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Center of the Sun, Part 1: NBA Finals Edition - It’s Suns vs Bucks for all the marbles!

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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: Milwaukee Bucks at Phoenix Suns Joe Camporeale-USA TODAY Sports

Welcome to the weekly news roundup of your Phoenix Suns.

Game Recaps

Phoenix Suns vs Los Angeles Clippers L (114-102) Game 5 Recap

Phoenix Suns @ Los Angeles Clippers W (130-103) Game 6 Recap

The NBA Finals begin tomorrow night... in Phoenix.

Just typing that statement kind of blows my mind. Two years ago the Suns finished the season with a 19-63 record - the 2nd worst in franchise history - and just barely missed out on having the worst record in the NBA in 2018-19. Suns fans were looking forward to the NBA’s Summer League in Vegas at that time and still debating whether James Jones had screwed up by trading down in the Draft and selecting Cameron Johnson with the 11th pick. A fair amount of fans thought that acquiring Dario Saric as part of that trade was the best part of it.

How far the Suns have come in such a short amount of time is simply amazing. It’s so amazing that many, especially those who are not Suns fans, continue to attempt to downplay this team’s success. Let them rant all they want. When jealousy rears its ugly head, people tend to make all sorts of wild and unfounded claims. Ignore all that and just enjoy this moment... or perhaps I should say these next 4 to 7 moments collectively referred to as the NBA Finals.

Once upon a time the Suns were called the best NBA franchise to have never won an NBA championship. That moniker gave fans a bit of pride until that too was lost a few years ago. Now we have the opportunity to let go of the sour memory of losing that bit of pride by finally joining the ranks of teams that have won a championship.

This will be the Suns’ third trip to the NBA Finals and maybe that old saying is true. The third time’s the charm.

Four more wins and the 2020-21 Phoenix Suns championship pile will be complete.


Game Highlights

#4 CLIPPERS at #2 SUNS | FULL GAME HIGHLIGHTS | June 28, 2021

Cameron Johnson - 14 Pts, 4 Reb, 3 Stl|WCF Game 5 Full Highlight Phoenix Suns vs Clippers

#2 SUNS at #4 CLIPPERS | FULL GAME HIGHLIGHTS | June 30, 2021

Chris Paul MAKES FIRST NBA FINALS in CLUTCH 41 PT Performance!

Deandre Ayton 16 pts 17 rebs 2 blks vs Clippers 2021 PO G6

Devin Booker 22 pts 7 rebs 4 asts vs Clippers 2021 PO G6

Jae Crowder 19 pts 5 threes 5 rebs vs Clippers 2021 PO G6


Key Stats

109.8 (Bucks) vs 108.9 (Suns) Points per game

The Bucks and Suns were 10th and 11th (respectively) in scoring during the playoffs but scored their points in different ways. The Bucks have relied much more on threes averaging 36.3 three-point attempts per game (6th) vs 30.1 for Phoenix (14th). The Suns’ percentage (8th) from three has been much better than Milwaukee’s (14th) though (37.3% for the Suns, 31.1% for the Bucks). Milwaukee also averaged 91.6 field goal attempts per game (3rd) vs the Suns 85.1 (13th). The Suns however have the better FG percentage of the two, 47.8% (2nd) vs 46.0% (8th).

12.7 (Bucks) vs 8.3 (Suns) Offensive Rebounds per game

This is an area that could hurt the Suns in this series. Milwaukee has been the best offensive rebounding team in the playoffs (and the best in total rebounds as well at 49.9 per game) while the Suns were tied for last in OffRebs. On the defensive boards, the Bucks and Suns were 1st and 2nd respectively though at 37.2 and 35.8 DefRebs per game. The Suns were also 4th in total rebounds (44.1 rpg). The Suns must find a way to limit Milwaukee’s 2nd chance points off offensive rebounds. The Bucks are 1st in 2nd chance points with 16.6 per game.

Random stats: Deandre Ayton has held his opponents to 37.5% shooting during the playoffs.

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


Quotes of the Week

“I’ve been here (Phoenix) since I was 16 and I’ve seen everything, I’ve seen the organization, I’ve seen Book when he first got to Phoenix I was in the 11th grade. And just being for high school, college and now the NBA and making some noise and bringing some type of light to Phoenix, it means a lot. I’m glad to be a Phoenix Sun.” - Deandre Ayton

“Everything happens for a reason. Don’t dwell on things.” - Chris Paul

“It’s fun when you win — but then you’ve got to turn the page and get right back to work.” - Monty Williams


Injury Status Report

Phoenix: No injuries reported.

Milwaukee: Giannis Antetokounmpo (Knee) Game Time Decision, Donte DiVincenzo (Foot) Out for the season.


Rookie Playoff 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 - DNP-CD


News & Notes

Bubble seeds blossomed: Suns’ worst-to-first turnaround nearly complete. Basketball News

Can The Phoenix Suns Cap Off A Magical Season? FiveThirtyEight

“Phoenix Suns haven’t made the playoffs in 10 years”: Jae Crowder’s unlikely union with Devin Booker after social media battle leads them to first NBA Finals in 28 years. The Sports Rush

Chris Paul’s First Finals Appearance Couldn’t Have Come in a More Perfect Way. The Ringer

Shaq’s debut, ‘Jurassic Park’ and more: It’s been 28 years since Suns reached The Finals. NBA.com

Cameron Johnson Did All The Little Things In Phoenix’s Conference Finals Triumph. UPROXX

Phoenix Suns head coach Monty Williams gets candid about his relationship with the team: “When they’re making fun of me, I know we’re tight”. The Sports Rush

Phoenix Suns Assistant Willie Green Interviews For Three Head Coaching Vacancies. Forbes

Is This As Good As It Gets for Deandre Ayton? Not Likely. SI

If Suns’ Deandre Ayton is becoming a star, it’s because he’s not trying to play like one. CBS Sports

Chris Paul led the Suns to the playoffs. Now, they’re carrying him over the top. The Washington Post


Previewing the week ahead

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

Thursday, July 8 - Phoenix Suns vs Milwaukee Bucks 6:00 pm AZT (ABC)

Sunday, July 11 - Phoenix Suns @ Milwaukee Bucks 5:00 pm AZT (ABC)

GuarGuar, SDKyle and Alex S of the Fantable joined me this week to give their Suns/Bucks series predictions.

GuarGuar: I think both teams match up very well with each other. I’m expecting a very tight series with multiple very close games. I just believe so much in our Big 3 to get the job done. I know how hungry they are and we don’t know how healthy Giannis is. I know how badly Chris Paul wants his ring and how everybody on this team is going to go all out. It will be interesting to see if Milwaukee puts Jrue on Booker or CP. I’m actually expecting him on Paul and Middleton on Booker. CP finding his way vs Jrue will be a big key. And once again Ayton must be dominant and stay out of foul trouble. I believe in this team!

Suns in 6.

SDKyle: Suns in six. The Bucks are a tough opponent, even with Giannis probably a bit gimpy. They have pretty good size and most of the guys who regular time on the court can shoot reasonably well. They play tough defense and have a couple of players, Holiday and Middleton, who can explode on you at any given time.

That said, the Suns are better and should win. The Suns have more playmakers and have the home court, and have shown the mental and physical fortitude to survive against the hard-scrabble Bucks style. Part of that credit goes to Monty, who I believe will also show himself superior to Budenholzer when it counts.

This is such an exciting time to be a Suns fan.

Alex S: The key factor in this series looks towards the status of Giannis’ knee. It’s hard not to make this a big deal when you’re talking about a 2x MVP. Let’s assume he’s able to get back out there, I see Deandre matching up with him even more than he would in the regular season matchups and I believe DA will have a longer lease to be physical with him. Even if Giannis gets to the FT line a bunch, it’s not like he’s knocking them down at a high clip.

A key matchup will be Jrue guarding Book. I believe the Suns can expose Milwaukee in the drop coverage with CP3 or with constant ball movement to get shooters involved so I’m really hoping our guys don’t try to force feed Devin against Jrue too much. Pick and choose your moments to attack and limit the live ball turnovers/bad shots.

Last main factor to me will be general bench play. I believe the Suns bench is significantly better but a guy to watch out for will be Bobby Portis.

I’m going to go with Suns in 5 but that prediction can be tested with the status of Giannis and if Khris Middleton has a big series. I believe Mikal can do a good job containing him though.

Rod: I’m keeping it simple. Suns win games 1 and 2 at home, split games 4 and 5 in Milwaukee and then get win number 4 when they return to Phoenix. Suns in 5.

What’s your prediction?


Important Future Dates

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).

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.