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Center of the Sun: Suns get off to a strong start in their championship run

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

New Orleans Pelicans v Phoenix Suns - Game One Photo by Christian Petersen/Getty Images

Welcome to the weekly news roundup of your Phoenix Suns.

Game Recaps

Phoenix Suns vs New Orleans Pelicans W (110-99) Full Recap

After a week with no Suns basketball, the playoffs have finally begun and the Suns have jumped out to a 1-0 lead in their first round series with New Orleans. I have high hopes that the suns can wrap this one up in at most 5 games - hopefully 4 but the Pelicans are good enough to keep me from betting the farm on that. The Pelicans actually outscored the Suns 65-57 in the second half of yesterday’s game after getting off to a terrible start.

But you know how these Suns can play in clutch situations. They own the fourth quarter and aren’t shy about proving it to anyone who challenges them.

The Suns’ road back to the Finals will be full of bumps and potholes but they’re driving the biggest, baddest monster truck in the race.

Game Highlights

New Orleans Pelicans vs Phoenix Suns - Full Game 1 Highlights | April 17, 2022 NBA Playoffs

Chris Paul TAKEOVER! 30 PTS & 10 AST helps halt Pelicans’ comeback effort to take Game 1

Devin Booker Begins Playoff Campaign with 25 Points vs New Orleans Pelicans

Key Stats

37.9% (36-95) FG% (Pelicans)

The Suns’ defense clamped down on the Pels making it very difficult for them to score. Even though New Orleans wound up with 25(!) offensive rebounds and out rebounded the Suns 55-35 overall, they could not turn that into an advantage on the scoreboard. They did score 29 points on second chance opportunities (12 in the 3rd quarter) but needed all those 2nd chance points to keep the game close.

52 PITP (Suns) vs 38 PITP (Pels)

The Suns dominated the points in the paint battle in game 1.

Random stats: The Suns are now 48-0 when leading after 3 quarters. The Suns scored 15 points on fast breaks while holding New Orleans to just 2 points on fast break opportunities.

Quotes of the Week

“Crowds don’t like us for some reason. They don’t understand that when y’all talk smack, we’re going to smack your team. So that’s just the motivation — it’s us against the world for real. People hate us when we’re on the road. We like it, we love it.” - Deandre Ayton

“We have the best backcourt in the league. We have a bunch of guys that should get all-defensive team mentions... our whole starting lineup should get mentioned.” - Monty Williams

“The end goal is to win the championship. The focus is there and the motivation is there.” - Jae Crowder

“Man, I think we gotta take it just one day at a time. We talk about it took us a whole year to get back to this point so now I think the question is what we going to do with this opportunity.” - Chris Paul

“I think there’s a whole other level we can tap into.” - Devin Booker

Injury Status Report

Landry Shamet (Foot) Game Time Decision.

Dario Saric (Knee) Expected to be out until at least June 30.

News & Notes

Phoenix Suns favorites to win NBA title, but they still feel disrespected. Are they overlooked? Yahoo! Sports

Suns’ X-Factor in first round of 2022 NBA Playoffs, and it’s not Devin Booker. Clutch Points

Loaded Suns ready for playoff run. TSN

It is not now or never, but the Phoenix Suns may not get a better chance at an NBA Championship. Sports Max

Phoenix Suns vs. New Orleans Pelicans: 3 big questions and a prediction. Sir Charles In Charge

3 reasons this is Chris Paul’s best shot at winning long-awaited NBA title. Clutch Points

How the Phoenix Suns built a championship brand — off the court. Fast Company

A Regular Season To Remember.

This Week in Suns History

On April 21, 1996, starting in place of an injured Kevin Johnson, Suns reserve point guard Elliot Perry played all 48 minutes in the final game of the Suns’ season against the Houston Rockets. Perry had a near triple-double as he led the Suns with 35 points, 11 assists and 7 rebounds in a 110-118 losing effort. His 35 points was a career high for him and only 2 points less than the rest of the Suns’ starters combined point total for that game.

On April 22, 2000, the Suns scored only 72 points against the San Antonio Spurs in a playoff game... but won 72-70. 72 points is the lowest point total ever for the Suns in a win and 142 points is the lowest combined point total ever in any Phoenix Suns game. By themselves the Suns have scored more than 142 points fourteen times in their history and equaled that point total another six times.

Suns Trivia

Chris Paul, who will turn 37 in three weeks, became the oldest player to record 30 points and 10 assists in a playoff game on Sunday. Who previously held that distinction? Steve Nash who at age 36 scored 33 points and had 10 assists in a 111-102 Suns win against San Antonio in Game 1 of their Western Conference Semifinals series on May 3, 2010.

Devin Booker scored 601 points in the playoffs last year which jumped him all the way up to 13th on the Suns’ All-Time leading playoff scorers list. If he can equal that total this year, he will jump up to 6th. 689 points jumps him all the way up to 3rd. Kevin Johnson leads all in All-Time playoff scoring with a total of 2,026 points.

Charles Barkley is on top of the Suns’ All-Time leaders list for most points scored in a single playoffs with 638. Devin Booker’s 601 in last season’s playoffs is second on that list.

Jae Crowder leads all active Suns players in total 3-pointers (54) made in the playoffs and is 7th on the Suns All-Time list. Devin Booker is tied with Jason Richardson and Tim Thomas for 8th with 48. Both could move way up this list before this playoffs are over. Thunder Dan Majerle leads all with 115.

Previewing the Week Ahead

Tuesday, April 19 - Phoenix Suns vs New Orleans Pelicans 7:00 pm AZT (TNT)

Friday, April 22 - Phoenix Suns @ New Orleans Pelicans 6:30 pm AZT (ESPN)

Sunday, April 24 - Phoenix Suns @ New Orleans Pelicans 6:30 pm AZT (TNT)

It’s playoff time again which means that the Suns will face a single opponent, the New Orleans Pelicans, three times this week. Only the location will change as they start out at home and then finish the week with two on the road.

If you haven’t already noticed, the Pels are better than their 36-46 regular season record suggests. Before the mid-season trade that sent Nickeil Alexander-Walker, Josh Hart, Didi Louzada and Tomas Satoransky (plus draft picks) to Portland for CJ McCollum, Larry Nance Jr. and Tony Snell they were 21-32 (.396). Afterward they improved to 15-14 (.517) even though Brandon Ingram (2nd leading scorer with 22.7 ppg) missed 13 of those games due to injuries. Now they’re almost fully healthy and former number one pick Zion Williamson could make his season debut in this series after missing the entire regular season.

The Suns are not likely going to be able to breeze through this series. I don’t expect them to think that they can though and will be prepared for a real fight. I won’t pick which game it will be but I believe the Pels will get at least one win in front of their home crowd and the Suns will take the other two.

This week I expect the Suns will go 2-1 to lead the series 3-1 before returning home for Game 5 next week and hopefully close out this series early.

What’s your prediction?

Important Future Dates

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)

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