Phoenix Suns: 3 Mistakes the Suns Cannot Afford in NBA Finals

Phoenix Suns, Devin Booker (Photo by Christian Petersen/Getty Images)
Phoenix Suns, Devin Booker (Photo by Christian Petersen/Getty Images) /
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Phoenix Suns
Phoenix Suns (Photo by Harry How/Getty Images) /

Phoenix Suns Mistake #1: Forcing possessions

A common theme surrounding Phoenix’s successes and failures has been pace. It’s been argued that the Suns started playing too slow once Paul returned, and that this was the reason for their offensive dip in Games 3 through 5.

But the pace numbers themselves actually refute this assertion. As in the games Phoenix won, their fourth quarter pace factor comes in at an average of 91.00. Similarly in the fourth quarters from games that they lost, the pace factor comes in at an average of 90.00.

Based on this, I’d wager to say that it’s not necessarily the overall speed of the game and the number of possessions that changed drastically, but the fluidity of the individual possessions themselves.

Throughout Games 3 through 5, you could very clearly tell that the ball was unwaveringly sticking to Phoenix’s guards. Although Devin Booker occasionally forced offense where it was not needed, and in general shot extremely poorly over that stretch at 33.8 percent, the main culprit was CP3.

Paul, who by virtue of coming back in the middle of a heated playoff series following 11 days of rest, did not play very efficiently. However, his overall lack of efficiency would not have been as big of an issue if he was not as ball dominant.

Whether it be due to CP3 wanting to find his rhythm after being off for so long, or simply getting caught up in his own pride, he would often hold or dribble the ball while no movement was taking place for large portions of the shot clock. He would then subsequently try to force pick and roll action with Ayton, only to throw up a fading, contested mid-range shot.

To his credit, Paul usually drains those shots. Only this time, he was not only out of rhythm, but he was being contested at a much higher level. The defense knew where he was going even more than usual thanks to the offense’s stagnation.

This style of play held everyone out of rhythm, and you could instantly see the difference come in Game 6. As soon as the first quarter started, Paul was coming off of the ball much faster, letting guys like Jae Crowder get hot early. This time around, every shot he took came out of a quick decision.

You also do not want to repeat this stalled out offense because of who Booker is going to potentially be matched up with. If the Bucks survive and come out of the East, Jrue Holiday will most certainly cause trouble.

Booker was experiencing matchup problems with Patrick Beverley all series due in part to the fact that Booker couldn’t take advantage of his size against him. The principles of this matchup issue will be ever present against the bigger, lengthier, and more crafty Holiday.

Although it’s only a one game sample size, Booker only shot 37.0 percent from the field against Holiday this season. With this considered, head coach Monty Williams cannot afford to let the majority of Booker’s offense come from forced isolation, like during certain stretches of the Western Conference Finals.

If you instead get Holiday chasing through off ball action, and run sets to grant Booker momentum going down hill, this matchup becomes far more winnable. The same principles apply to a possible PJ Tucker matchup.