Leaders lead, and when Phoenix Suns star Devin Booker has a less-than-star showing the result can be ugly.
Booker, a primary reason for the Suns’ 25-12 mark — their best through 37 games since 2007-08 — and playoff optimism, led a few of the awful-stats categories and his teammates followed.
There are three points for Phoenix Suns fans to ponder about the off night against Indiana as the Suns try to learn lessons during this playoff push.
No. 1 lesson: Even on a bad night, the Phoenix Suns should continue to watch Devin Booker and Chris Paul for their in-game reactions and leadership
The Suns take their cues from Booker and Paul, neither of whom had a standout game during Saturday night’s loss to the Indiana Pacers.
But leadership comes in different forms.
Booker provided that setting-an-example responsibility lesson even while struggling through a tough night.
That chase-down block came after one of Booker’s six turnovers, four of which came in the disastrous third quarter. But he showed what can happen when you don’t give up on a play.
Booker and Paul were still trying to will a comeback late in the fourth quarter, but the hole proved to be too deep.
There are plenty of opportunities to improve, especially among the Suns’ key roles down the stretch.
No. 2 lesson: Despite big improvements this season, the Phoenix Suns can sometimes look a little soft on the interior defense
The Suns are still leading the Pacific Division entering Sunday’s games, but the West is no joke. In fact, Phoenix at 25-12, is only five games in the loss column from the ninth playoff spot.
Monday’s opponent, the Memphis Grizzlies, are 17-17.
Phoenix surrendered 60 points in the paint to the Pacers, allowing Indiana bigs Domantas Sabonis and Myles Turner to hit 16-for-21 on field-goal attempts.
Dario Saric tried and tried — and he’s a huge reason the team has seen success — but he needs help on aggressive 5s. The kind that play for the other team during playoff series.
Trade deadline anyone?
No. 3 lesson: When the Phoenix Suns’ intensity doesn’t match the required amount for the NBA, “off” nights can happen.
The careless passes and failure to box out Pacers offensive rebounders are key indicators of failure to focus. Every team has nights like this but, for the final lesson, it’s time to tighten up because one “off” night in the run to the playoffs could be costly.
Not to mention if Phoenix makes the playoffs. No “off” nights allowed.
Key note: Indiana made 13 of its 28 attempts from 3-point range. A 46.4 rate is not sustainable for a winning night.
The evidence: The Suns are now 0-3 in games they allowed the opponent hit a mark north of 45 percent.
A little extra effort, focus and activity in the defensive rotation can — and has for most of the season — solved the issue.
When Paul and Booker combine to shoot 11-for-30, including 2-for-10 from 3-point range, the Suns need to count on some help.