges’ current average of 2.4 three-pointers made per game is tied with Tim Thomas (2006) for 7th on the All-Time list of Suns leaders in three-point shooting for single season playoff performances. With a current average of 2.0 made threes per game, Cameron Payne is tied with Dan Majerle’s 1994 playoff performance for 15th. Rex Chapman holds the Suns record with 4.4 three-pointers made per game during the Suns’ 1997 playoff run.

Deandre Ayton recorded a double-double in each of his first 4 career playoff games, the first player in Suns history to do so and one of just 11 players in NBA history: Ayton, Julius Randle, Carlos Boozer, Patrick Ewing, Ralph Sampson, Hakeem Olajuwon, Bob Lanier, Tom Boerwinkle, Wes Unseld, Oscar Robertson and Wilt Chamberlain. Of that group, Randle, Sampson, Olajuwon, Lanier, Boerwinkle, Unseld, Robertson and Chamberlain extended it to the first 5.

Cameron Payne scored a playoff career high 19 points in Game 2 then scored 15 points (11 in the fourth quarter) in Game 3. Payne is the first Suns player to score 15+ points off the bench in consecutive playoff games since Leandro Barbosa did so in 6 straight in 2007.

Last Week’s Poll Results

Last week’s poll was “Can the Suns win this series without a fully healthy Chris Paul?”

51% - Yes.

49% - No.

A total of 214 votes were cast.

This week’s poll is...


Other than CP3, Booker and Ayton, who has been the biggest positive contributor for the Suns in this series?

This poll is closed

  • 7%
    Jae Crowder.
    (32 votes)
  • 4%
    Mikal Bridges.
    (19 votes)
  • 86%
    Cam Payne.
    (352 votes)
  • 0%
    Cam Johnson.
    (1 vote)
  • 1%
    Torrey Craig.
    (5 votes)
409 votes total Vote Now

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