Phoenix Suns’ 3 best points include ‘free-throw defense’ and more

Phoenix Suns, Devin Booker (Photo by Jayne Kamin-Oncea-USA TODAY Sports)
Phoenix Suns, Devin Booker (Photo by Jayne Kamin-Oncea-USA TODAY Sports) /
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Phoenix Suns, Chris Paul
Phoenix Suns, Chris Paul (Photo by Gary A. Vasquez-USA TODAY Sports) /

Phoenix Suns focus No. 1: Confidence in Deandre Ayton and the team

The Suns do not want to return to L.A. for a Game 6 – thanks, Captain Obvious – so a fast start and the continued care and feeding of Ayton are paramount.

A fast start hinges on Chris Paul successfully incorporating his teammates, but also turning on his own offensive ignition switch early. At times in Game 4, he would appear a little indecisive running the trademark high pick and roll play.

The elbow jumper was being challenged a little more closely than during the Nuggets series and Paul was forcing the issue.

Later in Game 4, he finally conceded that perhaps driving all the way to the hoop was the best choice – and he converted an easy layup.

Paul knows what he has in Booker (he said his fellow All-Star was the oldest 24-year-old he’s seen) and, in Ayton, his guidance and encouragement have helped the Suns’ No. 1 overall pick from 2018 rise to big-time prominence.

With 19 points and 22 rebounds in Game 4, Ayton boosted his staggering playoff statistics.

Paul can’t stop complimenting his 22-year-old starting center.

"To see his growth, man, I get goosebumps seriously, man. We done had some heated conversations this season, especially earlier in the season but, man, I genuinely love him. The person that he is and to see everything that’s coming to him, national audience getting to see who he is and why he’s the No. 1 pick, I couldn’t be happier for him."

In his first appearance in the postseason, Ayton is at 16.6 points, 11.4 rebounds and owns a 70.9 field-goal percentage while playing 35.6 minutes per game.

He finished the regular season at 14.4 points, 10.5 rebounds and 62.6 percent from the field in 30.7 minutes per game.

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Paul’s teammates — many of whom weren’t born in 1993 when Charles Barkley’s Suns reached the title series — couldn’t be happier with Monday’s opportunity to put their floor leader into the Finals for the first time in his career.