Phoenix Suns flash chemistry in 2 beatdowns

Phoenix Suns, Devin Booker and Dario Saric (Photo by Justin Ford-USA TODAY Sports)
Phoenix Suns, Devin Booker and Dario Saric (Photo by Justin Ford-USA TODAY Sports) /

The Phoenix Suns’ past five quarters have seen a quick start, sustained energy, elite shooting and a killer instinct, leading to dominant back-to-back road victories.

The Tuesday collapse against Brooklyn may be fading from view but the wounds are serving as teaching points.

With leadership all over the place, the Phoenix Suns’ talent level and identity showed this team is in a better place than Memphis and New Orleans and primed for the playoffs.

Devin Booker has found his attack mode, seemingly able to find his own shot at will. Booker stands 15th in usage entering Sunday, just behind Russell Westbrook and Jayson Tatum; just ahead of John Wall and Kawhi Leonard.

Playoff teams have dependable weapons, and the Suns have developed and refined what looks like a style designed for the postseason.

The weekend blowouts served to improve the Suns’ standing to ninth in adjusted offensive rating (points per 100 possessions adjusted for strength of opponent’s strength), while the defense — absent for the fourth quarter in that Nets game — has seemingly returned intact.

The Suns are fifth in the NBA’s adjusted defensive rating and fifth in the overall net rating.

Sounds like a playoff team.

A couple of other team stats to consider: The Suns transformation to a deliberate offense is complete — and their No. 29 ranking in pace underscores the point. It’s much more conducive to playoff basketball.

Phoenix ranks among the better teams in taking care of the ball, too, but free throws continue to provide a warning sign.

The Suns are 27th in free throws per field-goal attempt (they aren’t getting to the line nearly enough). They’re also last in free-throw attempts per 100 possessions.

But the Phoenix Suns fans saw the potential Saturday night in Memphis and certainly during the fourth quarter in New Orleans.

According to research by the Elias Sports Bureau, the Pelicans’ 18-point defeat was the largest-ever margin during the NBA’s shot-clock era (since 1954-55) for a team that entered the fourth quarter leading by double digits.

How did New Orleans’ Brandon Ingram explain it?

“I saw Chris Paul take control of the basketball game,” Ingram said.

Paul, who had 15 points and 19 assists (and a plus-28 in the fourth quarter) on Friday night, came back with 16 points including 4-of-5 shooting from 3-point range in only 22 minutes of Saturday’s rout.

And Booker loves his new teammate, continuing to be deferential on the court and reverential off it.

“Man is orchestrating out there. He knows what’s going on on the floor before it even happens,” Booker said Friday night. “With him, the game is never out of reach. The game is never over until the horn sounds. He did a good job of leading us, keeping our composure throughout the whole game.

“In that fourth quarter, it’s a work of art. The way he was picking apart their defense and making plays for others and at the same time scoring when he had to.”

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