The Phoenix Suns won their fifth straight game on Wednesday, getting the better of the Golden State Warriors for the second time this season, 123-115. A game that will be remembered for Chris Paul’s ejection in the second-quarter, at the hands of referee Scott Foster.
That decision wasn’t the first stroke of luck the Suns have had recently – with an overturned call late in a double-overtime win against the Utah Jazz preceding it – but it would be unfair to say luck alone has helped the franchise turn things around. They’ve beaten some teams they should have, but the wins over the Warriors and especially the Minnesota Timberwolves were impressive.
Kevin Durant and Devin Booker are going to get most of the plaudits for the Suns moving to 9-6, but there has been a lot more going on in The Valley that helped.
To have done this largely without Bradley Beal, who will be missing for a few more weeks yet with a back issue which has wrecked his start to life in Phoenix, has been huge for a group that has been spoken about as top-heavy. Which they are, but to have others chip in during the regular season was the whole point of adding the players that they did this offseason.
As long as their “Big 3” is healthy and firing on all cylinders come the postseason, it won’t matter how the Suns got there. Just as long as they do, and with as high a seeding as possible. At this point the only obstacle stopping Durant and Booker from being in top form next spring is injury. The jury is still out on Beal, but these unsung heroes have kept the organization afloat.
3. Head coach Frank Vogel
You’re not going to see head coach Frank Vogel get a lot of plaudits for how he has handled this part of the season, and he wouldn’t want it any other way. One of the many, many jobs of a coach is to quietly go about their business unseen in the background, keeping the machine rolling as seamlessly as possible.
Coach Vogel has succeeded in doing this all season, never getting too high after a big win, or too low after a loss. After back-to-back losses against the rebuilding San Antonio Spurs a number of weeks back, he didn’t throw out the game plan and start from scratch. Rather he stuck to his principles and rejigged his rotations, one call in particular paying dividends right away.
Over the last five games, the Suns have ranked a disastrous 27th in defensive rating (120.9), a number completely at odds with who Vogel is as a coach. How then have the team managed to win every game? Even after giving up an unacceptable 40 points in the fourth-quarter of their most recent win over the Warriors?
That would be because offensively, this group is exactly what many thought it could be. With Durant and Booker leading the charge in the last five games, the Suns have the best offensive rating in the league, at a scorching 130.4. Outscoring most opponents always felt like the path to success, but for coach Vogel to lean into this and go against his defensive ideologies, has been big.