The Phoenix Suns rode a second consecutive Beast Ayton game in Houston, as Deandre sustained his early energy to put up 26 points and 17 rebounds in a 109-103 win at Houston on Wednesday night.
But cynics say, “Let’s see a month of that.” Just how good should we expect this team to be?
In the latest NBA.com power rankings, the Suns trail only the Lakers and Clippers among Western Conference teams, standing fifth overall, but the shaky fourth quarter close-outs appear to be the latest hurdle to overcome.
The Phoenix Suns continue to fighting to lock down victories, but they’re getting better
With no playoff appearances since 2010, the Suns have grown a good-sized chip on their collective shoulder and have been a perennial underdog.
Now, there are segments of industry experts placing this team in the Western Conference’s top four, and that may be a bit of an overcorrection.
The Suns, though successful in Houston on Wednesday, couldn’t finish in Memphis on Monday and remain a work in progress as Chris Paul accelerates his learning curve.
The Phoenix Suns’ big three are becoming a consistent force and appear capable of carrying the team to a long-awaited playoff spot
Though Paul and Ayton are huge foundational pieces in this latest construction, nothing is getting done in the long term without Devin Booker dialing it up like he did in Houston.
During the first two quarters, the Paul-Ayton-Booker trio hit a combined 13 for 15 from the field, scoring 35 points to push the Suns to a 63-51 lead.
Booker hit 10-18 from the field overall and displayed a fierce scoring mentality — early in the game to establish a tone and down the stretch when the stars come out.
Paul will facilitate, always able to make the best decision; Ayton is blossoming in a comfortable, complementary role that seems to better mesh with his mind-set — while producing staggering numbers in the box score.
His 25+ points, 15+ rebounds and 5+ blocked shots reached a standard not seen since Shawn Marion in 2007.
The Suns, fans would hope, are learning from the fourth-quarter pressure. In Memphis, they blew a late lead and fell. In Houston, they led by 20 points in the third quarter, but allowed the Rockets to cut the deficit to two, 103-101, with 1:30 left.
Just as panic was setting in across the Valley, Ayton delivered a pair of free throws and Booker closed the deal with a layup.
The Rockets are hardly a playoff team right now, but the Suns’ next two games are against the Denver Nuggets, so, after a pretty easy early schedule, it’s time for a real test.
It’s fair to wonder whether even the most optimistic of the Suns’ playoff-starved fans believe they’re watching the West’s No. 3 team. But at least it’s a conversation.