3 takeaways from the Suns’ epic 18-game winning streak
The Phoenix Suns surprised the world with their run to the NBA Finals last season. The squad from Arizona had some rough years before their unlikely run to the finals. Adding Chris Paul before the season started proved to be the deciding move out of their playoff slump. After the season, a lot of people underplayed this success, mostly due to injuries suffered by other teams in the West. This season, however, the Suns are proving that their success was definitely not a fluke. The biggest proof that this was not a single season achievement for the Suns was the recent 18-game winning streak, and here are three takeaways from that period for Phoenix.
Suns winning streak takeaways
The Suns can win against the best of ’em
Many wins in their streak came against some teams that are down in the dumps of the NBA. For example, the Suns beat the Rockets twice and secured one win against the Pelicans, Pistons, and the Kings. However, there were some statement victories for them. They played the Warriors, the Cavaliers twice, and secured a huge win away from home against the Brooklyn Nets. While the wins were not exactly blowouts, these are all good teams that are in good form.
Additionally, a lot of their wins came against mid-tier squads that will be fighting for the playoffs. They beat the Mavericks twice, the Nuggets, the Hawks, and the Trail Blazers, to name a few. These are all potential landmines, especially considering the fact that the Nuggets have the current MVP in Nikola Jokic, the Hawks made the Eastern Conference Finals a season ago, and that the Mavericks have one of the best players in the world in Luka Doncic. All of these are important wins and there is no doubt that the Suns are for real.
One more thing to underline is the mixture of wins home and away. Usually, most teams are better at home and get really tested away from their arena. However, a huge part of their win streak was two road trips the Suns had. Earlier in the streak, they had a five-game stretch with four games away from home. After that, they had a four-game road trip that ended with a six-point win against the Nets. Regardless of team strength, playing away from their home court can be a struggle, even for teams of the Suns quality.
Balance is the key
As of right now, the Suns have five players in double-digit scoring per contest, and an amazing nine players averaging over eight points per game. Granted, that includes Frank Kaminsky who has featured in only nine games, but the balanced scoring on this roster is uncanny. Obviously, the squad is offensively led by the Devin Booker-Chris Paul combo. However, it is the overall contribution of the team that is really important to point out.
In the Suns’ 18-game winning streak, the squad has been led in scoring by Devin Booker in total ten times. In eight of the other games, the scoring was led twice by Mikal Bridges, twice by Cameron Johnson, and once by Cameron Payne, Frank Kaminsky, Jae Crowder, and DeAndre Ayton. Even in some games that Booker led the charge, he was closely followed by one of his teammates. Also worth pointing out is that in the Warriors game, Booker only had 10 points with a 4/9 shooting performance. It was the valiant effort of Ayton (24 points), Paul (15), Crowder (14), and Johnson (14) that won the game for the Suns.
Balance is the key, not only in scoring, but in the offensive and defensive outputs. With guys like Booker and Ayton, who are not defensive specialists, the Suns are still second in defensive rating, which is incredible. This squad was somewhat overshadowed by the Warriors completely exploding to start the season, but the Suns are really making sure that all parts of their game are taken care of.
Chris Paul is making a stronger case to be a first-ballot Hall-of-Famer
Now, this might be a controversial one, since many people out there have Chris Paul already as a first-ballot Hall-of-Famer. However, many will say that without a championship, it is difficult to really be up in that level. Paul has done some amazing things in his career, but last season was his first finals appearance and he still does not have an NBA title to his name. That could potentially raise doubts for some people.
However, the Suns point guard is showing that having a title can increase your chances, but not having one is not the end of the world. This win streak was held together by the leadership this veteran shows on and off the court. While everyone else got the glory, it was Paul holding it down defensively, while supplying his teammates with his distribution. The 36-year-old, over the 18-game stretch, put in a shift. He averaged 32.9 minutes, 14.9 points, 10.1 assists, 2.2 steals, and only 2.3 turnovers.
The turnovers are a huge factor since many players who hold the ball and distribute it often have higher averages. Among all players with 30+ minutes and 5+ assists per game this season, Paul has the fifth-lowest amount of turnovers, according to NBAstats.com. He can really take care of the basketball and with such a young team around him, his stability is exactly what was needed for them to take the step forward.