Welcome to the weekly news roundup of your Phoenix Suns.
Current Postseason Record: 6-3
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)
Three games this past week and the home team held court in each, as the Suns and Nuggets are tied through four games in the series.
The week began last Monday with a surprising defensive battle in Game 2. Both teams were going punch for punch, but many of the punches were sliding off the face and ultimately not doing any damage. Phoenix felt like they gained control of the game midway through the third quarter when unfortunately they lost the Point God to a groin injury.
Chris Paul headed into the locker room with an apparent injury. pic.twitter.com/SLAJEJaMsr— NBA on ESPN (@ESPNNBA) May 2, 2023
From the moment he departed from the game until the very end, the Suns were outscored by 18 points, losing 97-87. Opportunity missed.
Losing Chris Paul means losing a leader on the floor, a cerebral player whose sheer experience alone is unquantifiable. Or maybe you can qualify, after all, that’s what contracts are for.
And then, the long week settled in.
The series would not resume until Friday evening, and being down to 2-0 allowed an eternity of time to question rotations, to challenge their abilities, and to voice your frustrations. I’m no different.
Friday came and we were treated to an efficiently spectacular performance by Devin Booker, who scored 47 points on 20-of-25 shooting from the field. HIs shotmaking was elite. His tendency to make the hard look easy was Jordan and Kobe-esque.
Monty Williams tweaked his rotations as well, providing minutes to veteran wings Terrence Ross and T.J. Warren, much to my delight. They didn’t provide massive increases in production, but their presence and confidence was vital, especially as Warren scored 5 of his 7 points in the final 3 minutes of the game.
T.J. Warren's confidence and willingness to take the big shots in the big moments was of vital importance in Game 3.— John Voita (@DarthVoita) May 6, 2023
Despite missing an open three-pointer, he took - and made - his next two on the next two Suns' possessions. 5 of his 7 came in the final 3 minutes of the game. pic.twitter.com/SuBhyRY6K3
The win put Phoenix back in the series, but many questions still existed.
Ayton didn’t have his Tesla, battery charged and was played off the court. Jock Landale filled those minutes and, through energy and engagement, helped Phoenix garner the important victory.
Two days later, with a charged battery, DA gave us a much more consistent performance. Despite Nikola Jokić scoring a career playoff high 53 points – and pushing Suns’ owner Mat Ishbia – Phoenix was led by 36 points from both Devin Booker and Kevin Durant. They combined for 72 points on 26-of-37 shooting (70.3 FG%).
But it was the x-factor, the often questioned Landry Shamet, who scored 14 points in the fourth quarter, that clinched the game.
I’ve never been more happy to be wrong. To see Shamet shoot with confidence is all we’ve ever wanted from him and for him. Perhaps Monty has been playing 4D chess with the Shamet minutes while we’re over here playing checkers. If so, it paid off.
The series is now tied 2-2 heading back to Denver.
While confidence is high for Phoenix, Monty must not become complacent with the adjustments that he has made. Mike Malone will surely counter. Coach Mont must continue to play chess, attempting to be three moves ahead of the Nuggets. If you want to checkmate Denver, a game must be won on their home court.
The Suns still need to maintain bench production or find more assistance from their starting unit. It has been the Booker and Durant show thus far this postseason.
Booker has scored the most points by any player this playoffs with 331. Durant is number four with 270.— John Voita (@DarthVoita) May 8, 2023
Their 601 points have accounted for 57% of the Suns’ 1,054 total points. pic.twitter.com/TDqZjbkZTx
They’ve combined to average 66.8 points-per-game as a duo.
This cannot continue if you want to be successful in the postseason. Or can it? If Monty can make the adjustments around his dynamic duo, if he can continue to get them quality looks and find tertiary scoring, who knows how far this team can go.
Denver will be ready at home, and behind their home crowd their bench and their role players will find the rhythm.
Continue to adjust, Coach Monty. Continue to play chess.
Player of the Week
39.3 points, 66.7 FG%, 60 3PT%, 90.9 FG%, 9 assists, 5.7 rebounds
I don’t have words. I have highlights.
Highlights/Post Game Podcasts
#4 SUNS at #1 NUGGETS | FULL GAME 2 HIGHLIGHTS | May 1, 2023:
460. Game 2, West Semis Post Game Pod (Nuggets up 2-0):
#1 NUGGETS at #4 SUNS | FULL GAME 3 HIGHLIGHTS | May 5, 2023:
461. Game 3, West Semis Post Game Pod with Coach Evan B (Nuggets up 2-1):
#1 NUGGETS at #4 SUNS | FULL GAME 4 HIGHLIGHTS | May 7, 2023:
462. Game 4, West Semis Post Game Pod (Series tied 2-2):
News & Notes
Bleacher Report: Suns HC on Chris Paul’s Groin Injury: ‘Grateful That It Wasn’t Worse Than We Thought’
Larry Brown Sports: Suns owner Mat Ishbia publicly rips rival Dan Gilbert
Burn City Sports: Fans outraged over absences of Terrence Ross and T.J. Warren
USA Today: Kevin Durant to be available as playable character in ‘Call of Duty’ video game
AZ Central: 3 reasons why Phoenix Suns will win series vs. Denver Nuggets — and 3 reasons they won’t
NBA Analysis Network: Hornets Land Suns’ Deandre Ayton In 2 Bold NBA Trades
Arizona Sports: Suns’ pace and space gives Nuggets 1st adversity of playoffs
Burn City Sports: Jock Landale jumps to the defense of Deandre Ayton in emotional rant
ESPN: Devin Booker, Kevin Durant combine for 86 points, keep Suns afloat
AZ Central: How to defend Jamal Murray: Torrey Craig explains Suns’ approach
Larry Brown Sports: Deandre Ayton criticized over his response to Game 3 benching
Dime Magazine: Nikola Jokic Thought Mat Ishbia Should’ve Been Kicked Out For ‘Influencing The Game’
Hoops Hype: Deandre Ayton not blaming Monty Williams for benching him in Game 3
CBS Sports: Devin Booker might be having the greatest offensive postseason in NBA history
Quotes of the Week
“Our job was to go steal one. That didn’t happen.” — Cameron Payne
“You can’t replace what Chris brings. He’ll still be there being a leader, being vocal, but the things he does on the court, we’re just going to have to find other ways.” — Devin Booker
“We’re desperate. I kind of like it.” — Deandre Ayton
“I just stick to the same routine.” — Kevin Durant
“It felt great.” — Terrence Ross
“I had a lot of fun.” — Cameron Payne
“I’m kind of sick of hearing about everyone shitting on him nonstop.” — Jock Landale
“He (ref) told me I was elbowing the fan, but the fan put the hand on me first. I thought the league is supposed to protect us or whatever, but maybe I’m wrong. We will see.” — Nikola Jokić
“It’s playoff basketball. I’m hungry. I want to win. A healthy amount of pissed off.” — Landry Shamet
“Throw that efficiency shit out the window. Just keep going.” — Devin Booker
Of the 35 quarters the Suns have played this postseason, the number of quarters in which they’ve allowed 30+ points to the opposing team.
Bringing it Home
What Devin Booker is doing this postseason is miraculous. It’s consistent. It’s legendary.
Devin Booker has scored 2️⃣9️⃣5️⃣ points this postseason ♨️— ESPN (@espn) May 6, 2023
That's the most through a player's first 8 postseason games since Michael Jordan in 1990 (325) pic.twitter.com/8vJNF7WKE3
He is joining elite company at every turn. Back in the “looter in a riot” days, we pondered what Devin Booker would do when he had the opportunity to play in the postseason. We questioned if his killer instinct would translate to playoff basketball, when the stakes are the highest and the shot making is the hardest.
After Game 4 of the Western Conference Semifinals, Devin Booker has now played in 41 postseason games. He has scored 1,165 points. That number places him seventh all-time in points through their first 41 games.
Total points through first 41 postseason games in their career:— John Voita (@DarthVoita) May 8, 2023
1. Michael Jordan - 1,456
2. Wilt Chamberlain - 1,390
3. Elgin Baylor - 1,342
4. Allen Iverson - 1,233
5. Oscar Robertson - 1,205
6. Kareem Abdul-Jabbar - 1,177
7. Devin Booker - 1,165 pic.twitter.com/yK1G3U4ghq
Look at those names.
This is what we have in Phoenix. Someone who is a legend in the making. Appreciate him. Appreciate this run. Appreciate how easy he makes it look. Devin Booker is special. He is unlike anyone the Suns have ever had in their history.
And the run he is on is historic as well.
He is scoring 6.9 more points than any Sun ever has in the history of the franchise. Amare Stoudemire averaged 29.9 points during the Suns’ 2005 postseason. Booker is at 36.8. It isn’t often you get to witness greatness, and it’s even more rare for it to happen on your team.
Be legendary? He legendary.