Phoenix Suns third-quarter MVP: Frank Vogel kept the show on the road

The Phoenix Suns have wobbled in the second half of the season - but thanks to head coach Frank Vogel - they are still on course for the postseason.
Indiana Pacers v Phoenix Suns
Indiana Pacers v Phoenix Suns / Christian Petersen/GettyImages

The Phoenix Suns have continued their up-and-down season since the All-Star break, and sit in the sixth spot in the Western Conference. They have had to win the last couple of games with superstar Devin Booker, and have a tough stretch of games on the horizon.

Even with injury to the top seed in the West - which should actually benefit the Suns the rest of the way - it will still be an uphill battle to get home court advantage in the first round of the playoffs. Booker might be back soon and although Bradley Beal is healthy right now, he has missed half of the regular season with various ailments.

All of which is to say head coach Frank Vogel is the Suns' third-quarter MVP, for keeping the team on the right path through a whole lot of uncertainty.

Not only that, but coach Vogel has managed to get the best out of several players on the roster outside of their superstar trio of Booker, Beal and Kevin Durant. There's Jusuf Nurkic, who recently gobbled up a franchise 31 rebounds and has been the perfect center for the team on both ends of the court.

With Booker out, he has seen his touches go up, and responded accordingly. While on the defensive end, he is having possibly the best season of his career. It helps that Nurkic has been healthy - but the fact Vogel has known when to push him and when he should sit - is part of the reason he has had such a positive impact here.

Then there is Grayson Allen, who is having a career season. So much so that owner Mat Ishbia simply has to have him back for next season, even if that is going to be difficult to do financially. Coach Vogel has given Allen the space offensively to thrive, but he's also trusted him more than any other coach. He believes he can be the third best player on some nights, and

Perhaps most importantly of all, the third-quarter of the season has been the period where the Suns have had to go deeper into their bench to win some games. The best example of a player who got no run earlier in the season - and looked short on confidence as a result - was the enigmatic Bol Bol. Coach Vogel always said he would get his chance, and in the last month or so he really has.

Assistant coach David Fizdale certainly deserves some credit for the emergence of Bol - the player has even said so himself when asked - but coach Vogel should also get some of that love. Thanks to a jumbo lineup that has featured Nurkic, Durant and Bol, his lack of a defensive presence has been negated by sticking him on third and fourth option scorers away from the paint, to some success.

But perhaps nothing encapsulates why coach Vogel deserves this award more, than the fact the Suns have the 12th best defensive rating (114.1) in the NBA this season. This despite being built on outscoring opponents, which they also recently did to great success in beating the defending champion Denver Nuggets in overtime away from home.

In the last 10 games the Suns have been even better on that end (eighth, 110.2), and have found an identity on that end of the court just in time for the postseason. They're never going to suffocate opponents, but coach Vogel is playing to the strengths of Allen, Bol and Royce O'Neale on that end. He also holds Booker and Durant accountable too, which both have responded well to.

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To have built an above average defensive scheme while using Nurkic over 27 minutes per night is yet more proof that coach Vogel is able to work with whatever he is given. At a time when the season was on the brink and key players were in and out of the lineup, all he has ever been is his calm and collected self on the sidelines. Never making it about him, which is what this group needs.

Coach Vogel is even bonding fans in The Valley off the court as well, thanks to a parody account that both he and Durant have become aware of. All of which is to say - between his work with individual players, ability to coach stars and the improvements made on the defensive end with limited players to do so - Frank Vogel was the Phoenix Suns' MVP of their third-quarter.