This season, the Phoenix Suns have had four winning streaks of at least five games, all of which have helped them have the best record in the NBA thus far. In fact, the Suns have only lost two games in 2022, with their last loss having been more than 10 days ago.
Phoenix’s most recent win streak has so far reached seven games, with the latest victory coming against the Los Angeles Clippers, who were coming off a solid win against the Golden State Warriors, and the struggling Houston Rockets.
Devin Booker and Chris Paul were instrumental in fending off the Clippers, who even took a 90-88 lead with 6:10 left in the fourth quarter. The experience and familiarity with one another played a part in them fighting back and pulling off the win, with Booker leading the charge with his game-high 26 points and Paul’s game-high 14 assists reflecting how he ran the Suns offense to a T. After that win, Phoenix is now 36-0 when holding a lead entering the fourth quarter.
Things looked shaky earlier today, as the Rockets led for much of the game and Paul had been ejected in the third quarter after earning two technical fouls. Booker had to overcome a tough shooting night to lead the Suns with 24 points, while Mikal Bridges (17 points and seven rebounds) made crucial baskets down the stretch to help Phoenix slip past Houston with a 124-121 win.
Good things have come the Suns’ way for most of the season largely due to how players’ roles have been clearly defined, and while there were moments when players had to step up and take on more roles within the team, this has come due to factors such as injury, COVID-19 health and safety protocols, and today’s case unforeseen ejections.
Phoenix was also able to overcome Paul’s absence against Houston for much of the second half, but he was holding his right hand as he was trying to make his case with the officials. Depending on the results, this could be a looming issue moving forward but the Suns won’t be in unfamiliar territory as they have lived by a “next man up” mentality that has led to success in last year’s playoffs.
The pain of losing in the NBA Finals last season has certainly provided some level of motivation for Phoenix, to the point that the 131-107 win over the Milwaukee Bucks felt like a statement and a message that things are much different than with what happened in July last year.
The Suns retained much of its core from 2020-2021 and added a few pieces to shore up depth and prepare for what will hopefully be an extended postseason run. Among the offseason additions, JaVale McGee and Landry Shamet are the only ones who have so far made significant contributions, with McGee filling in for Deandre Ayton in certain games this season. Torrey Craig returned to Phoenix during the trade deadline and his familiarity with Suns head coach Monty Williams’ system and preferences will make the retransition easier.
Numbers wise, Phoenix is top-10 in the NBA in most traditional categories, but what stands out is that they are third in the league in opponent’s field goal percentage (44.0 percent) and sixth in points allowed (105.5 points per game). The blocks have been few for the Suns as they are 26th in the NBA in blocks with 4.2 per game, but that may not mean much considering how influential they have been in altering shots (and not necessarily making blocks) and forcing opponents to take ill-advised attempts.
Entering the All-Star break with the NBA’s best record will certainly bring good vibes all around, but Phoenix having the eighth-toughest schedule after the All-Star festivities works in their favor, particularly in keeping their grip on home court advantage throughout the playoffs and helping manage the health of the likes of Paul.
The Phoenix Suns have had a knack for sustained success following a loss and that ability to bounce back from setbacks could pay off dividends once the postseason begins. Continuity and familiarity have certainly been factors, but their play this season has been driven by losses, with the finals loss last July likely to have left a bad taste that they want to get rid of.