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Center of the Sun: Suns close in on locking up the number one seed in the West

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

Los Angeles Lakers v Phoenix Suns Photo by Chris Coduto/Getty Images

Welcome to the weekly news roundup of your Phoenix Suns.

Game Recaps

Phoenix Suns @ Orlando Magic W (102-99) Full Recap

Phoenix Suns @ Miami Heat W (111-90) Full Recap

Phoenix Suns vs Toronto Raptors L (117-112) Full Recap

Phoenix Suns vs LA Lakers W (140-111) Full Recap

The NBA Playoffs begin in 33 days. The Suns have 14 regular season games to play, a 7.5 game lead over their nearest competitor (Memphis) in the West and can lock up the NUMBER ONE SEED in the West and home court advantage throughout the playoffs - including the Finals - by playing .500 basketball between now and April 11.

Let that sink in for a moment.

If 2nd seed Memphis or 3rd seed Golden State win all of their remaining games (they both can’t do it because they have one game left to play between the two) and the Suns win just 7 more games then they own the #1 playoff seed. If the Suns were to only win 6 of their remaining games, it would take one of them winning out the rest of their schedules just to tie and force a tiebreaker to decide the #1 seed.

I just cannot see that happening... but I’m not going try to convince anyone to celebrate just yet. But if you want to, I’m also not going to try and convince you not to.

For me, the one question remaining for the regular season is whether this team can surpass the 2004-05 and 1992-93 Suns teams’ 62-20 season records. They need 9 more wins to do that. I’d like to see that happen but it’s really just a secondary concern. We all know what the real prize is.

Once the playoffs begin, anything can happen but, unlike last season, this team is now a playoff tested team. You all saw how far they went last season and if they go into the playoffs healthy this year, the rest of the NBA could be in big trouble.


Game Highlights

SUNS at MAGIC | FULL GAME HIGHLIGHTS | March 8, 2022

Deandre Ayton 21 PTS 19 REB: All Possessions

Landry Shamet (21 PTS) Drains a Season-High in Points and Threes vs. the Orlando magic

Cameron Payne 18 PTS 6 REB 12 AST: All Possessions

SUNS at HEAT | FULL GAME HIGHLIGHTS | March 9, 2022

Devin Booker Returns to Action, Posts Near Triple-Double

RAPTORS at SUNS | FULL GAME HIGHLIGHTS | March 11, 2022

Los Angeles Lakers vs. Phoenix Suns Full Game Highlights

Devin Booker (30 PTS, 10 AST) posts double-double vs. the Los Angeles Lakers


Key Stats

Plus 7.9 Point Differential

The Suns are leading the NBA in point differential. They average scoring 114 points per game (5th) and give up only 106.1 points per game (6th).

Random stats: On pick and roll plays, the Suns’ roll men make 63.8% of their shots (1st in the NBA). On the same play, the Suns’ ball handlers make 45.6% of their shots (3rd in the NBA). The Suns have the league’s 5th best shooting percentage (37.7%) when the shot clock is down to 4 seconds or less.


Quotes of the Week

“I think everybody on our team has the same goal and is on the same mission, especially after a deep playoff run last year and a heartbreak loss in the finals. We’re not trying to have that feeling again.” - Devin Booker

“The fight that we show night in and night out no matter who plays is something that I’m proud of.” - Monty Williams

“These guys all like one another and they just enjoy having fun playing the game together, and you just don’t see that in sports anymore.” - Al McCoy


Injury Status Report

Cameron Johnson (Quadriceps) Game Time Decision.

Chris Paul (Thumb) Expected to be out until at least April 3.

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

As the NBA Turns, the Phoenix Suns Keep Chugging Along. The New York Times

The Phoenix Suns have three perfect prototypes of players. Hoops Habit

JaVale McGee explains confrontation with fan: ‘He was talking crazy’. Basketball News

Suns’ Bismack Biyombo donating entire 2022 salary to build hospital in Democratic Republic of the Congo. CBS Sports

How Devin Booker’s Life Was Changed by Kobe Bryant. WSJ Magazine

Will Deandre Ayton eventually get his bag from the Suns? Basketball News

Stepping Up. Suns.com

2 solid reasons why Deandre Ayton rookie cards are going to pay off soon. Clutch Points


This Week in Suns History

On March 14, 2007, the 49-14 Suns met the 52-10 Dallas Mavericks in a match-up where both teams were fighting for the top seed in the Western conference and Steve Nash was going for his third consecutive MVP award against Dirk Nowitzki. Though the Suns won the game in double overtime, the Mavericks would finish with the West’s top seed at 67-15 and Nowitzki would narrowly win the MVP award ahead of Nash.

On March 15, 2009, on the second night of a back-to-back, the SSOL Phoenix Suns scored the most fast-break points ever in a game (56) during a 154-130 win on the road against the Golden State Warriors. This game is also tied for the 4th highest scoring output by the Suns in team history. The game it is tied with was played almost exactly 20 years earlier on March 23, 1989 and was also on the second night of a back-to-back on the road at Golden State. The Suns won that one 154-124.

On March 19, 1969, NBA Commissioner Walter Kennedy flipped a coin, Phoenix called ‘heads’ and it turned up ‘tails’. Thus, Milwaukee chose first in the NBA Draft, eventually selecting Lew Alcindor (now Kareem Abdul-Jabbar) while Phoenix picked Neal Walk with the 2nd pick.


Suns Trivia

The Suns’ 140-111 win on Sunday against the Lakers was the fourth time the Suns have scored 140 or more points (all in regulation and all wins) in the Monty Williams era. In the previous 9 seasons they did it only once in a triple overtime 149-146 loss on Dec. 22, 2018 to the Washington Wizards. Before that, you have to go all the way back to the 2009-10 season when the Suns defeated Minnesota 152-114 on March 16, 2010.

The Suns are the only NBA team that ranks in the top 5 in both offense (4th) and defense (3rd) for the season (1st in Net Ranking). Only three other teams (Utah, Memphis and Miami) rank in the top 10 in both offense and defense.

The Suns have already beaten every other NBA team at least once this season and have swept their season series against seven Eastern Conference teams (Brooklyn, Charlotte, Cleveland, Detroit, New York, Orlando and Washington).

The Suns are 10-0 in games played on Tuesdays. Their worst W/L record for games played on a specific day is a tie between Friday (8-4) and Saturday (6-3) in which their W/L percentage is .667.


Previewing the Week Ahead

Tuesday, March 15 - Phoenix Suns @ New Orleans Pelicans 5:00 pm AZT (NBA TV)

Wednesday, March 16 - Phoenix Suns @ Houston Rockets 5:00 pm AZT

Friday, March 18 - Phoenix Suns vs Chicago Bulls 7:00 pm AZT (NBA TV)

Sunday, March 20 - Phoenix Suns @ Sacramento Kings 3:00 pm AZT

The Suns have four games again this week with all but one on the road.

The last time the Suns played the Pelicans they got their butts kicked pretty badly (117-102) in Phoenix. In that game the Suns were still running Point Book with CP3, Cam Payne and Aaron Holiday out injured while CJ McCollum and Brandon Ingram scored a combined 60 points. This time the Suns will have Payne and Holiday back and Book returning to his familiar position of shooting guard. Whether Cam Johnson will play is still up in the air, the Pels will likely be without their two main guns, McCollum (COVID) and Ingram (Hamstring), who did so much damage in their last matchup. I’m expecting the Suns to get their revenge for the last game and get another win in this one.

Next the Suns make the short hop over to Houston to take on the Rockets. Houston has the worst record in the NBA and the Suns are already 3-0 against them this season. They have the 27th ranked offense and 30th ranked defense. The only worry I have about this game is that it’s on the second night of a B2B on the road... but it’s a relatively small worry. I firmly believe the Suns will complete the season sweep of the Rockets on Wednesday although tired legs might make the final score a little closer than you would normally expect.

On Friday the Suns return home to face the 41-26 Chicago Bulls. The Bulls are 4th in the Eastern Conference standings but just 5-5 in their last 10 games. 4 of those 5 losses were to very good teams though (76ers, Bucks, Heat & Grizzlies) so don’t read too much into that. Chicago is very good offensively (6th) but a little below average defensively (20th). This is pretty much the same team that the Suns beat 127-124 in Chicago about a month ago but this time the Suns will face them without CP3 who had a 19 point/11 assist double-double against them. This will likely be a close one but I’m giving the Suns the edge as they’re playing at home.

Finally, the Suns head back out on the road to Sacramento for a Sunday afternoon game. This Kings team is much different from the team that the Suns last played back in November... but all the roster changes the Kings have made since then haven’t really pay off. They’re presently 13th in the West, 2-8 in their last 10 games and on a 4-game losing streak. Before the All-Star break (and the trade deadline) they were 21st on offense and 29th on defense. Afterward, they’ve been 21st on offense and 26th on defense. This one should also be a win for the Suns.

I predict the Suns will go 4-0. Even without CP3, the Bulls game is the only one of the four this week that should be difficult for them to win.

What’s your prediction?


Important Future Dates

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.