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Center of the Sun: Suns magic number now down to 2 after they run the table in Week 22

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

Phoenix Suns v Sacramento Kings Photo by Rocky Widner/NBAE via Getty Images

Welcome to the weekly news roundup of your Phoenix Suns.

Game Recaps

Phoenix Suns @ New Orleans Pelicans W (131-115) Full Recap

Phoenix Suns @ Houston Rockets W (129-112) Full Recap

Phoenix Suns vs Chicago Bulls W (129-102) Full Recap

Phoenix Suns @ Sacramento Kings W/OT (127-124) Full Recap

This Suns team amazes me. They have talent and depth and a team spirit that can carry them even when they’re missing several of their top players. Even in the Kings game, they managed to bring home a win down several key players at the start and then loosing several more to injury and foul trouble near the end. Mikal Bridges was the last man standing at the end of overtime in that one who is a regular starter (and closer) for the Suns.

After going 4-0 this past week, they’re now just 2 wins away from locking up the 1st seed in the West and their first 60-win season since 2006-07 (yes, they would have very likely done that last season if it had been a normal 82-game season but it still goes down in the record books as a 57-win season). With just 10 regular season games left to be played, the real question seems not to be whether they can get to 60 but when and by how many games can they surpass 60. The franchise record is 62 wins done previously in 1992-93 and 2004-05.

Going 5-5 over the last 10 games gets it all done.


Game Highlights

SUNS at PELICANS | FULL GAME HIGHLIGHTS | March 15, 2022

Devin Booker leads Suns with 27 PTS in just 3 quarters of play

JaVale McGee (19 PTS) Brings a Spark off the Bench vs. New Orleans Pelicans

SUNS at ROCKETS | FULL GAME HIGHLIGHTS | March 16, 2022

Devin Booker Leads the Suns to a WIN! 36 PTS Full Highlights vs Rockets

Torrey Craig (21 PTS) Notches Double-Double in First Start vs. Houston Rockets

BULLS at SUNS | FULL GAME HIGHLIGHTS | March 18, 2022

Devin Booker (28 PTS) Leads Phoenix Suns in Scoring Over the Chicago Bulls

SUNS at KINGS | FULL GAME HIGHLIGHTS | March 20, 2022

Landry Shamet (21 PTS) Hits Clutch Shot and Steps up vs. Sacramento Kings

Devin Booker DOES IT ALL for 31 PTS, 7 REB, 5 AST


Key Stats

58-14

The Suns are just a damn good basketball team. With the best record in the NBA and a NINE game lead over the nearest team in the NBA standings - from either conference - I don’t think I need to add any other statistics to back that up this week.

Random stats: Since the All-Star break, the Suns are shooting 39.5% from three, a very nice improvement over their 36.0% pre-AS break average. In their 4 games last week they made 45.0% of their threes.


Quotes of the Week

“We’re the biggest sore losers in the league. We haven’t lost a lot of games, but the teams we have lost to, we mark that on our calendar the next time we see them.” - JaVale McGee

“We have a standard of play that we want to live up to, so we never want to lower that standard.” - Monty Williams

“Nobody can replace what Chris does out there. We know how much we’re going to need him when it comes into this playoff run, but in the meantime, we’re just trying to hold it down.” - Devin Booker


Injury Status Report

Jae Crowder (Ankle) Expected to be out until at least March 23.

Cameron Payne (Illness) Expected to be out until at least March 23.

Iffe Lundberg (Not Injury Related) Expected to be out until at least March 23.

Cameron Johnson (Quadriceps) Expected to be out until at least March 23.

Chris Paul (Thumb) Expected to be out until at least April 1.

Frank Kaminsky (Knee) Expected to be out until at least May 1.

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


News & Notes

Dogged determination keeping Suns on track for a Finals return. NBA.com

NBA Defensive Player of the Year featuring Giannis Antetokounmpo, Mikal Bridges and more: March 16th, 2022 | Latest Power Rankings. Sportskeeda

Clutch Suns Keep Killing It. Suns.com

Explain One Play: How the Suns create without Chris Paul. Basketball News

Can anyone stop the Phoenix Suns two-headed, pick-and-roll attack? The Step Back

Deandre Ayton Proving To Be Worth Max Deal For Phoenix Suns. NBA Analysis Network


This Week in Suns History

On March 22, 2000, the Suns lost Jason Kidd for the remainder of the regular season after he broke his ankle during a 114-93 win over Sacramento at America West Arena. The following day the Suns announced that Kevin Johnson was coming out of retirement to help his former team in its time of need. Johnson, 34, whose career average of 9.2 apg ranks fourth in NBA history, had not played since the 1997-98 season.

On March 23, 2017, in a game against the Brooklyn Nets, the Suns had the youngest starting lineup in NBA history with 21-year-old Tyler Ulis, 20-year-olds Devin Booker and Derrick Jones Jr., 19-year-old Marquese Chriss and 23-year-old Alex Len. The five had a combined average age of 21 years, 14 days. The Suns lost to the Nets 126-98.

On March 24, 2017, in Boston, at 20 years old Devin Booker became the youngest NBA player to score 70 points in a game during a 130-120 loss to the Boston Celtics. By the end of the game, the Celtics’ home crowd realized they were witnessing something special and cheered whenever Booker scored. During this game, Booker also tied Michael Jorden’s record for most free throws made in a half (20) that had stood since Dec. 30, 1992.

On March 26, 1996, Phoenix’s A.C. Green played in his 800th consecutive NBA game - then the third-longest streak in NBA history - scoring seven points and grabbing nine rebounds during the Suns’ 102-98 win over visiting Sacramento.


Suns Trivia

During the Houston and Chicago games, Torrey Craig became the first player in NBA history to total 30+ points, 20+ rebounds and 5+ 3-point makes while shooting 100% from the field over a 2-game span.

Devin Booker now has 136 30+ point games. That is the most ever by a Suns player. Number two on that list is Walter Davis with 90.

The Suns are 44-0 when leading after 3 quarters this season.


Previewing the Week Ahead

Wednesday, March 23 - Phoenix Suns @ Minnesota Timberwolves 5:00 pm AZT

Thursday, March 24 - Phoenix Suns @ Denver Nuggets 6:00 pm AZT (NBA TV)

Sunday, March 27 - Phoenix Suns vs Philadelphia 76ers 3:00 pm AZT

The Suns have just three games this week but will face three difficult opponents. They start off with a back-to-back on the road and finish with an afternoon game at home.

There was a time not long ago that the Timberwolves weren’t considered a team that you had to worry too much about. That’s no longer the case. They certainly aren’t a league powerhouse but they’ve developed into a very good team that’s knocking on the door of the upper echelon of the Western Conference. They’re presently 7th in the West but only a half game behind the Nuggets for 6th and 1.5 games behind the 5th place Dallas Mavericks. They’re 9-1 in there last 10 games with the NBA’s 6th best offense, 12th best defense with a net rating of 8th. They’ve been especially good since the All-Star break with the highest W/L percentage in the league (.846). I hate to say it but I don’t think that Suns will win this one in their house, especially if Cam Johnson and/or Jae Crowder are still out.

After zero days rest, the Suns head to the Mile High City to take on the Denver Nuggets. This is going to be another tough game as the Nugs are 7th in offense, 13th in defense and have a net rating of 10th. They’re a very good team that’s already beaten the Suns once this season but that was way back on opening night. Since then the Suns evened up the season series with them by giving them a 29-point beat down in late November. Both of those games were played in Phoenix and this will be the first time they meet in the Nuggets’ house. Curiously, I have a feeling that the Suns will come away with a close win even though this game is on the second night of a B2B on the road. They hate losing 2 games in a row and I think that will be enough to get a win in Denver following what I expect to be a loss in Minnesota.

Finally, the Suns return home and get two days of rest before the Philadelphia 76ers come to town. The Suns came from behind to narrowly defeat the Sixers 114-109 in Philly shortly before the All-Star break but both teams were different back then. For the Suns, CP3 was still uninjured back then but Cam Payne was injured (and out) and Torrey Craig and Aaron Holiday were still on another team’s bench. For Philly, they had yet to acquire James Harden who has averaged 22.9 points and 10.7 assists per game for them. Since acquiring Harden, the Sixers’ offense got a little better (14th to 10th) but their defense got a little worse (11th to 13th) which resulted in no change in their net rating (12th before and after the AS break). Even without CP3, the Suns’ depth has gotten deeper since then and they’ve been playing well enough lately that I believe they’ll win this one after a closely fought game.

This week, I predict the Suns will go 2-1.

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 2-3 - Conference Semifinals begin (possible move up to April 30/May 1)

May 17 - NBA Draft Lottery.

May 17-18 - Conference Finals begin (possible move up to May 15-16)

June 2 - NBA Finals begin.

June 23 - NBA Draft.

July 7-17 - NBA Summer League (Las Vegas)