Kevin Durant and Devin Booker can beat you on any given night. They’ve been that good.
It’s also not sustainable for a team trying to win an NBA title to rely so heavily on just two guys, regardless of how dominant they are or can be. Both things can be true at once.
That is why it is imperative for “the others” to step up if the Phoenix Suns want a shot at winning this series against Denver, let alone an NBA Championship.
The bench was virtually non-existent in the first two games of the series in Denver (excluding garbage time in the closing minutes), and it ended up being the difference between heading back to Phoenix down 0-2 instead of tied at one a piece.
In a pivotal game 4 at home where the Suns needed a win desperately, it was none other than Landry Shamet that rose to the occasion.
Shamet drilled 5 triples, scoring 19 points on 5/8 shooting from deep in 30 minutes of action on Sunday night. He didn’t collect any rebounds, assists, blocks, or steals, but I doubt anyone noticed or cared. He did his job competing defensively and hit some huge wide-open threes in the clutch.
Monty Williams has remained steadfast in keeping him in the rotation despite his struggles, and he took some heat on social media for it. Shamet stated: “It’s playoff basketball. I’m hungry. I want to win. (I’m) a healthy amount of pissed off.”
"It's playoff basketball. I'm hungry. I want to win. A healthy amount of pissed off."— Duane Rankin (@DuaneRankin) May 8, 2023
Landry Shamet after 19-point effort in Game 4 after receiving major criticism on social media. #Suns #Nuggets #NBAPlayoffs pic.twitter.com/AWtjYsOWR2
It is known that role players typically thrive at home and can disappear on the road. In order for the Suns to steal game 5 in Denver, they will need someone to step up outside of their dynamic duo.
Deandre Ayton isn’t an “other” but his arrival offensively would also be very welcome in Game 5.
Josh Okogie could be that guy. Torrey Craig could be that guy. It could be Shamet again. How about Ross or Warren? The options are endless though the certainty is shaky.
The Role Players
Game 1 (players that received 10+ minutes)
- Torrey Craig: 24 minutes, 3 points, 1/3 FG, +/- of -12.
- Josh Okogie: 18 minutes, 2 points, 1/3 FG, +/- of -11.
- Landry Shamet: 14 minutes, 3 points, 1/1 FG, +/- of -15.
- Damion Lee: 12 minutes, 3 points, 1/4 FG, +/- of 2.
- Jock Landale: 10 minutes, 7 points 2/5 FG, +/- of 5.
Additional Minutes: Biyombo (6), Payne (5), Ross (5), Wainright (5)
- Total bench points: 24 points
- Total players in rotation: 13 players
Game 2 (players that received 10+ minutes)
- Damion Lee: 25 minutes, 0 points, 0/5 FG, +/- of 5.
- Josh Okogie: 21 minutes, 2 points, 1/3 FG, +/- of 0.
- Cam Payne: 16 minutes, 2 points, 1/7 FG, +/- of -16.
- Torrey Craig: 11 minutes, 0 points, 0/2 FG, +/- of -10.
Additional Minutes: Biyombo (9), Landale (5), Wainright (2)
- Total Bench Points: 4 points (FOUR!)
- Total Players in Rotation: 11 players
The takeaway through the first two games is nothing other than noting the rotations are all over the place and in the worst way possible. The bench and role players were essentially no help and they were unable to find any sort of rhythm offensively.
Chris Paul tweaked his groin in Game 2 and would not return for that game or the following two games in Phoenix. That led to shortening the rotation and looking for more solutions on offense which paid immediate dividends.
Game 3 (players that received 10+ minutes)
- TJ Warren: 25 minutes, 7 points, 3/7 FG, +/- of 20.
- Landry Shamet: 25 minutes, 4 points, 2/4 FG, +/- of -10.
- Jock Landale: 22 minutes, 6 points, 3/3 FG, +/- of 10.
- Terrence Ross: 13 minutes, 5 points, 2/7 FG, +/- of 8.
- Josh Okogie: 10 minutes, 2 points, 1/2 FG, +/- of -8.
Additional Minutes: Torrey Craig (5)
- Total Bench Points: 22 points
- Total Players in Rotation: 10 players
Game 4 (players that received 10+ minutes)
- Landry Shamet: 30 minutes, 19 points, 6/9 FG, +/- of 15.
- Jock Landale: 20 minutes,
- TJ Warren: 18 minutes,
- Josh Okogie: 16 minutes,
Additional minutes: N/A (Craig checked in for 7 seconds)
- Total Bench Points: 40 points
- Total Players in Rotation: 9 players
The trend here is the production is going up as the rotation gets cut down. Along with that, certain players being replaced with others that help boost the offense have ultimately made the difference.
Game 5 in Denver will be all about the star power, sure. Booker and Jokic have been on another planet during these playoffs. Durant and Murray have been instant offense.
The game could come down to which role players (or complimentary starters) step up to assist the dynamic duos. The Suns have to watch out for the hot shooting of MPJ and KCP, and hope they don’t get another “Bruce Brown game”.
In a series where so much talk has surrounded the stars (rightfully so), yet it truly could come down to “the others” making the difference.
Who do you think will step up in Game 5, Suns fans?