Story by Maddyn Johnstone-Thomas
After they suffered their first loss of the season to the Sacramento Kings, the Phoenix Suns started to get on a roll, pulling out big wins against the Utah Jazz and Denver Nuggets. They sat at the top of the Western Conference with a 5-1 record, one of the best starts they’ve had since 2009.
They hit a roadblock when the Los Angeles Clippers came to town on Sunday though, falling 112-107. Going into the matchup, head coach Monty Williams and his team knew it was going to be a challenge.
However, this isn’t the time to panic for Suns fans thus far in the early part of the season. It’s only one loss and as many of the players have been saying, there is still a lot of basketball left to play and they are still at the top of the Western Conference. There have been positives that have come out of these past couple games for the Suns, despite the loss on Sunday.
It’s no secret that the Suns have the offensive power with Devin Booker and Chris Paul, but one reason why they have been able to see success in wins against playoff-caliber teams such as the Utah Jazz and Denver Nuggets has been because of their resilience and defense, even if there have been bumps in the road. There will be growing pains, which they need to learn and grow from.
With the defense, so far this season the Suns have had the fewest points per game allowed (98.7). In their victory against the Jazz, the Suns held them to only 40 points in the first half, with only 18 points in the second quarter. The Jazz only had six first-half assists.
Paul, Devin Booker and Deandre Ayton might not be hitting their stride offensively just yet, but that isn’t something the team is worried about for the time being. Defense is something that Phoenix wants to make a staple this season.
“Our defense is winning games. That’s what this organization needs to have,” Ayton said. “When we get punched in the mouth, how do we answer back? We already have offense. I’ve never seen so many shooters on one team.”
With a strong start, and even though it is still early in the season, the team is continuing to build trust within each other and gain chemistry.
“I already know who this team is,” Paul said. “I know who every guy on this team is and what they are made of. I know what kind of energy they bring, so win or lose (against Denver) it didn’t surprise me. Regardless, what happens night in or night out, I know what type of team we have and what each guy represents.”
Another factor in the Suns success thus far has been finding other offensive weapons in Mikal Bridges, Cameron Johnson and Langston Galloway.
Bridges is averaging a career-high 15.3 points per game, which is the second highest on the team behind Booker. Johnson is third on the team in points per game with a career-high 13.5. Behind the three-point line, Bridges and Galloway have been the leaders with 50 percent as well.
Everyone on the team is buying into the same mentality.
“To win the game and do whatever it takes,” Booker said. “That’s not just me, I think that everybody on this team has that mentality and that’s why we’ve had early success and that’s why our practices have been as competitive as they are and it looks good.”
Even though there is still a lot of basketball left and the Suns didn’t play their best basketball against the Clippers, Williams likes what he sees and what he has. It’s just a matter of consistency.
“We’re going to find out who we are as we play some of these tough teams, but I like our chances,” Williams said. “I like how hard we play, I like our resiliency, but we’re going to take it one day at a time. The league is tough and there’s no nights off.”
The Suns will face the Toronto Raptors on Wednesday with tip-off slated for 7 p.m. local time.