Phoenix Suns clinch first playoff spot in a quest to return to the NBA Finals

Deandre Ayton (Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports)
Deandre Ayton (Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports) /

Even without Chris Paul, the Phoenix Suns continue to impress as they become the first team in the league to clinch a playoff spot. 

The Phoenix Suns are making a convincing case that they are the best team in the NBA after being the first team to clinch a playoff spot this season. They are also the only 50-win team at this point in the season. Head coach Monty Williams will look to lead his team back to the NBA Finals to avenge their loss to Milwaukee last year.

Phoenix was up 2-0 in the NBA Finals last season but lost four straight games and the series to the Milwaukee Bucks. The Suns seem to be locked in and are looking to make another deep playoff run. They have already passed their win total from last season and have a chance to break a franchise record for most wins in the regular season. That is not the only franchise record the Suns have broken this season.

From October 30-December 2, the Suns did not lose and won 18 straight games. This beat the previous record of 17 straight wins set by the Suns 2006-07 squad. Monty Williams had this to say when asked about the team’s success:

"“Obviously it’s hard to win in this league. But we’re not satisfied. We talk about stretching it out but it takes the right things to do that. So we’ve taken it one game at a time.”"

Here are a few more impressive stats about Phoenix this year:

  • 22-9 vs teams .500 teams (best in NBA)
  • 31-4 vs teams below .500 (best in NBA)
  • 27-5 in clutch games (best)

Phoenix is led by the 25-year-old sharpshooter Devin Booker who is averaging 25.6 points per game this season. He is hitting 3-pointers at a 37 percent clip and is shooting 45 percent from the field overall. Every team knows what Booker is capable of. It’s hard to forget his 70-point performance against the Celtics in 2018.

Deandre Ayton is someone who Phoenix valued highly from the start, as they took him first overall in the 2018 NBA draft. He has averaged a double-double in all three of his previous seasons and is on track to do it again. This year he is averaging 16.8 points and 10.0 rebounds per game. Ayton is also having a career-high year in field goal percentage (64%) and 3-point percentage (39%).

The Suns have the best record in the NBA right now at 53-13, and they have been winning without veteran Chris Paul for about the last month. He has missed eight straight games in a row and is expected to miss about two months. That means Paul could make a return right before the playoffs start, or shortly after that.

Cameron Payne has found a home in Phoenix after bouncing around the NBA his first few years. He has also stepped up as the starting point guard in Paul’s absence and has played extremely well even if his numbers are not jumping off the page.

One player who has not missed a game for the Suns this season is Mikal Bridges who has started all 66 games. He has a history of being a reliable player who can stay healthy. Bridges started all 82 games in 2019, all 72 in the 2021 shortened season, and could possibly start or at least play in all games this year. He averages 13.6 points and 4.3 rebounds per game.

The team will almost surely have the first seed come playoff time and Phoenix is not a team you want to see in the first round. Devin Booker and Deandre Ayton will try and keep the Suns red-hot and ready to make another run at the NBA Finals.

Next. NBA: 3 most entertaining potential first-round playoff matchups. dark

Can Phoenix get over the hump and finally win their first-ever NBA title?