Phoenix Suns continue impressive start in Orlando
The race for the Western Conference’s eighth and final playoff spot has just gotten a whole lot more interesting, thanks to the red-hot Phoenix Suns, making for one of the most compelling strings of basketball games in the NBA’s restart so far.
There have been upstarts like Memphis Grizzlies and the New Orleans Pelicans who have performed strongly under with their impressive young cores with the goal of being able to play meaningful playoff basketball. The Portland Trail Blazers who made it to the Western Conference Finals last year and fully healthy and looking to go on a run for that spot.
Then’s there’s been the San Antonio Spurs who were once written off for being done and have played strongly under a revamped lineup looking to continue their two-decade-long playoff streak.
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All those teams before even mentioning the Phoenix Suns who are now 3-0 in the NBA restart and looking to go on a run of their own after beating one of the NBA’s elite in the LA Clippers.
The last seeded team coming into Orlando, the Suns were long written off as a playoff longshot but now they’re showing that they are a team to be reckoned with an impressive offense built on ball-movement.
How the Phoenix Suns handled the LA Clippers
Coming in with wins against the depleted Washington Wizards and the all-offense Dallas Mavericks initially, it felt like this matchup against the Clippers for Phoenix was going to be a wake-up call.
The game was a wake-up call, but not for the Suns. Phoenix was able to handle the Clippers by running their offense and playing on the back of their star Devin Booker yet again. The Clippers who are still trying to find their chemistry just weren’t able to handle the Suns who have already congealed as an offensive unit.
What Phoenix did against the Clippers was to move the ball to the open player, and not allow LA’s turnover-forcing defense to take the ball from them. The result saw the Suns had 25 assists to only eight turnovers for the game which saw Phoenix get the best shots they could against the Clipper defense.
This is something first-year head coach Monty Williams has pushed the Suns to do all season and they’ve shown that in the bubble the have finally gotten down William’s quick-paced “5-second offense.”
That offensive initiative continued to their 3-point shooting. Against one of the best 3-point defenses in the league, the Suns were able to hit 17 3’s on 53 percent shooting for the game again thanks to their great ball-movement. Having a deadly 3-point attack is how you beat the Clippers and the Suns executed theirs perfectly.
Beyond their offense though, the play went to the team’s defense as well. The Suns this season had one of the worst defenses in the league and they haven’t exactly been stellar in the bubble either but they defended well when it mattered most.
Monty Williams had followed suit with a trend currently happening in the league which is the revival of zone defense. For varying moments in the game, the Suns hit the Clippers with 2-3 zone with a focus on defending the paint.
Phoenix was willing to make the game a shootout and forced the Clippers to also shoot a large number of 3’s which the team can do but Doc Rivers’ offense is more focused on a balanced attack that likes to use isolations, post-ups, and pick-and-roll to attack the basket and then kick-out for 3-point looks.
The 2-3 zone at times by Phoenix meant that the Clippers couldn’t set up their offense the way they prefer to and settled for a lot of spot-up attempts deep rather catch-and-shoot 3’s in rhythm. This caused the Clippers to go 8-29 (27%) on their deep shots.
The Suns have a chance now
A big win for the Suns means that they are still in it for their long-shot playoff run. They are still the longshot team because realistically they’d need to go 7-1 or 8-0 to make it but it shows that this team is committed and not just mailing in the towel in Orlando.
With star shooting guard Devin Booker hungry to actually have some postseason success in his career seeing that Phoenix is going to commit to winning could be a big sign for his future with the organization.
Regardless of making the playoffs or not a good showing in Orlando means that Phoenix’s revamped front office made the right choices with both roster moves and their coaching hire and that can be a good sign to an organizational turn around going forward. With five more games to go, the Suns are looking bright.