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Center of the Sun, Part 1: Suns take down Lakers in 6, Round 2 vs Nuggets begins tonight!

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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: Denver Nuggets at Phoenix Suns The Republic-USA TODAY NETWORK

Welcome to the weekly news roundup of your Phoenix Suns.

Game Recaps

Phoenix Suns vs LA Lakers W (115-85) Game 5 Recap

Phoenix Suns vs LA Lakers W (113-100) Game 6 Recap

I can remember a lot of comments back before the season started that were something like this, “If this Suns team doesn’t make it to the second round of the playoffs, this season will be a disappointment.” Well, the Suns did not let those people down. Here we are on the verge of playing that second round series after defeating the defending World Champs in their first round series.

Were the Suns good or lucky in their series with the Lakers? The answer is yes... they were both. They’ve been good all season long and they were lucky that Chris Paul’s injury wasn’t more severe. The injury situations for both teams certainly impacted the series but whether it was the deciding factor can only be guessed at. The only fact is that we’ll never know for certain how that series would have turned out if none of the injuries - to both teams - hadn’t happened.

After beating the Lakers in the first round, a second round matchup between the Suns and Nuggets might seem somewhat anticlimactic but that’s just because of the history between LA and Phoenix. No one should think this series will be any easier. No one should be any less enthused. No one should let themselves feel comfortable with this matchup. I’m betting that none of the players are. They know that the job isn’t finished.

It’s just one game at a time, piling up wins... and hopefully being the last team to add another one to their pile at the end of the season.


Game Highlights

#7 LAKERS at #2 SUNS | FULL GAME HIGHLIGHTS | June 1, 2021

Devin Booker drops 30 as Suns DOMINATE Lakers in Game 5 | 2021 NBA Playoffs

#2 SUNS at #7 LAKERS | FULL GAME HIGHLIGHTS | June 3, 2021

Devin Booker’s SENSATIONAL Game 6 - 47 PTS, 8 3PM!

Jae Crowder 18 PTS 8 REB: All Possessions (2021-06-03)


Key Stats

Points Scored

Playoffs: Denver - 120.8 ppg (4th), Phoenix - 104.0 ppg (12th)

If you look at these stats out of context, they seem worrisome but let me supply some context. First off, playoff stats of any kind aren’t very good to base comparisons between teams on. In this case, Denver was scoring 120+ points per game against Portland which was the 2nd worst defensive team of the regular season. Phoenix put up it’s 104 ppg against the Lakers which was the best defensive team in the regular season. The regular season numbers below show the Suns and Nuggets were almost dead even in scoring during the regular season. Neither team should have a real advantage in scoring during this series.

Reg. Season: Denver - 115.1 ppg (8th), Phoenix - 115.3 ppg (7th)

Points Allowed

Playoffs: Denver - 119.5 ppg (12th), Phoenix - 97.5 ppg (2nd)

Again, context matters. Denver faced the 2nd best regular season offense in Portland while Phoenix faced the Lakers’ 24th ranked offense. Again, the regular season numbers indicate these two teams are almost dead even in this respect.

Reg. Season: Denver - 110.1 ppg (8th), Phoenix - 109.5 ppg (7th)

Three Point Shooting

Playoffs: Denver - 40.6% (4th) on 37.3 attempts per game (4th), Phoenix - 35.9% (8th) on 32.5 attempts per game (12th)

We all know that the Suns had a few bad games shooting from three against LA (and their defense). I expect things to revert more to the norm for this series for both teams with the Nuggets also playing against a better defensive team than they faced in the 1st round.

Reg. Season: Denver - 37.7% (8th) on 34.2 attempts per game (16th), Phoenix - 37.8% (7th) on 34.6 attempts per game (15th)

Rebounding

Playoffs: Denver - 44.3 rpg (5th), Phoenix - 41.8 rpg (11th)

Reg. season: Denver - 44.4 rpg (13th). Phoenix - 42.9 rpg (23rd)

Vs each other: Denver - 48.7 rpg, Phoenix - 44.0 rpg

This stat could be the worrisome one. Denver has been the better rebounding team in the playoffs, regular season and during the three RS games they played but even the H2H stats are a bit misleading. Denver out rebounded the Suns by 1 in their 1st meeting (Suns win), the Suns out rebounded the Nugs by 2 in their 2nd game (Nuggets won) and Denver out rebounded the Suns by a whopping 15 in the 3rd double-OT game (Nugs won). The last game was also the one that Deandre Ayton fouled out of after playing 37.5 minutes.

Random stats: Deandre Ayton shot 79.6% (43-54) in the 1st round against the Lakers which is the highest FG% in a playoff series in the shot-clock era (min. 50 FGA). Devin Booker is allowing only 34.7% of shots by opposing players to fall when he’s guarding them (min. 10 attempts) which is the best DFG% amongst all players in the playoffs.

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


Quotes of the Week

“Players like Book have a determination about them, and I’ve said this about him a number of times, he doesn’t run from the moment.” - Monty Williams

“I’ve always had the utmost respect for two-way players — guys that not only score and play offense, but also play defense too. Devin is one of those guys.” - Chris Paul


Rookie Playoff Report

Jalen Smith - 4.4 mpg, 3.0 ppg, 2.0 rpg, 0.0 apg, 0.0 spg, 0.0 bpg, 0.0 TO, 0.0 PF, 100.0 3PT% (1-1), 1 DNP-CD

Ty-Shon Alexander - 1 DNP-CD, 1 DNP Illness (non-Covid)

Statistics courtesy of NBA.com.


Injury Status Report

Abdel Nader - Knee/Game Time Decision.

Ty-Shon Alexander - Illness (non-Covid)/Game Time Decision.


News & Notes

Series Preview: Will Nuggets’ injuries finally catch up vs. Suns? NBA.com

Phoenix Suns now have 8-1 odds to win NBA title after beating Los Angeles Lakers. ESPN

Devin Booker owned the playoff moment he waited years for with the Suns. Gerald Bourguet/The Step Back

Phoenix Suns: Cameron Payne is bringing the… well, you know. Hoops Habit

How The Suns Unlocked Devin Booker To Take Down The Lakers. UPROXX

NBA playoffs second-round predictions: Experts split on Nets-Bucks winner, favor Suns, show concern for 76ers. CBS Sports

NBA Insiders Predict Huge Paydays for Phoenix Suns’ Young Stars, CP3. Bleacher Report


Previewing the week ahead

Monday, June 7 - Game 1 Phoenix Suns vs Denver Nuggets 7:00 pm AZT (TNT)

Wednesday, June 9 - Game 2 Phoenix Suns vs Denver Nuggets 6:30 pm AZT (TNT)

Friday, June 11 - Game 3 Phoenix Suns @ Denver Nuggets 7:00 pm AZT (ESPN)

Sunday, June 13 - Game 5 Phoenix Suns @ Denver Nuggets 5:00 pm AZT (TNT)

This week I’ve asked the Fantable to help me out with their predictions on how the Suns’ Round 2 series with Denver will turn out.

GuarGuar: I think the Suns will defeat the Nuggets in 6 games. Denver’s role players are a lot better than LA’s. I expect them to hard trap Booker like they’ve done every time we play the Nuggets. I have faith DA will do as good of a job as you can do 1 on 1 vs Jokic. There is no Jamal Murray who is a notorious Suns killer. I like our odds in this series.

Sun-Arc: Prediction - Suns in 6

I do not think this will be an easy series by any measure, though I do hope it is less chippy.

Jokic should be this season’s MVP, and the team has hardly missed a beat without Murray. MPJ looks like a legit scoring machine and keeps getting better.

The Suns have been impressive on offense and defense all season. But guess what - the Nugs are right there with us. If you look at ppg and opp ppg, they are the next best team in both categories (league wide).

Having said that, we match up better against Denver than we did against the Lakers (“lackeys”, now). MPJ and Gordon have to face Bridges, Crowder, Craig, and Johnson. We may not have to trot out Kaminsky or Saric at all if we do not want to because the Nugs are short on centers, unless they decide to utilize Javale McGee, who did not see playing time against Portland.

Overall I expect this to be more about offense, though the Suns need to concentrate on what they do: turn defense into offense. If they do that, we should win the series.

SDKyle: I’m going to go Suns in 5. Denver is a tough place to play and its not easy to just brush a playoff quality team aside in a sweep.

But I think the Suns match up really well on this Nuggets team. We have a much stronger defense than the Blazers, who looked downright helpless against Jokic much of the time.

So I’ll say the Suns go up 2-0 at home, lose game 3 in Denver, and then close it out with a road win and a home win.

SouthernSun: Suns take the series going 4 - 2.

The Nuggets don’t have anybody to stop Devin Booker. Aaron Gordon is their best bet, but I’m not sure he can chase around Book all night. That’s not to mention if the Suns have a healthy Chris Paul. They definitely don’t have a counter to that.

Jokic and Ayton are a good matchup. They’ve been fairly evenly matched stat wise in regular season games of late. Ayton is probably one of the players most capable of guarding Jokic, though, really all you can do is slow him down a little. But at the same time, Jokic will have a heck of a time stopping Ayton. I expect the Suns to go to him early and often in this series, trying their best to wear down Jokic.

The Nuggets do have some good wings and forwards like Barton, Gordon, and MPJ, however, the Suns just happen to have a horde of above average 3 and D guys with length and size to match up with them.

Of all teams, the Suns are one of the best suited to guard the Nuggets, as long as Ayton stays out of foul trouble anyway. Should be a hard fought but decisive series.

Rod: Denver won the regular season series against the Suns 2-1 but every game was close and one of the Suns’ losses was with Booker sidelined. Both teams have changed a bit since those early season games but not having Jamal Murray will be a big minus for the Nuggets in this series. They’re still a very good team and it won’t be easy but I think the Suns get it done in 6 games, maybe even 5.

For this week, I predict that the Suns will go 2-2.

What’s your prediction?


Important Future Dates

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.