Suns

Suns Going Streaking With 12 Straight Wins

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The Phoenix Suns winning or the sun rising in the morning– which streak is going to end first?

Okay okay, that one might be a stretch. With just a few lower-tier teams to get through these next few games in the Spurs and the Cavaliers, however, the end might not be as near as one may think.

Surprisingly enough, this Suns roster hasn’t even played to their full potential yet. Injuries sidelined Deandre Ayton and Cameron Payne for a stint. Chris Paul‘s fluctuating play has been a point of emphasis all year. And with the lack of attention to detail and energy on both ends of the floor, the sky only seems to be half the limit these guys can reach.

Things are taking their turn, though. In this piece, we have 12 things from this 12-game win streak to hone in on in the coming weeks.

12. Cam Johnson Finding a Groove?

A Suns role player not too many people expected to be struggling at this point was Cameron Johnson. Nevertheless, what comes must go, and it feels like he might just be making his breakthrough once more. Dropping a career high in points (22!) was just the peak of what has been percolating for the shooter in recent days. Shooting 43.6% from deep in the last seven games shows he is finding his stroke, which is where he really makes his impact.

Overall, Johnson is still developing in attacking the basket and making the right reads and plays. Once he starts making plays like this normally, expect a next-level burst of talent.

Last year, I wrote about Cam Johnson being a possible sixth-man-of-the-year candidate with the potential that he has. Still to this day I see nothing changing and that award is coming sometime in the future (if he doesn’t end up in a starting lineup before that).

11. Three-Point Attempts

Right now there seems to be some sort of disconnect between head coach Monty Williams and the team on how many threes they want to take per game. Coming from Arizona Sports reporter Kellan Olson, Monty stated Friday that the teams’ three-point attempts aren’t close to where they want it.

Naturally, let’s look at the numbers.

Last year, the Suns shot 34.6 threes a game. This put them smack in the middle of the league at 15th. Interestingly enough, the Suns this year are only shooting about two fewer threes a game so far in total at 32.2 per game. On the contrary, this puts them in the bottom tier of the league at 27th. This could be Monty wanting to keep up with the rest of the league as the numbers are higher across the board.

This is to be expected with the new foul rules in place.

However, while Friday’s game against the Mavericks was on the low end again, the team has increased their attempts from deep overall as of late. Sunday against the Nuggets, the attempts went back up to 36. In the first eight games of the year, the team only shot 31.9 attempts compared to 33.8 per game in the last eight.

10. Mikal Scoring Watch

The Mikal Bridges game of the 2021-2022 season has arrived. Posting a stat line Friday against the Mavericks of 19 points, three assists and four rebounds, with splits of 100/100/100, Bridges showed up and showed out.

Per the Suns, Bridges joined Leandro Barbosa as the only two players in franchise history to shoot 100% in a game on 7+ FGAs while also attempting 3+ three-pointers. Mikal flashed greatness all night and locked himself in to be another main scoring option for Phoenix.

Don’t let Bridges add a pull-up three to his transition game. He will turn into a one-man wrecking crew.

9. Ayton Finding His Rhythm

Ayton of all people deserves grace when it comes to the beginning of the season. Absolutely the person with the most eyes and pressure on him, he has been working hard to find a stride. Coming off his first game back from injury dropping 19 points and 13 rebounds last Wednesday, he had a slow game Friday.

But he seemed due for a breakout game once more.

Little did we know that meant a 21 and eight game with two blocks and stellar defense all around. It was Ayton’s world on Sunday night, and we were just living in it. Catching some incredible passes from CP3 off the roll, it felt like he was just going through the motions out there with ease.

He even revealed some post work ALL Suns fans can appreciate coming from him. 

Yes. Even something like this is enough for us to get something going. Just need him to show the confidence to do it more often.

8. Pace

According to Basketball-Reference, “Pace” is described as “an estimate of the number of possessions per 48 minutes by a team”. This just means how many times you get the ball combined with how fast your possessions are with the ball.

Last year, the Suns ranked 24th in the league in pace with 98 flat. Very low on the totem pole. This was to be expected with a Chris Paul-led, heavy pick-and-roll team. This year, however, Phoenix is taking a leap, clocking in at fourth in pace so far with 101.66. T

This can be mostly seen with the eye test. Devin Booker is rebounding at a career rate, pushing the ball up the floor. Sitting at fifth in the league in steals per game, this team is running off opponent turnovers and getting up the floor with numbers. As seen in the play below, even off opponent makes, CP3 is whipping the ball up the floor and getting the offense going.

The Suns also have amazing bigs who run the floor well, and with the addition of spot-up shooter Landry Shamet, expect them to remain in this high tier of pace.

7. Booker’s Attention to Detail

The layers to Devin Booker’s game seem to be endless.

As mentioned before, pace is seeming to be a very big part of the Suns’ game plan this year. Someone taking full advantage of this is Book. Averaging six rebounds a game almost two rebounds more than he’s ever averaged before — it’s clear Booker is looking to take charge in running the offense this year.

Being one of the fastest guys in the league, his speed is definitely an underrated part of his game. Knowing this, all year Booker has been able to take a rebound, catch the defense off guard, and slip his way either into a quick basket or a quick foul.

Book might just be making another leap this year. Who knows what more this man may be capable of. MVP status?

6. Defense

An absolute staple of the Suns last year was their team defense. Working together, rotating, and limiting opponent points off turnovers were the subtle keys last year to excellence. This year, it feels like the more individual play of the team is going to have to prevail more often than not for them to stay afloat.

Lapses of energy and execution have been seen many times this year. Particularly in Phoenix’s stars, however, their individual greatness has been more than enough to get us where we’re at now.

But the question resides, is it sustainable? My short and to-the-point answer? Yes.

Devin Booker has made that leap and is locked in on both ends. Ayton is constantly battling and making himself known with force, learning from JaVale McGee. Chris Paul has been a pick-pocket maestro this season. All of this has yet to mention our best defender in Bridges who is already making his all-defensive team case early.

Good luck scoring on this team in the half-court.

5. Who Are We Gonna Watch With No Frank?

On November 11th against the Portland Trail Blazers, Frank Kaminsky made his mark on the league once more. Posting a season-high 31 minutes with Ayton out, Kaminsky took full advantage of the opportunity, dropping a career-high 31 points, executing the perfect “big” man compliment to CP3. Rolling to the rim so intentionally with just a swiss-army knife of pump fakes and hesitation moves to get easy buckets.

There is just something so satisfyingly odd about watching Frank the Tank own other NBA guys. 

Before Saturday’s game against Denver, the Suns reported Kaminsky was to be out indefinitely with a stress reaction in his right knee.

Terrible timing considering how hard he was playing and, to be frank (no pun intended), how well he was actually playing. In his place it seemed Monty just filled his minutes, if they were to come, with more Bridges and Johnson. No Abdel Nader these last few days means the team’s forward depth is spreading thin considering we saw Jalen Smith minutes again Sunday.

Expect Nader to re-fill his role once he is healthy again.

This only means the Suns are going to be eyeing the trade market as things tighten up. Don’t be surprised if rumors are begin to run rampant as success continues.

4. Depth Getting It Done

Depth at a few positions last year was an obvious matter of question coming into this year. Finding serviceable size to pair with Ayton, along with another spark off the bench is what Phoenix was looking for coming into the offseason last year. 

Well, they might have executed some roster changes to perfection come the start of this year. Acquiring the aforementioned McGee and Shamet seem like flawless plug-ins to what was already a pretty set-up offense. Not even 20 games into the season and Suns Twitter has already coined “The JaVale McGee Experience” to describe what having McGee on your team may feel like.

Let me tell you, it’s been a wild ride already. 

Moving forward, the likes of McGee and Shamet are two momentum-swinging guys who can shift a game into your favor by just doing the little things. Shamet is so good off the ball at relocating and non-stop moving, fitting in well with the rest of the running around by Johnson and Bridges.

It doesn’t feel like a stretch to say the Suns might just have the best bench rotation in the league. 

3. Chris Paul and Devin Booker’s Fourth Quarter Excellence

The impact Devin Booker and Chris Paul can have at the very end of games are unprecedented across the league. Having two guys who can dominate in the clutch was key last year, and already is this year. “Clutch” situations in the NBA are described as games that are within five points in the last five minutes of the game. The Suns have had their fair share of these already, and in the end, keeping this streak alive is owed in large part due to the surgical performances of CP3 and Booker in late-game situations.

Both being top 15 in points scored in the clutch, it’s the numbers that make it even crazier to comprehend. Booker is shooting a slight 75% from the field, hitting 9-of-12 shots, (3-of-5 coming from deep). Chris Paul on the other hand is shooting an easy 5-8 but also having a 9:1 assist-to-turnover ratio in these minutes.

Absolutely absurd.

When the going gets rough and you need a bucket you can count on, don’t fear, because the Suns have two that can get it done. 

2. Continuity

Another thing that separates Phoenix from most is the continuity of the roster they brought back. A majority of these guys have been playing together since the bubble run and have learned exactly how to play together.

You can tell by the lethal Booker-to-Bridges connection in transition. You can see Johnson always seems to be in just the right spot on the three-point line to have an open look from a pass from anyone. The defensive rotations and the communication they have is something a new team can’t just click together in an instant.

Look at the Lakers for example– no sense of familiarity with one another leads to choppy play and poor defense across the board. 

These guys want this for each other, too. The relationships between the players and coaches behind the scenes breed the excellence we get from a new player every night. 

The culture this team has nurtured the last year is incomparable. An advantage specific to a team with such trust and love like the Suns this year. 

1. Internal Development

Now probably the biggest thing we’re keeping an eye on is the internal development of the rest of the young guys. Particularly Ayton, Bridges and Johnson are who we’re looking at here, as well as watching to see if Booker takes that extra leap of stardom. 

The development we’re expecting to see even just this year is about as far as the eye can see. Nothing seems fully off the table yet. Devin Booker MVP case? Might be filling up the stat sheet enough to make an argument. All defensive teams for Mikal Bridges and Deandre Ayton on the cusp this year?

Chris Paul said after Friday’s win that if another game isn’t played, Bridges “better be” on those lists. All not to mention, guys like Cameron Johnson and Abdel Nader still need to find grooves again and fill out their roles even more than they already do.

The core here in Phoenix is built to succeed. The pieces just have to fall right into place again. 

Moving Forward

Now how far will the streak go? It could last a few more, and reaching a pinnacle of 18 at best. A game against Brooklyn and a few against Golden State are going to be the next challenges moving forward, but they’re more than capable.

There isn’t a reason they can’t compete with any team, any given night.

All the success seems like it’s just meant to be with how this team has looked the last whole year of our lives. There aren’t enough words out there to fully describe the meaning of this team to this city. Phoenix loves their guys and the guys are loving the city.

A relationship that will become truly unbreakable once they can reach that end all be all, and give the fans what they truly have been waiting all their lives for– that adored title run.

Follow us on Twitter @SunsLead for the latest Suns news and insight.

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About Cameron Prichard

Twitter: @TheValleyAthltc

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