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 defeated the defending World Champion Lakers 4-2 in the first round, then swept the Denver Nuggets 4-0 in their second round playoff series and beat the Los Angeles Clippers 4-2 to become the Western Conference Champions.
After two games, the Suns are up 2-0 on the Bucks in the NBA Finals as they prepare for Game 3 in Milwaukee.
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 - With Saric out (and Craig maybe hobbled or out), it’s even more important that Deandre Ayton stays out of foul trouble. If that does happen early in a game, how should the Suns deal with it?
GuarGuar: Well our biggest weakness is our big man depth. Ayton being in foul trouble would be a huge problem. If it did occur though, I would think we go with Frank and Nader as the replacements. Frank during the minutes Book is out there and Nader/Crowder at the 5 when he isn’t. I doubt Jalen Smith would play.
Sun-Arc: If Ayton does get in foul trouble, which is possible, the team may need to throw multiple players out on the court depending on the matchups. Looks like Lopez is getting decent minutes (28 in game 2) over Portis (5 min in game 2). And if Ayton has to be taken out, I could see the Bucks going longer minutes with Lopez in while DA is on the bench. We’d likely have to counter with Kaminsky for some of that time. Even if Craig can play, we need a bigger body on Brooke.
But if Frank isn’t cutting it (and he should have a bit of a short leash), I’d imagine Crowder on Lopez will happen, and other wings forming our small ball. And that’s not ideal. Saric would do a decent job on Brooke if he were available.
SDKyle: I think if that happens the Suns could go with Kaminsky short-term. He’s obviously a horrible defensive matchup on Giannis, but at least he’s a big body that can box somebody out. Ultimately the Suns might have to let Ayton play through some foul trouble.
SouthernSun: The Suns can always put Frank out there. He should be able to handle some minutes. They also have the option of going small with Jae at the 5. That’s actually something I’ve wanted to see more of anyway.
Alex S: The answer would have been Torrey but let’s assume a world where TC misses game 3, what do you do?
My solution would be Kaminsky if Brook Lopez is on the court but if the Bucks go smaller with Portis at the 5, you could get Nader minutes and run a forward heavy lineup with Johnson/Crowder/Nader/Bridges and one of Book or CP. The idea here is gang rebounding and try to get the Bucks to isolate Portis in the post against his matchup.
Ideally we can avoid this scenario altogether but if you need to deploy the strategy for a few minutes, it wouldn’t be a death sentence.
Rod: If DA gets into early foul trouble, the Suns’ options would be very limited with both Saric and Craig out. I have little confidence in Kaminsky playing more than spot minutes. If you go small with DA on the bench, not having Craig available would likely mean a good many minutes for 6’5” Abdel Nader at the 4 and/or even more minutes per game for Bridges, Crowder and Johnson. Do you just throw Stix out there and hope for the best? Only as a “break glass in case of emergency” situation as in nothing else you’ve already tried has worked. The best option might just be keeping Ayton out there and hoping that he can avoid fouling out.
Q2 - If you were coaching Milwaukee, what would you try against the Suns in Game 3?
GuarGuar: I would double both Chris Paul and Booker on pick and rolls and just give up the open 3s to our wings. I know they did this a lot last game and we made them pay. But our wings are very capable of going cold for a couple games, even on wide open looks.
Sun-Arc: Good question. We’ve seen the Bucks try a few things, and none of it has worked very well. Having said that, I think I would look at the five-out options the Clippers used on us to pull the D out of the paint to create openings for Giannis or Holiday/Teague to get to the rim. Though the Suns will sag some off Giannis - so it might have to be when he’s on the bench, and go with Teague or PJ with Holiday, Middleton, Portis, and Lopez.
SDKyle: Apparently Mike Budenholzer’s dad wants the Bucks to just press the hell out of the Suns…and that maybe isn’t such a terrible idea. Their drop coverage hasn’t worked and neither did their minor adjustment of sending Holiday and Tucker to fight over screens.
Pressing for 48 minutes probably isn't realistic, but it might be worth trying. At the end of the day its hard to do much if the Suns’ supporting cast like Crowder and Cam and especially Bridges are going to score efficiently.
The Bucks also need to get Middleton going. Run some plays to get him into favorable iso situations so he can get in rhythm.
SouthernSun: There’s really nothing they can do that they haven’t tried so far. Budenholzer has tried making adjustments in the first couple of games. It didn’t work. The best thing the Bucks have going for them in Game 3 is simply that the Suns may be down another player if Craig isn’t ready to go.
Alex S: If I’m Milwaukee, the focus needs to continue to be eliminating the switches of Lopez/Portis onto CP3 and DB. Your hope is that the Suns cool down substantially from 3 (being on the road especially) and that you get better production from Middleton and Holliday to go along with a strong performance from Giannis.
I thought the Bucks played a good game 2 all things considered but the 3 ball was ultimately the deciding factor. Even with getting more OREBs, less TOs, more FTs and a monster performance by Giannis, the Suns outscored the Bucks by 33 from the 3 point line. That isn’t going to cut it for Milwaukee.
Rod: I honestly can’t think of anything new that they should try. Getting a win in Game 3 likely hinges more on them getting better performances from Khris Middleton (20 pts, 40.5% FG, 33.3% 3pt) and especially Jrue Holiday (13.5 pts, 31.4% FG, 14.3% 3pt). Giannis is playing extremely well but can’t carry the Bucks by himself.
Q3 - How confident are you that the Suns can get at least one win in Milwaukee?
GuarGuar: I’m pretty confident we can at least steal one game in Milwaukee. I’m sure the whistle won’t be kind to us in game 3 so we will have to play an even more exceptional game to win that one. We are the better team. I expect that to continue even on the road.
Sun-Arc: I’ve been concerned about the Bucks the entire time. They can get hot from three which opens up the paint for Giannis and Lopez, which allows them to go on huge quick runs. They are capable of being a very a scary team.
Yet these Suns always seem up to any challenge in front of them. Their defense has been excellent. The shooting seems to be there when it is needed (please let that continue!) They are so focused and locked in with each other. Plus they’ve been great on the road all season and post-season long. They’ve closed out every series on the road so far too. Without getting “too happy on the farm” I am confident they will get one win in the next two games. They just need to keep the same mindset that every game is a game 7.
SDKyle: Very confident. I think the Suns are smelling blood and could potentially close this out in five. The Bucks probably can fight their way to a home win, but the Suns look like the clearly superior team.
SouthernSun: I’m fairly confident. Many of the Suns players didn’t have particularly good games in the first two. Payne hasn’t been himself. Crowder didn’t provide many points in Game 1. Dario has been out. Despite that, the Suns have come away with two straight victories. I wouldn’t be shocked if a sweep happens. But I don’t “expect” it. I think the Suns split the games in Milwaukee then come back to Phoenix and end things in 5.
Alex S: Very confident. We were the best road team in the NBA and are playing very good basketball right now. Will the injuries the Suns sustained in games 1/2 make a difference moving forward? I’d say so. But is it enough to derail the level of basketball the Suns have played throughout the postseason… I’d say no.
If the Suns can cut down on the OREB’s given up and clean up a few of the turnovers (Chris Paul had 6 for example, not like him at all), Phoenix should be able to get a game.
I said Suns in 5 before the series and I’m still feeling very confident with the pick.
Rod: Personally, I’m very confident of the Suns getting at least one win in Milwaukee and feel there’s a fair possibility that the Suns win both. The Bucks are a very good team though and Torrey Craig and Dario Saric both being out hurts the Suns’ depth enough that I’m certain both games in Milwaukee will be a good bit more difficult to win than games 1 & 2 in Phoenix. I’m basically expecting one close win and one a close loss in Milwaukee but winning Game 3 could possibly break the Bucks’ spirit and lead to an easier win in Game 4.
As always, many thanks to our Fantable members - GuarGuar, Sun-Arc, SDKyle, SouthernSun and Alex S. - for all their extra effort every week!
This Week in Suns History
On July 5, 1988, the Phoenix Suns officially signed power forward Tom Chambers, formerly of the Seattle Supersonics, to a 5 year, $9 million contract. This was the first unrestricted free agent signing in NBA history.
On July 7, 1982, the Suns traded PF Truck Robinson for PF Maurice Lucas of the NY Knicks. Truck had been with Phoenix for three seasons averaging 18.4 points and 9.6 rebounds as a Sun but had struggled in the 1982 NBA Playoffs and criticized head coach John MacLeod for a lack of minutes.
On July 11, 2012, Steve Nash was traded to the Los Angeles Lakers for a 2013 1st round draft pick (Nemanja Nedovic), a 2013 2nd round draft pick (Alex Oriakhi), a 2014 2nd round draft pick (Johnny O’Bryant) and a 2018 1st round draft pick (Mikal Bridges).
On July 11, 2015, Suns’ rookie Devin Booker made his NBA Summer League debut for Phoenix against the Washington Wizards in Las Vegas. He had 12 points and 4 rebounds on a disappointing shooting night making only 4 of 11 shots and missing all four of his three point attempts. Archie Goodwin led Phoenix in scoring with 22 points in the 86-77 Summer Suns win.
Interesting Suns Stuff
EVERY Suns Playoff FRANCHISE-RECORD 20 3PM in Dominating Game 2 Victory!
Phoenix Suns Analysis: Cam Johnson is much more than a Shooter
Why The BUCKS Should Be TERRIFIED After The SUNS Dominate In Game 1.
NBA Finals shooting stats so far:— Matt Petersen (@TheMattPetersen) July 10, 2021
Suns: 55 pts, 53.8 FG%
Bucks: 40 pts, 40.5 FG%
CATCH AND SHOOT
Suns: 75 pts, 45.6 FG%
Bucks: 59 pts, 40.8 FG%
Suns: 66 pts, 42.6 FG%
Bucks: 44 pts, 35.8 FG%
PAINT TOUCH PTS
Suns: 37 pts, 68.2 FG%
Bucks: 37 pts, 53.3 FG%
The Suns and the Bucks have met once before in the playoffs in a 2-0 series win by the Bucks in a best of three 1st round Western Conference series in 1978. Before 1970, the NBA had only two Divisions, East and West, and there were no “conferences”. Due to expansion, the NBA created 4 divisions (Atlantic & Central in the East, Midwest and Pacific in the West)) divided into two conferences for the 1970-71 season. During 1970-71 and 1971-72 seasons the Phoenix Suns and Milwaukee Bucks were in the same division (Midwest) along with the Chicago Bulls and the Detroit Pistons. Prior to the 1972-73 season the Suns moved to the Pacific Division of the Western Conference. The Milwaukee Bucks remained a member of the Midwest Division of the Western Conference until 1980 when they joined the Central Division of the Eastern Conference.
Chris Paul is just the fourth player all-time to make his first Finals appearance in his 16th season or later. CP3 has scored a total of 308 points (so far) during his first playoff run to the Finals. The other three players on this list (Kevin Willis with San Antonio in 2003, Juwan Howard with Miami in 2011 and Tracy McGrady with San Antonio in 2013) scored a combined total of just 46 points.
Deandre Ayton has 13 double-doubles in his first playoffs which is the 2nd most in Suns playoff history. Only Charles Barkley has more (22 in 4 playoffs). DA is also the youngest player in NBA history to accomplish this.
In three closeout wins this postseason, Devin Booker has totaled 103 points. This ties Charles Barkley’s 103 points in his first 3 closeout wins for the Suns in 1993 for the most in Suns history.
Most points in a player’s first NBA postseason: 1st - Rick Barry with 521, 2nd - Julius Erving with 518, 3rd - Devin Booker with 490.
The team that scored the first points in Game 1 of the last 4 Finals have lost the Finals. Milwaukee (Giannis) scored the first points in Game 1 of the this year’s Finals.
Last Week’s Poll Results
Last week’s poll was “Which team do you want to see the Suns play in the NBA Finals?”
26% - Atlanta Hawks.
18% - Milwaukee Bucks.
56% - I don’t care because the Suns will win against either one!
A total of 331 votes were cast.
This week’s poll is...
The Suns will...
This poll is closed
Win the Finals in 4-5 games.
Win the Finals in 6 games.
Win the Finals in 7 games.
Not win the Finals.