The Phoenix Suns on Sunday evening closed out a four-game series sweep of the Denver Nuggets in their Western Conference Semifinals series.
It came via a 125-118 win in Denver with Chris Paul leading the way with 37 points. Phoenix will now take on the winner of the Utah Jazz and Los Angeles Clippers series in the Western Conference Finals for the right to appear in its first NBA Finals since Charles Barkley was leading the charge in 1992-93.
Things are going swimmingly for Monty Williams’ squad. Phoenix has now won seven consecutive games since falling down 2-1 to the defending champion Los Angeles Lakers in the first round of the NBA Playoffs.
Despite dealing with a painful shoulder injury, future Hall of Famer Chris Paul continues to act as a stabilizing force. Meanwhile, Devin Booker is entering NBA stardom right in front of our eyes. Following Sunday’s series-clinching win, these Phoenix Suns now have to be seen as NBA title favorites. Here’s three reasons why.
It’s not all about Chris Paul, Devin Booker for the Phoenix Suns
The two combined for 71 points, 14 rebounds and 11 assists on 25-of-44 shooting from the field in Sunday’s win over the Nuggets. This is just the latest example of the star-studded backcourt overwhelming opponents on a never-ending loop. However, it’s not all about Paul and Booker in the desert. A combination of young players and proven veterans have stepped up big time.
It starts with former No. 1 pick Deandre Ayton making a name for himself. Phoenix received a ton of flack for selecting Ayton over the likes of Trae Young and Luka Doncic back in 2018. While he might never be a true star or comparable to the two, Ayton has been tremendous during the Suns’ playoff run. He entered Sunday’s action averaging 15.6 points and 11.0 rebounds on a resounding 73% shooting in nine postseason games.
Lesser known than his counterparts, former Oklahoma City Thunder first-round pick Cameron Payne has performed extremely well off the bench. While he struggled in Game 4 (1-of-6 shooting), Payne was shooting 41% from distance in the playoffs heading into Sunday’s action. All the while, the likes of Jae Crowder, Mikal Bridges and even Dario Saric have given the Suns some solid minutes. This is a deep team. It is built to win in the playoffs. That’s for sure.
Los Angeles Clippers, Utah could be headed for a long series
By virtue of their four-game sweep of the Nuggets, these Suns are going to be extremely well rested heading into the Western Conference Finals. That’s magnified by the fact that Los Angeles defeated Utah Saturday evening to pull that series to within 2-1 with Monday’s game set to take place in Southern California.
Even if Utah were to somehow win that series in five, the earliest the Western Conference Finals would start would be Friday. Talk about much-needed rest, especially with Chris Paul dealing with the aforementioned shoulder injury. That’s only going to benefit the Phoenix Suns moving forward.
Phoenix Suns can take advantage of injury woes
Earlier on Sunday, Brooklyn Nets star guard Kyrie Irving exited his team’s Game 4 loss to the Milwaukee Bucks with an ankle injury. The NBA champion did not return to action and was seen leaving the arena sporting a walking boot. He now joins former MVP James Harden on the sidelines for a Nets team that’s suddenly dealing with season-altering injuries and is in the midst of a difficult second-round matchup.
Remaining back east, Philadelphia 76ers veteran wing Danny Green is dealing with a calf injury that could sideline him long-term. Meanwhile, Joel Embiid is playing with a torn meniscus in the knee. Despite Embiid playing at a high level, it’s clear he’s nowhere near 100%.
What does this mean for the Phoenix Suns NBA title hopes? While they don’t want to wish bad injury luck on other teams, the Suns could benefit big time. That was true in Round 1 with Lakers star Anthony Davis injured. It was also true in the series sweep of the Nuggets with star guard Jamal Murray sidelined to a torn ACL and Michael Porter Jr. not anywhere near 100%.
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Author: Vincent Frank