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.
Now it’s on to the NBA Finals! The Suns will again have home court advantage regardless of whether their Finals opponent is the Atlanta Hawks or the Milwaukee Bucks. The winner of their Eastern Conference Finals match will not be decided until Saturday, July 3 at the earliest or July 5 if their series goes the full 7 games. The NBA Finals will begin no later than Thursday, July 8.
First up... the Fantable — a round table of Bright Siders who give their takes on the Suns latest issues and news.
Fantable Question of the Week
No specific questions this week. I just asked the Fantable members for their general thoughts/impressions/feelings following Game 6.
GuarGuar: Very surreal to see our team hoisting up that conference finals trophy. It’s been a very long time coming. I thought we played a tremendous game all of game 6, from start to finish. Great defensive rotations, great ball movement, and our best players came to play. I’m very excited for the finals and I’m taking us over both the Bucks and Hawks. Very confident this squad can finish the job and bring home our first title.
Sun-Arc: I feel compelled to say thank you to the Lakers and Clippers. (Bear with me here.)
The Clippers, as constructed, are a tragically flawed team. Few teams filled with players that are - shall we say “troubled” - make it as far as they did. Lue is a better coach than I gave him credit for and PG13 (and Jackson) played better than most thought capable of in the playoffs. But, really, the team should not have even gotten this far (thanks refs!) So many of their players have personal issues. Cousins, Jackson, Morris, Beverley, and George degrade the game in so many ways - making it less about basketball skill and more about playing ugly and being unsportsmanlike. This was perfectly summed up by Pat B’s push of CP3’s back at the end of game 6. A team of damaged goods compiled together rarely finds success. I cannot tell you how happy I was they were not able to get to the finals. Almost as happy as seeing our team move on to the finals.
I know that either foe we meet from the East is going to be hard to beat. The Bucks are proving resilient, and the Hawks are a better team than anyone gave them credit for. Yet it already feels like we are on the other side of hard. We defeated BOTH Los Angeles teams on our way here - the two teams from the West everyone picked to be in the finals. Plus our biggest worry from the East (the Nets - another “troubled” team) were eliminated in the second round. Now that we have another resting period on the schedule, good health, our team focused, I am actually expecting a first championship for the Suns... something many of us thought might not be possible any time soon. Yet here we are.
There are minor issues the Suns need to clean up here and there - but this team has proven to be tough as nails and able to take a punch (plus many a Paul George forearm/elbow) and keep on winning. Playing both series against the LA teams has strengthened the Suns. Like a fine Japanese sword with metal folded two thousand times, our players are now sharp enough to cut through just about anything. So, thank you Los Angeles, your team owners, and management, for constructing tough yet troubled rosters to be deconstructed by our team - helping the Suns grow in these playoffs.
Hopefully we finally see the championship trophy hoisted by a Suns player. My body is ready.
SDKyle: I’m thrilled to finally be a Suns fan with the Suns in the finals, as their last appearance predated my fandom.
I like the Suns against either potential opponent… I think we’ve shown we match up well with both. We have size and defense edges on Atlanta and skill over the Bucks.
This is the year! It’s time for the Suns to finally shed the label of a franchise who can’t win it all.
SouthernSun: Well, what can I say. This is unbelievable. I’m sure we are all feeling the same things though. Vindication. Hope. Joy. Near mania. I wasn’t old enough to know about much else but dinosaurs and my mom and dads names when the Suns last went to the Finals. We don’t even really know who the Suns will be playing this time yet, but you can bet that team will give our guys a hard time. I just don’t see how this squad loses though. If CP3 remains healthy, along with everyone else, this team should roll right along to a championship.
Thanks to all of you, my fellow Suns fans, for making this even more special. We’ve shared heartache. We’ve shared brief moments of joy. Tiny islands of hope in a sea of crushing defeats. I’ve been a member of the Bright Side community for like 8 or 9 years on this account. I lurked on another before that. This place was here for me back then. A place where everyone talked Suns all day. No matter how bad it got, this community was active and engaged. Like the blog version of Jevon Carter. Suns fans have the most knowledgeable and die-hard fans in the NBA. Bright Side of the Sun and Suns Twitter are a testament to that.
Suns are heading to the Finals, and I don't expect anything less than for them to bring home the Larry O’Brien trophy
Alex S: I don’t want to age myself too much here but let’s just say I’m absolutely thrilled to watch my first ever NBA finals that involves my Phoenix Suns. I’m so proud of the group as a whole and last night was a beautiful celebration. However, the job is far from done…4 to go.
Who do I prefer as a matchup between the Bucks and Hawks? The honest answer is I’m a split between the two.
I believe the Hawks are better coached, have more viable scoring threats but lack a true “big 3” type of star power. The Bucks have the noted star power but are also one of the best “dumb” basketball teams I’ve ever seen. With the Giannis and Trae injuries, I can’t even say I have a preference between the two matchups.
I’ll go with Atlanta because I think that’d be a tremendous story. Two franchises that were picking at the top of the lottery in 2018 who have made enormous strides in such a small window. I also have to give the Hawks credit for playing a fun brand of basketball as well.
Either way, the Suns are going to be favorites and your Phoenix Suns are going to be NBA Champions here soon. By no means is the job complete but I believe in this roster and truly believe they just beat their toughest foe in a well coached and deep Clippers team. Shoutout to Reggie Jackson because I got nothing but respect for his turnaround in his career.
Congrats Suns fans, we deserve this.
Rod: After the Game 5 letdown, I was honestly surprised - and revived - by the way the Suns handled the Clippers in Game 6. Shame on me for doubting the Suns even briefly! This year’s season and playoffs could be called the NBA version of “Survivor”. Every team, including the Suns, had to deal with injuries, illness and a condensed schedule throughout the season and it’s been obviously been tough but the Suns didn’t win the Western Conference because of that, they won in spite of it.
Although I really don’t care much which team the Suns face in the Finals, I kind of would like the chance to beat the team coached by the guy who spurned the Suns head coaching job back in 2018... Mike Budenholzer. I was pretty disappointed when he walked away from us back then but I’m glad he did it now. Even though we had to live through one year of Igor’s coaching, that got us Monty Williams. I’m now convinced that Williams got the Suns where they are now faster than Budenholzer would have even with an extra year at the helm... and I’m not really sure he could have ever gotten the team this far.
The Suns and Hawks in the Finals would make a great story though. Two teams making the biggest turnarounds in the NBA over the last two seasons and both with a mix of talented youngsters and proven veterans sounds like a sports movie script. If it’ was, it would be one I’d like to watch even if it was just fiction and I doubt I’m alone in that respect.
Either way, the big story for us is getting back to the NBA Finals. Virtually no one expected it early on yet now the Suns are the favorite to win it all. It feels damn good to be a Suns fan these days!
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 June 28, 1988, the Suns drafted Dan Majerle in the 1st round (14th pick) of the 1988 NBA Draft. Most fans booed the pick as it was made.
On June 28, 2008, the Suns traded Malik Hairston, cash and a 2009 2nd round draft pick (DeJuan Blair was later selected) to the San Antonio Spurs for Goran Dragic.
On June 30, 2020, the Suns signed free agent point guard Cameron Payne to a multi-year contract.
On June 30, 1999, the Suns drafted Shawn Marion in the 1st round (9th pick) of the 1999 NBA Draft with the draft pick they acquired from the Dallas Mavericks for Steve Nash the previous year.
On July 3, 1992, the Suns signed 33 year old, 11-year NBA veteran Danny Ainge as a free agent.
Interesting Suns Stuff
What would a title mean for Chris Paul’s legacy? | Get Up
Today is the one year anniversary of Cam Payne getting the call with an opportunity to join the Suns. Before that he wasn't sure what was left of his career.— Chierstin Susel (@ChierstinSusel) July 1, 2021
His mom was brought to tears talking about it after the game, and Mikal Bridges' mom also couldn't believe the moment. pic.twitter.com/080VnPaBpw
NBA Players React to Chris Paul Advancing to NBA FINALS for First Time in NBA Career
When the Suns’ lead went down to 7 in Game-6 of the WCFs, Chris Paul scored 27 of the Suns’ next 35 points before leaving the Game with Phoenix up by 24. He is also the oldest player in NBA history to score 40+ points in a closeout game.
By Box Plus/Minus, Chris Paul put up the best statline in a Game 6 or 7 since 1985, the first year we can calculate BPM on a game-by-game basis https://t.co/WDNQDqJqyN pic.twitter.com/Ygg5O5kIOX— Basketball Reference (@bball_ref) July 1, 2021
Devin Booker has now scored 432 total points in his first playoffs (16 games). He presently ranks 3rd on the Suns All-Time list for Single Playoffs Point Total. He is just 17 points behind 2nd place Amar’e Stoudemire’s 449 total points scored in 2005 (15 games). Charles Barkley holds the number one spot with the whopping 638 points he scored in 1993 (24 games).
The last time the Suns were in the NBA Finals (1993), Chris Paul was 8 years old. E’Twaun Moore was 4, Jae Crowder was almost 3, Torrey Craig was 2 1/2 and Langston Galloway was 1 1/2. The rest of the Suns team hadn’t been born yet. James Jones was 13 and just getting his first taste of Jr. High basketball. Monty Williams was still looking forward to his senior season at Notre Dame (Extra trivia tidbit - Monty’s head coach at ND for his last 2 years there was former Suns head coach John MacLeod!). The Phoenix Suns Arena (then America West Arena) was brand new.
Chris Paul played in 1,213 career games (both regular season and playoffs) before making it to the NBA Finals. Only PF/C Kevin Willis (1992 NBA All-Star and 1991-92 3rd team All-NBA with Atlanta) played more career games (1,331) before making it to the finals with the San Antonio Spurs in 2003 at age 40. It was his 18th NBA season.
During Game-6 of the Western Conference Finals, Chris Paul passed Michael Jordan to move into 11th in the NBA record books for all-time playoff assists. CP3 now has 1,024 and needs 17 more to move past Kobe Bryant (1,040), 25 to move past Scottie Pippen (1,048), 38 to move past Steve Nash (1,061) and 39 to move past Larry Bird (1,062) to take 7th place on the all-time list. 39 assists over at least 4 more games (9.75 per game) is extremely doable for CP3.
Cam Johnson has hit 55.6% (15/27) of his corner three attempts during the playoffs.
The Suns are currently .500 all-time in the playoffs (145-145). This is the 10th best all-time NBA playoffs W/L percentage. They are also now 22-8 all-time in playoff series in which they won Game-1.
Last Week’s Poll Results
Last week’s poll was “Against the Clippers the Suns will...”
79% - Win in 4 or 5 games.
18% - Win in 6 games.
02% - Win in 7 games.
01% - Not win the series so who cares about how many games.
A total of 262 votes were cast.
This week’s poll is...
Which team do you want to see the Suns play in the NBA Finals?
This poll is closed
I don’t care because the Suns will win against either one!