Welcome to the weekly news roundup of your Phoenix Suns.
Current Postseason Record: 3-1
Points Per Game: 118.5 (3rd)
Opposing Points Per Game: 112.0 (8th)
OFF RTG: 119.1 (3rd)
DEF RTG: 112.8 (9th)
NET RTG: +6.2 (4th)
The tide has changed in the Western Conference First Round. One week ago the Phoenix Suns were down 0-1 after a disappointing home loss against the Los Angeles Clippers.They say that a series doesn’t truly begin until the road team wins a game. Seeing as that’s how Game 1 played out, it’s been a series from the start.
One week later, Phoenix is sitting in a sweet spot after going 3-0 this week in their three games, including winning both on the road in Los Angeles. The Suns are one game away from advancing to the Second Round and locking horns with the top seed in the Western Conference, the Denver Nuggets (we know it’s gonna be them).
There are multiple factors as to why the Suns are in a position to clinch the series. It would go without saying that the Clippers not having Paul George for the entire series, coupled with the absence of Kawhi Leonard in the past two games, has been a primary contributing factor in the Suns’ success. You don’t know what the series would be and where it would be if both are playing. And there’s no benefit in exploring that conversation. It is what it is.
What other factors have equated into a week of success?
Through the first two games of the series, it appeared that not only Kawhi Leonard was the best player of the series, but perhaps the best player in the postseason. He averaged 34.5 points on 54.5/60/88.2 splits. If a player tried a crossover in front of him, he was picking his pocket. And then he was gone.
Following news that Leonard would not be suiting up for both Game 3 and Game 4, Devin Booker took the “best player in the postseason“ narrative and ran with it.
What we have witnessed thus far through the first four games of the series is elite Devin Booker. Not only has he been unconscious on the offensive end, but his defensive intensity, hustle, grit, and impact is unlike anything we’ve consistently seen from him throughout his career. This version of Book is prime Devin Booker. It’s Armani Mode.
He has been the best player in the postseason thus far.
Good Morning.— Cody Hunt (@co_dhunt) April 23, 2023
So far in the playoffs this year, Devin Booker leads the NBA in...
-Points per game
-Steals per game
-Offensive Box Plus Minus
-Defensive Box Plus Minus
-Box Plus Minus
He has been Jordan-eqsue. He’s efficiently been scoring his playoff-leading 34.8 points on 57.1/43.5/86.2 splits. He has 2.8 steals and 1.3 blocks. His 11 steals are tops in the NBA in the postseason. His performance on both ends of the floor is remarkable.
Players in NBA history to start the first 4 games of the playoffs averaging 30 ppg, 5 apg, 2 spg, 1 bpg, and 65% ts.— Automatic (@automaticnba) April 22, 2023
- 1992 Michael Jordan
- 2023 Devin Booker pic.twitter.com/hfsqgIamvG
Aspects of the Suns have been inconsistent, from bench production to Deandre Ayton’s confidence. Booker has been the exact opposite of that. Be thankful that you’re here to experience some of the greatest basketball ever played in Suns’ postseason history.
It was a big week for Chris Paul. The demons have been exercised as, after over a decade of playoff games officiated by Scott Foster, Paul was part of a game in which his team actually won. Phoenix won Game 2, and Chris Paul is now 1-13 in the last 14 playoff games he’s played where Foster officiates.
So, yay for that.
Of note is how Chris Paul has played in the fourth quarter throughout this series.
- Game 1: 2 points on 0-of-4 shooting (0-of-1 from three), 5 assists, 4 rebounds, +/-: -5
- Game 2: 8 points on 4-of-5 shooting (0-of-0 from three), 2 assists, 1 rebound, +/-: +7
- Game 3: 4 points on 2-of-8 shooting (0-of-3 from three), 2 assists, 5 rebounds, +/-: -4
- Game 4: 12 points on 5-of-9 shooting (2-of-3 from three), 3 assists, 1 rebound, +/-: +7
In games in which he is net positive, he has been navigating screens and getting to his spots on the floor. He is taking the one-on-one matchups that Los Angeles is willing to live with and carving them apart with his accuracy from the mid-range.
In games in which he is net negative, he has been driving to the basket and taking shots that would’ve worked when he was playing with the Clippers, not against them. Floaters aren’t in his game anymore and, if you look at shots inside of 14 feet in the fourth quarter, CP3 is shooting 4-of-13 (30.7%). Shots 15 feet or more? 7-of-11 (63.6%).
A season ago it was Chris Paul and Devin Booker’s show at the end of games. Opposing teams had to choose who they wanted to key in on an effort to discombobulate the Suns offense in the clutch.
This season, however, the philosophy shifted. The effectiveness that Chris Paul played with when the game was on the line was clearly diminished. But in his new role as the tertiary option for the Suns, he is thriving. He is the one who finds himself open, and opposing defenses are willing to settle with the result.
They might think that over again after what he did this week in the fourth quarter. It was so ridiculous that he was making circus shots at the end of game four that ultimately sunk the Clippers.
POINT GOD STILL GOT THAT MAGIC! pic.twitter.com/MOWFV4ftDY— Bally Sports Arizona (@BALLYSPORTSAZ) April 22, 2023
Continuous integration of Kevin Durant
The Clippers have harassed Durant at every opportunity, deploying their smaller wings, who carry weight and girth, to be aggressive on the 14-year forward. And it feels like it’s working. But then, you look at the stat line.
Durant has been a stellar secondary scorer next to Booker. He is ninth in total scoring, averaging 27.8 points in the series.
Kevin Durant through 4 games in the First Round:— John Voita (@DarthVoita) April 24, 2023
+7.4 Net Rating
Not bad for your second best player on the team. pic.twitter.com/YSyEpycYXI
Los Angeles has been pestering Durant. He’s feeling the pressure from their wings. This has been a blessing in disguise, not only for the Suns, but for KD. He’s being forced to work and being pressured into situations to take the ball out of his hands.
Not every team can do what the Clippers do to him, simply based on the construction of their roster. If Phoenix was to move into the next round, who will pester Kevin Durant the same way that Westbrook has? Who has the heart, desire, and motor that Westbrook has?
The challenges he’s facing now, and still overcoming, are allowing the Suns to navigate wrinkles and further his integration with the team. Durant is learning on the fly. And they’re winning.
Player of the Week
37.7 points, 58.3 FG%, 50 3PT%, 90.5 FG%, 6.3 assists, 5.3 rebounds
When Phoenix needs a jolt, there is Devin Booker. Yes, they have Kevin Durant, but he is not the Chosen Sun. He’s not 26 years-old and is his prime. Booker is. And the Suns leaned heavily on their young star this week.
Booker accepted their lean and carried the Suns in a way that we haven’t seen since the Barkley era.
Enjoy the highlights:
Game 3, First Round: Phoenix Suns @ Los Angeles Clippers (W, 129-124) RECAP
Game 4, First Round: Phoenix Suns @ Los Angeles Clippers (W, 112-100) RECAP
Highlights/Post Game Podcasts
#5 CLIPPERS at #4 SUNS | FULL GAME 2 HIGHLIGHTS | April 18, 2023:
454. Game 2, Round 1 Post Game Pod (Series tied 1-1):
#4 SUNS at #5 CLIPPERS | FULL GAME 3 HIGHLIGHTS | April 20, 2023:
455. Game 3, Round 1 Post Game Pod (Suns up 2-1):
#4 SUNS at #5 CLIPPERS | FULL GAME 4 HIGHLIGHTS | April 22, 2023:
456. Game 4, Round 1 Post Game Pod (Suns up 3-1):
News & Notes
USA Today: How ‘Call of Duty’ helped Suns’ Devin Booker get ready for Game 2 win over Clippers
Deadspin: Chris Paul finally got one on Scott Foster
For the Win: Chris Paul and Kawhi Leonard bumping shoulders had NBA fans overreacting
The Sporting News: Monsters of the Midrange: How Kevin Durant, Devin Booker and Chris Paul helped Suns even series with Clippers
Clutch Points: Inside Chris Paul’s former $7.2 million mansion, with photos
The Box and One: Film Room Shorts: Clippers Go Small on Suns
Burn City Sports: Devin Booker Makes NBA Playoff History
Arizona Sports: Suns, Ish Wainright send message of support to child going through chemo
NBA Analysis Network: Kyrie Irving Rumors: 3 NBA Landing Spots For Mavs Star
The Cold Wire: Kevin Durant And Devin Booker Matched A Legendary Duo
Arizona Sports: A very subjective composite star ranking of the Suns-Clippers series
Yahoo Sports: What Kawhi Leonard’s absence showed about both the Clippers and Suns
The Athletic: Torrey Craig’s ‘huge’ shot lifts the Suns in Game 3 — and caps a long journey
Burn City Sports: Statistical breakdown of where the Suns stand after four games
AZ Central: Kevin Durant wants to play ‘every minute’ as Suns head to Game 5 up 3-1 vs. Clippers
Quotes of the Week
“They switch their defense up like every possession.” — Kevin Durant
“It’s never a good feeling. I just get on ‘Call of Duty” and blew some steam off.” — Devin Booker
“I ain’t notice.” — Chris Paul on winning a game officiated by Scott Foster
“It’s not a conscious effort of we’ve got to get Book the ball now or we’ve got to get KD the ball now. I just think the energy and the flow of the game will dictate that.” — Kevin Durant
“There is a level of urgency for every playoff game.” — Monty Williams
“He must have heard me last game when I said he got to do it every game.” — Josh Okogie on Devin Booker
“Stay ready.” — Damion Lee
“That’s for everyone else to determine.” — Devin Booker on if he’s playing the best basketball of his career
“This is a family organization, family atmosphere.” — Kevin Durant
“Underrated passer.” — Torrey Craig on Kevin Durant
“He’s finding ways to impact winning.” — Monty Williams on Deandre Ayton
“He’s driving us right now.” — Landry Shamet on Devin Booker
“I’m more disappointed that Kawhi is injured again… It’s also fun getting a chance to compete against him. Well not fun, it’s a challenge.” — Kevin Durant
“All three were in go mode tonight.” — Monty Williams
“I told him it was luck.” — Torrey Craig on Chris Paul’s ‘ridiculous’ shot
Number of points the Suns bench averages per game in the postseason. That is 16th out of 16 teams in the playoffs. They also average 10.5 minutes, which is last as well.
Bringing it Home
The difficulties the Suns have encountered this round are turning out to be net positives. They are dealing with adversity while persevering through it.
You might not feel like Phoenix has hit their stride yet. You still might not feel that they’ve played a complete game. Have you watched any of the other teams in the postseason? Who has had a complete game yet? The ebbs and flows of basketball doesn’t allow teams to be at their peak at all times.
The Suns’ point differential in this series? They’re winning the games by 10.3 points.
The Suns wins in this series have been by an average of 10.3 points.— KDBook (@SoSaysJ) April 22, 2023
The overall point differential per game this series is Suns +6.5.
Nitpick all you want, but the Suns are doing what they’re supposed to be doing.
They’re not winning on buzzer beaters and being pushed to the brink. They’re being pushed, there’s no doubt. And perhaps it’s frustrating that they are being pushed as the Clippers are without their two All-Stars.
Being pushed is a good thing. Being pushed is what the Suns lacked at the end of the 2021-22 regular season. They didn’t have the adversity. They had the false hopes of the confidence that ultimately betrayed them.
This team isn’t ready to be betrayed.
They’re learning about themselves while continuously being pushed. And that might push them towards a title.