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Center of the Sun: Finding a silver lining in a Game 1 loss and challenging the lack of challenges

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

2023 NBA Playoffs- Los Angeles Clippers v Phoenix Suns Photo by Barry Gossage/NBAE via Getty Images

Welcome to the weekly news roundup of your Phoenix Suns.

Current Postseason Record: 0-1

I’ve waited an extra day to publish this weekly recap as I collect my thoughts and try to make sense of Game 1. Bright Side has done a stellar job of covering the game, where the Suns fell short, and what options exist to get better.

I could drone on about Monty Williams — who I picked as the Suns biggest strength against the Clippers in our pre-series roundtable — and his absolutely pedestrian and laughable decision making in Game 1. I could question why Landry Shamet played 24 minutes in a playoff game. I could express my discontent with the Suns lack of ability to snag an defensive board in the final minutes of the game.

But I won’t.

Instead, I’ll tell you how I feel and how I felt once the final buzzer awkwardly sounded inside the Footprint Center. I was lucky enough to attend Game 1 and, after playing a round of sunburnt golf, it wasn’t the ending I wanted. But it was the ending I felt the Suns needed. I know, that’s weird. It’s weird to believe that your team, that rosters two sure fire hall-of-famers, needed a punch in the gut.

That’s what the Suns received. And that’s what they needed.

I don’t know how any member of this team needs a reminder as to what it feels like to lose in the postseason, but like a quarterback in the first moments of a game, sometimes you need to feel some contact before you’re “in it”. While Monty was gambling and losing the game away, this version of the Suns once again were punched in the mouth, drawing blood from their nose, and felt the pain.

As I sat in my seat for 30 minutes as the crowd dissipated, I felt confidence. Confidence that this team, the 2022-23 Suns, would benefit from this loss. That their story somehow needed to see them stumble out of the gates. That the narrative of the dominating Clippers needed to fade away and, with nose still bloodied, they would have to throw haymakers back.

Ah, to be a Suns fan. I’ve talked myself into delusion. Into believing losing was good for the team. But as they song goes from the movie Encanto, “What else can I do?”.

Player of the Week

Kevin Durant

In his playoff debut, he was an assist away from his first-triple double as a member of the Phoenix Suns. Unfortunately, he only had one field goal attempt in the final six minutes of Game 1. For shame, Monty. For shame!

Game Recaps

Phoenix Suns vs. Los Angeles Clippers (L, 115-9110) RECAP

Highlights/Post Game Podcasts

#5 CLIPPERS at #4 SUNS | FULL GAME 1 HIGHLIGHTS | April 16, 2023:

453. Round 1, Game 1 Post Game Pod with Fallen Founder (Clippers up 1-0):

News & Notes

Sporting News: The next chapter of Kevin Durant and Kawhi Leonard’s rivalry begins as Suns meet Clippers in NBA Playoffs

NBA Analysis Network: Suns Land Nets’ Dorian Finney-Smith In Bold Trade Scenario

Clutch Points: Torrey Craig takes jab at Kawhi Leonard

Deadspin: Overreacting to Game 1 of each NBA Playoff series

Arizona Sports: Monty Williams expects to see more of Kawhi Leonard-Kevin Durant matchup

FOX Sports: Westbrook unlikely to be suspended after altercation with Suns fan

Hoops Habit: Phoenix Suns: Chris Paul can’t afford more failure in the NBA Playoffs

Quotes of the Week

“More physicality.” — Jock Landale

“He just made a lot of tough shots. Got away with a couple of travels, but nah, he’s a great player.” — Torrey Craig on Kawhi Leonard

“The ball was just bouncing weird, man. Russ stole one. After that one offensive rebound they got, it just kept tipping off us. One came off my hand when it bounced off.” — Deandre Ayton

“Be aggressive, make quick decisions.” — Kevin Durant

“No excuses.” — Devin Booker

Key Stat


Number of points the Suns bench was outscored by the Clippers bench.

Upcoming Games

Bringing it Home

There’s seven games in the series. So the Suns lost Game 1 and home court advantage. The Clippers were a popular pick to win the title in the preseason, and in the weirdest Western Conference race we’ve ever seen, they fell just shy of home court in the First Round. Paul George might be injured, but they roster an MVP and Finals MVP on their roster?

My point? Put some respect on the Clippers’ name. Respect the opponent. They are beatable, but you have to respect them.

Have faith in Monty. I think. I hope. I need. I want.

This postseason will be part of Monty’s legacy. Coaching Devin Booker, Chris Paul, and Kevin Durant is a blessing for Monty, but it is his decision making after Game 1 (and last season’s early exit, and the previous season’s L in the NBA Finals) that is once again in question. Plenty of couch coaches believe they have a better feel than Williams does. They’re wrong. But Monty has put himself in a position to make them feel like they are right.

I go back to the Footprint Center watching Game 1. I was watching Monty. A lot. There were numerous times I feel he could’ve used a challenge. He chose not to. I don’t care if it’s the second quarter or the final moments: use your challenge! Stop momentum. Swing the game. Monty did nothing. He just stared.

Don’t just stand there looking like you’re waiting for the Light Rail. Because if you keep it up, you’ll be taking it home.

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