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Center of the Sun: Suns tied for 1st in the West as midway point of the season grows near

Your weekly roundup of Suns news, rumors, notes and videos from the prior week plus a preview of the week to come.

Miami Heat v Phoenix Suns Photo by Barry Gossage/NBAE via Getty Images

Welcome to the weekly news roundup of your Phoenix Suns.

Game Recaps

Phoenix Suns @ New Orleans Pelicans W (123-110) Full Recap

Phoenix Suns vs LA Clippers W (106-89) Full Recap

Phoenix Suns vs Miami Heat L (123-100) Full Recap

Following their game in Indiana this Friday, the Suns will pay their 41st game and officially reach the midpoint of their 2021-22 season. They are presently tied with Golden State for the best record in the NBA but are down 1-2 on their season series with the Warriors with one game left in that series (on March 30 at GS). Unless injuries or another rash of COVID induced health and safety protocol absences come into play, in all likelihood the Suns and the Warriors will wind up the 1st and 2nd seeds when the Western Conference playoffs roll around. Which team gets which seed is very much still in question.

Undoubtedly both teams will do what they can to improve themselves between now and then. For the Suns, they will likely be searching for trade opportunities as on Jan. 15 virtually all of the players who signed free agent deals during the offseason will be eligible to be traded. Most trades won’t take place until the Feb. 10 trade deadline approaches, but you can bet that GMs around the league will be having many trade discussions during that 26 day window. What the Suns do between now and then could be the difference between getting the 1st or 2nd seed.

At the midpoint of the season, the Suns know their weaknesses and what they need to do to shore them up. I’m of the opinion that they do not need to make any big moves but they do need to attempt to strengthen themselves in a few areas. Hopefully they can find a way to do that without giving up too much in return but risks must sometimes be taken. Just shuffling the deck chairs rarely makes much of a difference.


Game Highlights

SUNS at PELICANS | FULL GAME HIGHLIGHTS | January 4, 2022

Mikal Bridges (23 PTS) Scores a Season-high vs. the New Orleans Pelicans

Biyombo Bismack (16 PTS) Takes Flight in the win Over the New Orleans Pelicans

CLIPPERS at SUNS | FULL GAME HIGHLIGHTS | January 6, 2022

Chris Paul (14 PTS, 12 REB, 10 AST) Turns in Historical Night vs. LA Clippers

Cameron Johnson (24PTS) Posts a Career-high over the LA Clippers

HEAT at SUNS | FULL GAME HIGHLIGHTS | January 8, 2022


Key Stats

22-1 vs 8-8

Everyone knows that it’s best to get off to an early lead rather than trying to play catch-up. The figures above show the Suns’ win/loss records in games in which they had the lead at the end of the 1st quarter vs their W/L record in games where they trailed at the end of the first.

For the entire season, the Suns are 8th in 1st quarter scoring with a 28.4 ppg average. In wins, their average goes up to 29.9 (5th). In losses, their 1st quarter points average drops to 23.9, 28th in the league. In wins, their 1st quarter FG percentage is 49.8% (4th). In losses that falls to 42.6% (21st).

The Suns are a very good team but need to come out with energy and a sense of urgency from the git-go in every game. They can come back and win games after falling behind but despite their 30-9 season record (.769), they’re only a .500 team when they fall behind early.

Another telling 1st quarter stat is rebounds. In wins the Suns average 12.2 rebounds (12th) in the 1st quarter. In losses the Suns average only 8.8 rebounds (30th) in the 1st quarter.

The Suns are also 25-0 when leading after three quarters and 25-3 when leading at halftime.

Random stats: Devin Booker is averaging 5.4 rebounds per game. This is the highest rebounding average of his career and currently puts him at 3rd in rebounds per game for the Suns this season.


Quotes of the Week

“When you watch close games all season long, on League Pass, some teams’ biggest issue is they don’t know what they want to run or who they want to go to down the stretch. I think we have a good sense of that.” - Chris Paul

“Everybody from the outside is the only people that have seen my three-point percentage, and obviously it’s something that I wanted to get higher and be a more efficient player, which I always try to improve at every year.” - Devin Booker

“For us, it’s about the urgency and physicality from the jump… It typically starts with that.” - Monty Williams


Injury Status Report

Landry Shamet (Covid-19) Expected to be out until at least January 11.

Abdel Nader (Knee) Expected to be out until at least January 14.

Frank Kaminsky (Knee) Expected to be out until at least March 8.

Dario Saric (Knee) Expected to be out until at least April 1.


News & Notes

3 mistakes the Suns must avoid to win an NBA championship. Clutch Points

How a journeyman found himself chasing a return to the NBA Finals. ESPN

All-Around All-Star. Suns.com

The Phoenix Suns Deserve More Championship Attention Thanks to a Historic Similarity to the 2019-20 Los Angeles Lakers. Sportscasting

Suns star Chris Paul’s classy gesture for 10-day signee after being heckled in Celtics game. Clutch Points

Suns’ Frank Kaminsky has procedure on right knee, out at least 8 weeks. Arizona Sports


This Week in Suns History

On January 11, 1997, Robert Horry, recently suspended for throwing a towel in the face of Suns head coach Danny Ainge while also screaming obscenities at him, was traded along with Joe Kleine to the Los Angeles Lakers for former Sun Cedric Ceballos and Rumeal Robinson.

On January 12, 1979, the Suns traded fan favorite Ron Lee (who led the NBA in steals the previous season with 2.7 per game), Marty Byrnes, a 1979 1st round draft pick (Larry Knight was later selected) and a 1980 1st round draft pick (John Duren was later selected) to the New Orleans Jazz for Truck Robinson, a 1978 NBA All-Star power forward. Truck would return to the All-Star game in 1981 as a Sun.

On January 16, 1996, after getting off to a disappointing 14-19 start, the Suns fired head coach Paul Westphal and brought back former head coach Cotton Fitzsimmons for his 3rd stint at the helm. The Suns would go 27-22 for the rest of the season to finish 41-41 and make the playoffs as a 7th seed where they lost their 1st round series with San Antonio 3-1. Cotton would resign following a 0-8 start the next season after coaching the Suns for just 61 games (including 4 playoff games) during parts of two seasons.


Suns Trivia

Cam Johnson’s streak of scoring 10+ points now stands at 19 games. He has also made at least 2 3-point FGs in 22 straight games, the longest streak in the NBA this season and the longest in franchise history. Johnson has made a total of 322 threes so far and is presently 15th on the Suns’ All-Time Leaders list for 3-point shots made.

The Suns have now extended their league record of consecutive games scoring at least one 3-point FG to 1,405. The last game in which they did not make a 3-pointer was way back on March 27, 2004 in a 105-76 road loss to the San Antonio Spurs. The Suns attempted only five threes in that game and attempted only 1,202 threes during the entire 82-game 2003-04 season, a mark they have already surpassed this season by 45 attempts after just 39 games played.


Previewing the Week Ahead

Tuesday, Jan. 11 - Phoenix Suns @ Toronto Raptors 5:30 pm AZT

Friday, Jan. 14 - Phoenix Suns @ Indiana Pacers 5:00 pm AZT

Sunday, Jan. 16 - Phoenix Suns @ Detroit Pistons 11:00 am AZT

The Suns have three games this week as they head East to begin a five game road trip.

The Suns first head north to take on the surging Toronto Raptors. After getting off to a good 6-3 start, the Raps struggled for a while with a 3-10 streak that left them with a 9-13 record. Since then they’ve righted the ship and gone 11-4 with the 7th best offensive rating, a solid 11th defensive rating and the 6th best net rating. The Suns will need to be at their best for this one and I think they will be after the embarrassing blowout loss to Miami on Saturday. My money is on the Suns to get the win in Toronto.

Next the Suns head to Indiana to take on a 15-25 Pacers team that has talent but just can’t seem to put it all together to get wins. Domantas Sabonis is very talented and scored 42 in a win against the 28-12 Utah Jazz on Saturday so the Suns can’t take this team lightly no matter what their current record is. But the Pacers mostly have to rely on trying to out score teams rather than on their defense (21st). If the Suns get off to a good start, this one should be another win for them.

And finally the Suns have a very early game (11 am Phoenix time) against the 8-30 Detroit Pistons on Sunday. The Pistons are the 2nd worst team in the NBA in scoring (100.9 ppg) and are 29th in Net rating. I would be totally shocked if the Suns were to lose this one.

My prediction for this week is that the Suns will go 3-0.

What’s your prediction?


Important Future Dates

January 20 - All Two-Way Contracts are guaranteed for the remainder of the season.

February 10 - NBA Trade Deadline (3 p.m. ET).

February 18-23 - NBA All-Star break.

February 20 - NBA All-Star Game.

March 1 - Last day a player can be waived by one team and remain eligible to appear in the postseason for another team.

March 10 - Last day to use a disabled player exception.

April 10 - Regular season ends. Last day players can sign contracts for 2021/22. Last day two-way contracts can be converted to standard NBA contracts.

April 11 - Playoff rosters set (3:00pm ET).

April 12-15 - Play-In Tournament.

April 16 - Playoffs begin.

May 17 - NBA Draft Lottery.

June 23 - NBA Draft.