Phoenix Suns: Defense Looking Phenomenal During Playoffs

Phoenix Suns (Photo by Dustin Bradford/Getty Images)
Phoenix Suns (Photo by Dustin Bradford/Getty Images) /

Many look to Devin Booker and Chris Paul as to why the Phoenix Suns are having playoff success. But contrary to popular belief, much of Phoenix’s success has come from production at the defensive end.

The Phoenix Suns are second in defensive rating with a rating of 104.7. Even without a terrific individual defender, the team comes together and lays down the clamps.

First and foremost, the Suns take care of the basketball. Defense often turns into offense, and the easiest way to be scored on is simply from a bad turnover. Luckily for the Suns, they have multiple solid ball handlers in Booker, Paul, and Cameron Payne. Phoenix surrenders the fourth fewest points to their opponent points off turnovers, with it coming as a clear and easy way to reduce points against.

Phoenix Suns big man Deandre Ayton is improving defensively.

One of the most important parts of a defensive possession is ending said possession, and Phoenix’s rebounding right now is incredible. The Suns are pulling down the second-most defensive rebounds per game this postseason. Ayton, who accounts for above 22 percent of those defensive rebounds, is simply outstanding.

Speaking of Ayton, how good individually on defense is he? With defenses having to sometimes bench centers, that has not been the case for Ayton. Ayton is second in defensive rating among centers with at least eight games played and 30 minutes per game this postseason. Numbers more significant than those of the Defensive Player of the Year in Rudy Gobert will do just fine.

There is the concern though of possibly playing a smaller team in the Los Angeles Clippers. But with the defensive effort Ayton displays, I would not worry. Plus, if Ayton dominates offensively, the Clippers will be forced to combat Ayton by playing a big. Therefore, the Clippers could be playing an offensive matchup which is not desirable for their offense at its core.

The backcourt of the Phoenix Suns is a success on the defensive end.

Booker, Paul and Payne are all in the top 11 for defensive rating among players who have played at least eight games this postseason. Guards are key on defense as they usually defend the primary ball-handler. In addition, guards are generally the most intelligent players. With all three guards locked in defensively, the Phoenix’s defense is just immaculate.

How about the Phoenix Suns’ forwards?

Torrey Craig, Mikal Bridges and Jae Crowder are all excellent defensively. Given challenging tasks such as LeBron James or Michael Porter Jr., you would think they might struggle.

Wrong. All three are within the top eight of forwards in defensive rating with a minimum of eight games played. Cameron Johnson sneaks in at No. 11 onto the list as well.

There was no doubt the Los Angeles Lakers and Denver Nuggets would be the toughest defensive matchups. Against the Lakers, I thought the Suns were outsized. I was convinced the Suns had no answer for James and Anthony Davis, but as we know, the Suns faired well.

Facing the Nuggets, I believed Nikola Jokic would put Ayton in foul trouble, leaving the Suns with a lack of big bodies. However, Ayton averaged just two personal fouls per game against the Nuggets. Outstanding work from Ayton in that respect.

Being the primary defender on Jokic is tough. Look at Jusuf Nurkic who averaged five personal fouls per game against the Nuggets in the first round. Nurkic even fouled out three times!

The Phoenix Suns’ defense should continue to dominate, which means the finals are in reach.

I mentioned how the Suns matchup against the Clippers already. If the Suns are put up against the Utah Jazz though, I am still confident.

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With the Jazz playing Gobert minutes, Ayton is comfortable on defense. As for the Jazz’s 3-point shooting, the Suns are mobile and can make rotations. Following the ball movement of the Jazz will not be too tough for the Suns.