I really don’t like making excuses in basketball. Like, I really hate it. During and after many of the 10 games in these playoffs so far, the discourse has been about the officiating, and I just want to be a part of a better fanbase than one that’s making excuses.
That’s why I’m here to rain on the parade that is “bashing officials for sending the Phoenix Suns to a miserable 6-4 playoff record so far”. So here are three things I didn’t like about game 4 against the Dallas Mavericks.
Relatively poor wing shooting
Mikal Bridges, Jae Crowder, and Cam Johnson combined to shoot 13-32 (40.6%) and only generated a combined 2 free throw attempts for a grand total of 32 points. That’s 4.1 points below their combined regular season scoring of 36.1. Landry Shamet did not register a single counting stat — shot, rebound, steal, or otherwise — in his 3:09.
On the opposite side of things, the secondary shooters for Dallas — Reggie Bullock, Dorian Finney-Smith, and Davis Bertans — combined to shoot 14-25 (56%), combining for a much more efficient 32 points, 7.1 above their regular season average of 24.9 points.
Center position disarray
The JaVale McGee minutes continue to be a disaster, and I’ve been calling for him to be out of the series for quite a while, listing it as a tweak the Suns should make since after game 1.
The stats continue to back this up as well; McGee accounted for 7 points for the Suns in his 9:38 on the floor. That’s all fine and good if you’re in the “McGee Per 36 God” hive, but then you start to account for the defensive stats as well: he gave up 9 points in 4:29 as the primary defender, all of which came on three’s (3-4).
As for the center ahead of McGee in the rotation who’s in line for a deserved max contract in the summer and has established himself as a small-ball killer, Deandre Ayton has been invisible for much of the series so far:
Ayton averaging 13 and 8 on just 10 shot attempts per game across three playoff games against Dwight Powell and Maxi Kleber is some kind of plot twist.— Matt Petersen (@TheMattPetersen) May 9, 2022
Chris Paul’s meh first half
Paul wasn’t having his best game, even before the family worries and serious foul trouble began playing a part.
He had just 5 points on 4 shots in 19:04 first half minutes, and the first make — a standing-in-the-corner catch-and-shoot make assisted by Devin Booker — didn’t even come until 6:19 remaining in the half.
In the playoffs, the whole “set the table for everyone else for three quarters and then kill the opponent in the fourth” is getting a little tiresome to me, especially in a game where two of the secondary shooters — Bridges and Johnson — combined to shoot 2-7 in the first half.
Paul has to adjust to those cold starts and take a little more of the load himself, before it’s too late like it was in game 4.
To be clear, I don’t think the Suns are out of this series by any means, far from it. I’m just getting disappointed by the effort put forth game after game in these playoffs. Even in most of the wins so far, they haven’t looked like that connected 64-win team from the regular season.
“The essence of my coaching is to serve. As a believer in Christ that’s what I’m here for. I tell them all the time, if I get on you, I’m not calling you out, I’m calling you up.”— Drew Maddux (@DrewMaddux) November 21, 2021
To steal a line from newly-named Coach of the Year Monty Williams, I’m not calling the Suns out, I’m calling them up. They’re not showing up and playing to their capabilities, and if I know anything about this coaching staff and the leadership within the team, they’re well aware of that. Hopefully, game 5 looks better, because they really need it to.