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Center of the Sun, Part 1: It’s win or go home time for the Suns

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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.

2021 NBA Finals - Game Five Photo by Christian Petersen/Getty Images

Welcome to the weekly news roundup of your Phoenix Suns.

Game Recaps

Phoenix Suns @ Milwaukee Bucks L (109-103) Game 4 Recap

Phoenix Suns vs Milwaukee Bucks L (123-119) Game 5 Recap

The Suns now have their collective backs against the proverbial wall as Milwaukee has taken a 3-2 series lead in the NBA Finals.

Is it over? Of course not, but I’m not going to try to fool anyone into believing it isn’t going to be hard...very hard. This is truly the moment in time that Monty’s saying “Everything you want is on the other side of hard” was meant for.

The Suns have an extremely difficult challenge to face if they want to bring that Larry O’Brien Championship trophy home but winning but it’s still possible. Both Games 4 and 5 were winnable and the Suns lost each due as much to their own mistakes as to great play by the Bucks.

In Game 4... you already know about the multitude of turnovers the Suns made in that one (17 to just 5 for Milwaukee). The Suns out shot the Bucks from the field (51.3% vs 40.2%), from three (30.4% vs 24.1%) and the FT line (84.2% vs 82.8%) and still lost. That and letting the Bucks get 17 offensive rebounds led to them getting 19 more shots than the Suns. The Bucks also got to the free throw line 10 times more than the Suns. If just one of those things - turnovers, offensive rebounds, free throw attempts - had been less lopsided in favor of Milwaukee, the Suns probably would have won Game 4.

In Game 5... the Suns’ second quarter collapse didn’t seal the Suns’ fate but it set the stage for it. Monty Williams should have gotten Booker back into the game quicker once the Bucks started their comeback run but he kept him on the bench for almost 6 full minutes. Sure you want to give your stars some rest during the game but getting Book back into the game earlier in the 2nd quarter might have stemmed the tide... and insured that he could have gotten more than just a very brief 42 second rest during the 2nd half.

The Bucks are a great team and this was never going to be easy but the Suns didn’t need to make it even harder by also shooting themselves in the foot during the last two games. If they can figure out how to stop doing that in Game 6, then they still have a chance at bringing home that trophy.


Game Highlights

SUNS at BUCKS | FULL GAME 4 NBA FINALS HIGHLIGHTS | July 14, 2021

Devin Booker BREAKS RECORD for MOST POINTS SCORED in 1st Playoffs!

BUCKS at SUNS | FULL GAME 5 NBA FINALS HIGHLIGHTS | July 17, 2021

Devin Booker 40 pts 2 threes 3 asts vs Bucks 2021 Finals G5

Deandre Ayton 20 PTS 10 REB: All Possessions (2021-07-17)


Key Stats

23 (Bucks) vs 15 (Suns) Bench Points

This was a big part of the story in Game 5. The Suns were better or roughly equal in almost every other aspect of that game. This isn’t a condemnation of the Suns’ bench though as they’ve actually outscored the Bucks’ bench 21.4 ppg to 21.2 ppg during this series. In Game 5 they were outscored by 8 points though which turned out to be a difference maker in that game as the Suns’ starters outscored the Bucks’ starters 104 to 100. The Bucks’ bench made 53.8% of their field goal attempts while the Suns’ bench was 42.9% from the field. Both teams’ benches hit on 60% of their 3-point attempts but the Bucks bench took 5 more 3-pt attempts (10) than the Suns (5).

91.0 (Bucks) vs 84.8 Field Goal Attempts per game

Those figures are for the entire series and it’s worse (91.3 vs 82.7) in games 3 through 5. A big part of this problem is due to the difference is offensive rebounding...

13.6 (Bucks) vs 7.2 (Suns) Offensive Rebounds per game

For the series, Milwaukee has almost a 2 to 1 advantage in offensive rebounds and during the last three games it’s been even worse (13.7 vs. 6.3). The Suns managed to do better on the boards in Game 5 though keeping the discrepancy down to 11-8.

Random stats: In the past, teams have won an NBA title 38 out of 47 times (80.9%) after holding a 3-2 series lead in the Finals and have also won the title 21 out of 29 times (72.4%) after winning Game 5 following a 2-2 series tie.

On a brighter note: Over the last 11 seasons, three out of seven teams (42.9%) that were down 3-2 in the Finals were able to come back and win their Championship series.

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


Quotes of the Week

“We knew this wasn’t going to be easy. We didn’t expect it to be. It’s hard. Coach said it all year long, everything we want is on the other side of hard, and it don’t get no harder than this.” - Chris Paul

“We had our chances of being up and trying to finish the job, now we’re in the same position that they were in. They’re up and now we gotta go get it.” - Deandre Ayton

“I always say we hang our hat on the defensive end and that’s where we have to be better.” - Devin Booker


Injury Status Report

Phoenix: Dario Saric (Knee) Out.

Milwaukee: Donte DiVincenzo (Foot) Out, Thanasis Antetokounmpo (Covid-19) Game Time Decision, Sam Merrill (Ankle) Game Time Decision.


Rookie Playoffs Report

Jalen Smith - 6 games played, 2.9 mpg, 0.8 ppg, 0.8 rpg, 0.2 apg, 0.0 spg, 0,0 bpg, 1.9 PF, 0.2 TO

Ty-Shon Alexander - 1 game played, 1.3 mpg, 2.0 ppg, 0.0 rpg, 0.0 apg, 0.0 spg, 0,0 bpg, 0.0 PF, 0.0 TO


News & Notes

Suns Fans Find Meaning—and Connection—in Devin Booker and His Mexican Heritage. The Ringer

Suns’ formula for success in uphill NBA Finals remains the same as ever. Gerald Bourguet/The Step Back

Opinion: Suns on cusp of losing NBA Finals after relying too much on Devin Booker. USA Today

Jrue Holiday’s clutch steal against Devin Booker illustrates larger issue with Suns’ offense. Sporting News

Suns’ Devin Booker, Chris Paul give reporter death stares for ridiculous postgame question. Clutch Points

Whatever Chris Paul does next is what people may remember most. Deadspin

Vocal Empowerment. Suns.com


Previewing the week ahead

Tuesday, July 20 - Phoenix Suns @ Milwaukee Bucks 6:00 pm AZT (ABC)

Thursday, July 22 - Phoenix Suns vs Milwaukee Bucks 6:00 pm AZT (ABC)

Well, this is it. Win or lose, this season ends this week. I want to predict that the Suns will come back, win the final two games and get themselves some spiffy new rings to go along with that trophy and a wonderful new Championship banner to hang from the rafters of the newly renovated and recently renamed Footprint Center arena. I really do want to predict that but I’m not at all certain that’s what will happen.

I am certain that the Suns will play hard and give their all in however many games they play and that they can do it. They can still win it all... but will they? I think it all hinges on them maintaining their composure and playing as mistake-free as possible from here on.

If they can do that, I still like their odds on winning it all.

What’s your prediction?


Important Future Dates

July 29 - NBA Draft.

August 1 - Chris Paul’s Player Option deadline.

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).

September 28 - Training camps for 2021-22 season open.

October 19 - First day of the 2021-22 regular season.


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