Suns halfway there, still waiting on Bucks to expose any flaws

Jul 8, 2021, 10:33 PM | Updated: Jul 9, 2021, 1:18 am
Devin Booker #1 and Chris Paul #3 of the Phoenix Suns celebrate during the second half in Game One ...
Devin Booker #1 and Chris Paul #3 of the Phoenix Suns celebrate during the second half in Game One of the NBA Finals against the Milwaukee Bucks at Phoenix Suns Arena on July 06, 2021 in Phoenix, Arizona. (Photo by Christian Petersen/Getty Images)
(Photo by Christian Petersen/Getty Images)

PHOENIX — Anybody who knows me knows I love Flagstaff. I was born there. Met my wife there. Visit whenever I can. When I make the drive up the I-17 the moment I slip into vacation mode is when I hit Camp Verde. As soon as we get back on the road after stopping for coffee I think, “OK, we’re there.”

Of course we’re not there. Still have to go up the hill, round the big bend, slow down through Munds Park, you know the drill. But we might as well be there. The rest is just the driving version of dotting some i’s and crossing some t’s.

The Suns are not at Camp Verde yet. Not yet. But as I sit here inside an empty Phoenix Suns Arena — which has reinvented itself as one of the most influential amplifiers of sound in the league — I am legit wondering if I’ll be back here in a week.

I think I will be. I believe the Bucks will at some point find the combination that unlocks the Suns’ vault and exposes their flaws, or that the Suns themselves will think they’re there and ease up on the gas pedal.

But it hasn’t happened yet.

Game 1, it was the backcourt brilliance of Devin Booker and Chris Paul and a serious imposition of will from Deandre Ayton.

Game 2 offered a different kind of threat. The Bucks made clear their intentions to smack the Suns in the mouth early. An aggressive claim of what they believed to be their territory. Booker got off to a slow start. Ayton wasn’t getting touches and wasn’t impacting the game. The Suns were scoring all their points almost exclusively from the 3-point line, a road that is fun to drive but often makes you stop, turn around and find another way to your destination.

Except the Bucks kept giving it to them, the Suns kept making them and the law of averages were damned on this night. Forty 3-pointers attempted, 20 made. Every Phoenix Sun who took a 3 made a 3 except for Cameron Payne.

And while Giannis Antetokounmpo flat out dominated in his 40 minutes of work, the other two-thirds of the Bucks’ Big Three were woeful. Khris Middelton and Jrue Holiday combined to shoot 12-of-37. Let Giannis get his; it’s not terribly relevant if he’s not getting help.

Meanwhile, help was everywhere for the Suns. Mikal Bridges had the kind of moment that will have him on the show sheet of sports show in America. Booker started slow but closed in a way that reminded all he is in fact a superstar in this league. Paul had a perfectly great game except for those odd fourth quarter turnovers. And after a nationally televised coach-’em-up session from Monty, Deandre Ayton balled in the final eight minutes of the game.

The Suns continue to show that they’ll adjust to your adjustments. They’ll counter your Plan B with their own. And when you pivot like Ross in the stairwell, they’ll pivot with you. There is a reason they are 14-4 in the playoffs and it’s not because a bunch of dudes around the league got hurt.

The next 72 hours will be some of the most important coaching Monty has done in Phoenix. The Bucks will play with untethered desperation on Sunday and the Suns internal GPS can’t lead them to believe they’ve arrived at their destination.

They’re not in Camp Verde and certainly they’re not in Flagstaff. They’re halfway there.

And for all of us who have been on this ride with them throughout the years, so are we.


Comment guidelines: No name-calling, personal attacks, profanity, or insults. Please keep the conversation civil and help us moderate comments by reporting abuse.
comments powered by Disqus

Phoenix Suns

Deandre Ayton #22 of the Phoenix Suns during the second half of the NBA game at Footprint Center on...
Jake Anderson

Suns GM believes Deandre Ayton will be back: ‘He’s a big part of what we do’

Phoenix Suns GM James Jones told Burns & Gambo on Wednesday that he believes Deandre Ayton will be back with the team next season.
22 hours ago
Chris Paul #3 of the Phoenix Suns handles the ball during the first half of Game Seven of the Weste...
Kellan Olson

Suns’ offseason questions: How much should Phoenix rely on Chris Paul?

Chris Paul's injury history in the playoffs means the Phoenix Suns have to rethink the way they are shaping their roster going forward.
22 hours ago
Devin Booker #1 of the Phoenix Suns reacts during the first half of Game One of the Western Confere...
Kevin Zimmerman

Offering Devin Booker supermax contract extension is no-brainer for Suns

Here's one move that should not take more than a second's worth of brain energy: Extending Devin Booker to a supermax contract.
22 hours ago
Phoenix Suns forward Cameron Johnson (23) and New York Knicks forward Julius Randle are separated b...
Wills Rice

The 5: Phoenix Suns’ best moments of the 2021-22 season

Let's take a look at some of the Phoenix Suns' best moments on and off the court from this historic 2021-22 season.
2 days ago
Head coach Monty Williams of the Phoenix Suns talks with Deandre Ayton #22 in the second half of ga...
Wills Rice

Suns’ Monty Williams stands by Deandre Ayton’s usage in Game 7

Monty Williams stuck by his decision to keep Deandre Ayton off the court during the final moments of the team's playoff run in 2022.
2 days ago
Head coach Monty Williams of the Phoenix Suns hugs Chris Paul #3 in the final seconds of the team's...
Jake Anderson

Monty Williams paying no mind to Pat Beverley’s comments on Chris Paul

Suns HC Monty Williams took the high road when asked about Pat Beverley's comments on Chris Paul during his exit interview on Monday.
2 days ago
Suns halfway there, still waiting on Bucks to expose any flaws