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Center of the Sun: The Rubio mentality, next-level Booker, and respect

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

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Phoenix Suns v Denver Nuggets - Game One Photo by Matthew Stockman/Getty Images

Welcome to the weekly news roundup of your Phoenix Suns.

Current Postseason Record: 4-2

Points Per Game: 119.5 (3rd)

Opposing Points Per Game: 117.2 (13th)

OFF RTG: 120.5 (1st)

DEF RTG: 118.2 (13th)

NET RTG: +2.4 (7th)

I enjoy watching postseason basketball that doesn’t involve the Phoenix Suns. It’s fun, entertaining, and has brought me great joy throughout my life. Who doesn’t love a high-leverage game when your team isn’t involved? The star power of Steph Curry against the Kings, the unconscious scoring of Jimmy Butler?It’s quite enjoyable to take in.

Conversely, watching Suns’ playoff basketball is stressful, frustrating, uneasy, and traumatic. It takes me to dark places, and I’m not fun to be around when I consume it. Living and dying with every possession, over-analyzing the rotations. The peaks, the valleys. Like war, it’s hell.

The past week in Suns basketball has reminded us of those peaks and valleys that basketball brings, especially in the postseason. I love basketball. I love watching it, I love analyzing it, I love forming an opinion, and accepting that the opinion is written in pencil. It’s okay to change your mind, people. It’s okay.

Phoenix closed out the Los Angeles Clippers this past week, doing so by putting up 136 points in Game 5. Devin Booker scored 25 points in the third quarter alone, and the peak that we were all on was, as Kevin Durant stated, “spiritual”.

The good Lord giveth, and the good Lord taketh away.

After four consecutive three pointers by the Clippers in the fourth quarter, Phoenix found themselves struggling to close out Los Angeles. Ultimately Phoenix held on and the next night we learned it would be the number one overall seed in the Western Conference, the Denver Nuggets, who they would face in the Western Conference Semifinals.

Despite a lack of national media attention, the Nuggets are the top seed in the west for a reason. They’re damn good. We talked about this on our series preview.

Game 1 mirrored that ‘peaks and valleys’ mantra.

After ending the first quarter up 32- 31 and having a peak 15-point Q1 performance by KD, the Suns were out-scored 95-74 for the remainder of the game.

Questions abound and concern is once again beginning to settle in. Such is postseason basketball. When you win, you feel like you’ll never lose again. When you lose you feel like you’ll never win again.

In the seven game series that lies ahead for the Suins, we must remember the ways of Ricky Rubio. Never too high, never too low.

The Suns must live in this space, and it might be beneficial for some of the fanbase to do the same. Adjustments need to be made, and you know that the Bright Side of the Sun will observe and report what we believe those adjustments should be in the series. Remember that they’re written in pencil, and based on performance, those adjustments can change.

Never too high, never too low. Until the game tips off. Then all bets are off.

Player of the Week

Devin Booker

37 points, 59 FG%, 50 3PT%, 85.7 FG%, 9 assists, 6 rebounds

Devin Booker continues to be absolutely fantastic throughout this postseason run.

Overall, he’s averaging 35.5 points per game. No one truly has an answer for him, and due to the gravity that Kevin Durant possesses, he’s finding himself open and available on numerous possessions throughout the game.

And he’s taking advantage of that.

We’ve witnessed different defensive strategies against him. Blitz him. Throw a bigger defender at him. Throw a smaller defender at him. No matter what the opposition is attempting to do, he has the answer.

In Game 5 against the Los Angeles Clippers, he put on a show. His 25 points in the third quarter is something that’s only been accomplished two other times in NBA history. Both Damian Lillard and Allen Iverson have scored 25 or more points in one quarter In the postseason.

His performance helped the Suns score 50 points in the third quarter en route to clinching the series. The team went from being down 9 points at halftime to being up 17 to begin the fourth quarter.

Against the Nuggets, he was much more muted, if you will. He only scored 27 points on 10-of-19 shooting. Ho hum. He remained efficient as he turned into a distributor and once again displayed his versatility as a player.

Even though he’s a player who has been to an NBA Finals, it feels as if this postseason is his coming out party. People are realizing that this isn’t just a fad, that he’s one of the most intense and elite scoring players in the NBA.

As per usual, enjoy the highlights:

Game Recaps

Game 5, First Round: Phoenix Suns vs. Los Angeles Clippers (W, 136-130) RECAP

Game 1, West Semi Finals: Phoenix Suns @ Denver Nuggets (L, 125-107) RECAP

Highlights/Post Game Podcasts

#5 CLIPPERS at #4 SUNS | FULL GAME 5 HIGHLIGHTS | April 25, 2023:

457. Game 5, Round 1 Post Game Pod (Suns win 4-1):

#4 SUNS at #1 NUGGETS | FULL GAME 1 HIGHLIGHTS | April 29, 2023:

459. Game 1, West Semis Post Game Pod (Nuggets up 1-0):

News & Notes

The Cold Wire: Kevin Durant Praises His Superstar Teammate

AZ Central: How Josh Okogie’s role off bench had big impact in Phoenix Suns’ series win over Clippers

USA Today: More ‘spiritual’ performances by Devin Booker might be what Suns need to upset top seeded Nuggets

Total Pro Sports: Fans React To Nike Signing Kevin Durant To A Michael Jordan-Like Deal

Arizona Sports: Mat Ishbia: Suns TV agreement to leave Bally was 100% ‘right thing’ for fans

ESPN: Nuggets’ Nikola Jokic touts Jamal Murray as ‘our best player’

Burn City Sports: The KD Trade Leaves Suns Short on Depth and Defense, It’s Starting to Show

Bleacher Report: Chris Paul Blames Himself for Suns’ Pace of Play in Loss to Nikola Jokić, Nuggets

Fadeaway World: Deandre Ayton Just Stands And Watches As Nikola Jokic Gets 3 Offensive Rebounds On The Same Possession

The Athletic: Do Kevin Durant, Devin Booker and the Suns have a math problem?

Quotes of the Week

“It was spiritual.” — Kevin Durant on Devin Booker’s 25-point 3rd quarter

“I think it’s a good lesson for us.” — Devin Booker on Phoenix nearly blowing a 20-point lead in 4th quarter of Game 5

“That’s Devin. That’s Devin. It just hits different because it’s playoffs.” — Deandre Ayton

“We’ve just got to come ready to play.” — Cameron Payne

“I don’t think there’s going to be too many times where Jokic is going to be off the court in this series.” — Chris Paul

“I thought they were more physical, played with more force.” — Monty Williams

“On the road, you want to try and get you one in the first two games. We’ll look at film tomorrow and see what we can do better and see how we can give ourselves a better chance to win.” — Kevin Durant

“We were good in spurts. Early on it was tough. We got physical and a lot of fouls were called.” — Devin Booker

“We’re going to be a completely different team Game 2. I can tell you that.” —Deandre Ayton

“Ah man, that was like some Michael Jackson stuff.” — Devin Booker on meeting a tearful fan pregame

“I feel like our spacing at times wasn’t the best. It allowed 1 person to guard 2 people. They really didn’t have to do too much rotating. If we can get our spacing right to put a lot of pressure on that backside guy to either pick a side, that’ll be better.” — Josh Okogie

Key Stat


The number of points the Suns generated when executing the pick-and-roll in Game 1 against the Nuggets. It was their sixth-lowest points-per-pick-and-roll in the past three seasons. (h/t @JokerWRLD)

Upcoming Games

Following a Game 2 on Monday in Denver, the teams travel to Phoenix and do not play again until Friday. Rest. Sweet, sweet rest.

Based on Monday’s result, it could be a long week for Suns’ fans if they are down 0-2. Or a great week if they come back tied 1-1!

Bringing it Home

The Suns must, like Bruce Lee says, “be like water”. They must be fluid. They must roll with the punches. They must adjust.

That is what champions do. Adjust. It is a saying that I tell all of my team members when adversity arrives at our doorstep. I created a poster that lives in my office stating just that. Someday I hope to put Devin Booker on the poster.

The hope is that Monty Williams has the ability to make the adjustments necessary to win the series. A tough series does lie ahead. Denver is an elite offensive opponent.

Respect Denver. Respect to the two-time MVP. Respect Jamal Murray, who is pining to prove his worth on a national stage against a quality opponent. Respect Aaron Gordon, a man so petty that he chose jersey number 50 to represent what the score he believed he should’ve received in the Slam Dunk Contest. Respect the Nuggets. Respect the process.

And respect the time it takes to play out an entire seven game series.

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