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Center of the Sun: Suns strengthen lead in NBA standings despite mounting injuries

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

Indiana Pacers 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 @ San Antonio Spurs W (121-107) Full Recap

Phoenix Suns @ Dallas Mavericks W (109-101) Full Recap

Phoenix Suns @ Indiana Pacers W (113-103) Full Recap

Following the end of the Suns’ franchise best 18-game win streak in December, Chris Paul said, “Hell, let’s start a new one.” They have had a few small ones since then but this latest 6-game streak tops all of those and they hope to extend that streak even farther this week... even in the face of mounting injuries.

Deandre Ayton could return as early as tonight but the return times for Jae Crowder and Cameron Payne, both of whom left Saturday’s game against Indiana with wrist injuries, are still up in the air. Their injuries have been described as a left wrist contusion for Jae and a right wrist sprain for Payne. Neither of which are considered serious injuries but could still cause either or both of them to miss several games.

With stellar performances of backup bigs JaVale McGee and Bismack Biyombo, Ayton’s absence hasn’t proved detrimental to winning. With Crowder out, Cameron Johnson will step into his starting role at power forward which he has ably done in the past. The starting lineup should still be strong but the strength of the second unit is questionable at best.

With Payne out, the next man up as CP3’s backup is Elfrid Payton. Elf was a starter for the Knicks last season but has played sparingly with the Suns this year and mostly hasn’t looked that good when he has gotten court time. His lack of outside shooting will also limit his production on the court. The alternative is going going to ‘Point Book’, which could be the better option but could also add extra minutes to Booker’s playing time. I’d prefer to keep his minutes as close to the 33.2 per game he’s already at though. It could also mean more minutes per game for CP3 which I’d like to avoid. Hopefully, Elf can step up and Monty won’t be forced into playing either Book or CP3 more than usual.

While I’m not worried about Cam Johnson taking over Crowder’s minutes, who steps into Cam J’s role off the bench? Many would like to see Jalen Smith take those minutes but, as we’ve seen, he’s better suited to play center than power forward. Stix will likely get some of those minutes as will two-way player Ish Wainright and individual matchups on the court could determine which player goes in at any particular moment.

Even with these recent injuries, I think the Suns can continue to extend their current win streak. I hope that they prove me right.


Game Highlights

SUNS at SPURS | FULL GAME HIGHLIGHTS | January 17, 2022

Devin Booker TAKES OVER, Scores a SEASON-HIGH 48 Points vs. San Antonio

Bismack Biyombo (17 PTS, 14 REB) Posts Double-double vs. San Antonio Spurs

SUNS at MAVERICKS | FULL GAME HIGLIGHTS | January 20, 2022

Chris Paul (20 PTS, 11 AST) Closes it Out with HUGE Dagger vs. Dallas Mavericks

Devin Booker (28 PTS) Turns in an Another All-Star Performance vs. Dallas Mavericks

PACERS at SUNS | FULL GAME HIGHLIGHTS | January 22, 2022

Chris Paul drops 18 PTS & 16 AST in Suns’ win

Bismack Biyombo vs Indiana Pacers | 22.1.2022


Key Stats

25.3 points, 16.3 rebounds, 2.1 blocks

The numbers above are the combined production of JaVale McGee and Bismack Biyombo over the last 4 games. This kind of production from DA’s backups give the Suns the luxury of making certain that Ayton is 100% healthy before he returns to the court.

40.4% vs 51.0% FG, 33.6% vs 43.8% 3-pointers

The figures above are Cameron Payne’s for the entire season and then during the Suns’ current 6-game win streak. His point production is up only slightly during that time (10.8 ppg vs 10.5 ppg) but his increased efficiency has played a big part in the Suns’ latest streak.

Random stats: Mikal Bridges’ has a personal streak of 272 consecutive games played which is the longest current streak in the NBA.


Quotes of the Week

“At the beginning of the season it was more tough than it is now, ‘cause I’m like, ‘Man, they taking away everything I’m good at!’” - Cameron Payne

“It feels good when the guys are on the floor because nobody really cares who scores as long as we win the game. This is not normal (in the NBA).” - Bismack Biyombo

“If you’re just one-dimensional in this league, you won’t be able to make it.” - Devin Booker, July 11, 2015 following his 1st NBA Summer League game


Injury Status Report

Deandre Ayton (Ankle) Doubtful/Game Time Decision.

Cameron Payne (Wrist) Expected to be out until at least January 26.

Jae Crowder (Wrist) Expected to be out until at least January 26.

Abdel Nader (Knee) Expected to be out until at least January 28.

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

Phoenix Suns depth at center could push them to a championship. Sporting News

The 3 unsung heroes of the Suns in 2022. Clutch Points

The Phoenix Suns and their fourth-quarter magic continue to look unstoppable. Sir Charles In Charge

“JaVale McGee reached his prime at 34?!”: Suns center has turned out to be the best back up big in the NBA after his move to Chris Paul’s team. The Sports Rush

Archive 75: Chris Paul. NBA.com

The ridiculous stat that makes Devin Booker, Suns virtually unbeatable. Clutch Points


This Week in Suns History

On January 28, 2014, the Suns signed Leandro Barbosa to a contract for the rest of the season. It was Barbosa’s 2nd stint with the Suns after playing his first 7 years in the league in Phoenix. Barbosa had begun the 2013-14 season playing in his home country of Brazil for Esporte Clube Pinheiros after tearing the ACL in his left knee while playing for the Celtics in 2012-13. The “Brazillian Blur” had been signed by the Suns to back-to-back 10-day contracts before getting the rest of the season contract offer from them.

On January 29, 1984, the NBA’s first All-Star Saturday took place in Denver at McNichols Arena. The first Nestle Crunch Slam-Dunk winner was Phoenix’s Larry Nance, who used a two-ball windmill dunk to beat favorites Julius Erving and Dominique Wilkins.

1984 NBA Slam Dunk Contest

On January 29, 2007, the Suns’ previous longest win streak of 17 games came to an end in Minnesota 121-112 on the final game of a 5-game road trip. The Suns entered the fourth quarter up 95-94 but went ice cold from the field, making only 29.4% of their shots (5 of 17) in the quarter and were outscored 27-17 while the Timberwolves hit 60.0% of their FG attempts (12 of 20).


Suns Trivia

Chris Paul now ranks 5th for the most 15+ assists games (99) in NBA history.

Bismack Biyombo is just the seventh player in Suns history with 20+ points, 10+ rebounds and 5+ assists off the bench. The last Suns player to do so was current Suns GM James Jones back in 2006.

The 1969-70 Suns (39-43) averaged scoring 119.3 points per game, the franchise’s largest ever ppg single season average. They also allowed 121.1 points per game to their opponents, the largest ppg allowed in a single season in franchise history. (The three-point shot had not been introduced in the NBA at this time.)

The 2000-01 Suns (51-31) averaged scoring only 94.0 points per game, the franchise’s lowest ever ppg single season average. They also allowed only 91.8 points per game to their opponents, the lowest ppg allowed in a single season in franchise history.

Both the 1969-70 and 2000-01 teams made it to the playoffs and both lost in the first round.


Previewing the Week Ahead

Monday, Jan. 24 - Phoenix Suns vs Utah Jazz 7:00 pm AZT (NBA TV)

Wednesday, Jan. 26 - Phoenix Suns @ Utah Jazz 8:00 pm AZT (ESPN)

Friday, Jan. 28 - Phoenix Suns vs Minnesota Timberwolves 7:00 pm AZT

Sunday, Jan. 30 - Phoenix Suns vs San Antonio Spurs 6:00 pm AZT

Back to another full 4-game week for the Suns, thankfully with no back-to-backs and 3 of 4 are at home.

The Suns start off this week with a home-and-away pair of games against the Utah Jazz. While the Jazz are in 4th place in the West, they have not played well lately and are 3-7 in their last 10 games. During that time their offense has dropped from 1st to tenth and their defense plummeted from 12th to 23rd. They’ve played better than that in their last few games but still aren’t back to the level they started the season at. For Monday’s game in Phoenix they will also be playing on the second night of a back-to-back on the road while the Suns had Sunday off. The Suns should take game 1 in Phoenix.

Both teams will get a day off before Game 2 against the Jazz in Salt Lake City, which should be a little tougher. The Suns have the best road record in the NBA so I think they should also get the win in this one though.

Next the Suns return home on Friday to face the Minnesota Timberwolves for the 2nd time this season. In their first matchup, both teams shot poorly (both were under 40% form the field and under 30% from three) and the game was largely decided at the FT line where the Suns were 28 of 36 and the Wolves were 21 of 27 as the Suns won 99-96. I don’t expect that to happen again, especially for the Suns who are leading the league in FG percentage (47.5%) while Minnesota is 23rd (43.9%). It should be a higher scoring game for both teams but the result is unlikely to change. I’d bet on the Suns winning this one at home, especially since the T-wolves will be playing on the 2nd night of a B2B.

Finally, the Suns play their 4th and final game of the season against the San Antonio Spurs on Sunday. The Suns are 3-0 against them this season and I feel fairly certain they’ll make it 4-0 in front of their home crowd.

I predict that the Suns will go 4-0 this week.

What’s your prediction?


Important Future Dates

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.