Devin Booker, Chris Paul reveal Suns’ key strength in win over Timberwolves

(Photo by Christian Petersen/Getty Images)
(Photo by Christian Petersen/Getty Images) /

If basketball were like hockey, Cam Johnson would have been the Phoenix Suns’ top star after his 29-point performance against the Minnesota Timberwolves. His 7-of-11 shooting from 3-point land was exceptional, especially on a night when stars Devin Booker and Chris Paul combined for only 33 points on 11-30 shooting.

However, beneath the hype of Johnson and the poor shooting of Paul and Booker, the Suns’ two stars quietly had good games, doing the little things right to help Phoenix win.

The Suns protected the basketball against the Timberwolves

No matter what era of the NBA you’re talking about, teams that protect the basketball and avoid turnovers are generally successful. Although Booker and Paul did not shot well on Tuesday night, both did an excellent job guiding the offense, with just three turnovers in 64 combined minutes.

To understand how good Paul and Booker are protecting the ball, you need only look at the T-Wolves starting lineup that combined for 15 turnovers, with only one starter — Rudy Golbert — having fewer than three.

Of course, the Suns’ dynamic backcourt duo is not protecting the rock because they’re conservative. Together they dished out 17 assists, producing an unbelievable 5.66 assist-to-turnover ratio, which is outrageous, even for players of their caliber.

The Suns are the best in the NBA in assist-to-turnover ratio

Besides protecting the ball and limiting turnovers, which prevent opposition transition buckets, sharing the ball makes for a fluid offense. The Suns are an excellent passing team, led by Paul’s distribution and aided by Booker’s unselfishness.

Phoenix is currently the best in the NBA in assist-to-turnover ratio, sporting a 2.297 metric. This is not only because of Paul and Booker, as was on display Tuesday. Johnson added three assists (and no turnovers) to his 29-point night, and Mikal Bridges had four assists against just one turnover.

Overall, the Suns turned the ball over only nine times and had seven more assists than Minnesota. Those are important numbers on an evening where the Suns dominated in the paint.

While Johnson got the headlines with a second straight big night, Booker and Paul still did their part leading Phoenix to their fifth straight win while revealing the Suns’ key strength that could propel them above the NBA’s best this season.

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