How disrespectful, the Phoenix Suns have to be thinking now, for the basketball world to be more obsessed with the Los Angeles Lakers’ struggles than their consistent brilliance.
How insulting is it that the vaccination status of part-time point guard Kyrie Irving gets incessantly more headlines than Chris Paul’s nearly flawless play of late?
How utterly galling is it that the Golden State Warriors are usually mentioned first as the favorites to win the Western Conference when it’s the Suns that sit atop the standings?
Despite reaching the NBA Finals, the Phoenix Suns have gotten little national attention
Remarkably, the Phoenix Suns receive little-to-no national fanfare even though they are the defending Western Conference champions and are dominating out there again. They’re 3 1/2 games up on a Golden State Warriors team that is far more popular in national TV appearances and jersey sales. Phoenix is an impressive eight games better in the standings than Giannis Antetokounmpo and the Milwaukee Bucks, the squad that rallied to beat the Suns in the NBA Finals. And Phoenix is a whopping 13 1/2 games clear of a Los Angeles Lakers team that has turned into a daily soap opera.
Such is life these days for the Suns, and that’s probably the way unassuming head coach Monty Williams and that silent assassin, Chris Paul, like it.
Phoenix has turned consistent winning into an art form this season. They are 18-5 at home and 18-4 on the road. They are currently riding a six-game winning streak, and they’ve won nine of the last 10 — all with little to no fanfare nationally.
“We’re just trying to pile up wins,” Paul deadpanned in his Saturday news conference after Phoenix whipped Indiana in a workmanlike fashion.
The Phoenix Suns are winning in different ways and dominating Western Conference foes
How solid are the Suns right now? They defeated the suddenly surging Indiana Pacers even though star guard Devin Booker had a miserable shooting night and standout center Deandre Ayton didn’t play. On Saturday, Mikal Bridges scored a season-best 23 points, and back-from-the-dead center Bismarck Biyombo somehow tied a career high with 21 points and corralled 13 rebounds.
About the only thing to go wrong for the Suns this season has been that ill-timed windmill dunk that Booker clanged off the back iron on Saturday night?
If you don’t live in the Valley of the Sun, you likely haven’t heard just how complete of a team Phoenix has been this season. Offensively, the Suns rank first in field goal percentage, third in scoring, fifth in 3-point shooting, and fifth in assists. Defensively, the Suns are second in field goal percentage allowed and 3-point percentage allowed, fifth in points surrendered, and sixth in rebounding.
While Booker (24.3 PPG) and Ayton (16.8 PPG) are the young stars, Chris Paul is the unquestioned leader and driving force. Paul recently had a two-game stretch with 35 points, 23 assists, and four steals with zero turnovers. In LA, it’s breaking news if Westbrook makes it through a quarter without a turnover, but Paul did it in a combined 69 minutes while beating San Antonio and Dallas.
Paul kicked the ball away four times in Saturday’s win over Indiana, but he more than made up for it by scoring 18 points, handing out 16 assists, and pilfering four steals.
The playoffs will be where the young Suns can earn respect and national attention again
Often, when teams endure the grind of a long season and avoid the minefield of the playoffs in a run to The NBA Finals, it takes a toll on them the following year. However, there has been no sort of hangover this season with the Suns.
They quickly erased a disappointing 1-3 start with an 18-game winning streak. Phoenix has also had winning streaks of six, five, and three games while compiling the league’s best mark.
Ultimately, the Suns’ season — and the respect they will command — will be determined by what happens in the playoffs. A first-round playoff matchup against the Lakers could be looming for a second straight season. This time around, the Warriors could be waiting for the Suns in the Western Conference Finals with a healthy Klay Thompson back in the fold. And, if Phoenix continues to steamroll through the Western Conference and returns to the NBA Finals, they could meet a stacked Brooklyn squad Kevin Durant, James Harden, and Irving? Or they could again run face-first into Antetokounmpo and the Bucks.
Regardless of what’s to come in the months ahead, the Chris Paul-led Suns are proving themselves to be a dominant force yet again. What they are doing is dominant, sustainable, and certainly not a fluke.
For that, they are far more deserving of national respect and attention from the basketball world than Westbrook or Irving.
All statistics are courtesy of ESPN.com.