The Suns are passing better, and Grayson Allen’s hot shooting has benefited

Mar 8, 2024, 7:15 PM

Argue all you want about whether the Phoenix Suns’ abysmal fourth quarter Tuesday against the Denver Nuggets was about poor offense (stale possessions and bad execution) or bad shooting (luck).

All in all over the past two games, Phoenix’s offense has been whipping the ball around well. Better than before.

For all the talk about the Suns’ dead spots on offense, bad fourth quarters and their need to acquire a true point guard, it’s an important thing to note. Devin Booker remains sidelined, and Bradley Beal for the first significant stretch is manning the lead guard spot. It’s a point in the season to see how this thing functions with shooting guards at point, Kevin Durant commanding the ball in stretches and Jusuf Nurkic complementing the halfcourt playmaking.

Grayson Allen has been the top beneficiary of it all.

He hit 16 threes across a two-game stretch of wins against Denver and Toronto despite not scoring a single point in the second half Thursday in a win over the Raptors. It changed each game that Allen hit eight threes in a row without a miss twice in a row.

“Shooters go through slumps in stretches where you miss a few in a row … it’s nice to quickly kick that,” Allen told Arizona Sports’ Bickley & Marotta about a rough three-game stretch before this week. “It was only two or three games. I always kind of have that mindset that I’m going to shoot a good percentage so if I miss a lot in a row, I’m going to make a lot in a row, too.

“During those moments there’s actually not a whole lot giong through my head, but you can kind of feel like it slows down a little bit,” he added. “You’re just really locked in. I can definitely feel the energy of the crowd.”

But to the point about the team’s evolving offense, Allen has been open the last two games for a reason.

The Suns are 18th on the season by averaging 279 passes per game, something impacted by their relatively slow pace.

But in their past three games with Booker out with an ankle sprain, they rank second across the NBA for each team’s three most recent games at 329 passes per game. Again: That’s 50 more passes per game than their season average!

Over its last three games, Phoenix is also seventh in assists averaged per game (29) and third in hockey assists (6.3), per Second Spectrum tracking data.

The ball movement is getting better.

Twelve of Allen’s 15 field goal attempts were categorized as uncontested against Denver, while all 14 of his shots facing Toronto were without a playing standing within 3.5 feet, according to Second Spectrum.

“If you look at kind of a few of our issues this season, it’s been closing games out in the fourth and turnovers,” Allen said, even saying he saw good things against the Nuggets during a 12-point fourth quarter. “I felt like our ball movement was great and we didn’t knock down shots.”

Phoenix has turned it over only 23 times combined in the latest two games, a clean-up that has been a priority.

As Allen has gotten hot early in each, the defenses were forced to adjust. He only got off two shot attempts in the entire second half against the Raptors. But that helped Durant take charge, scoring 24 second-half points on 8-of-14 shooting to close out Toronto.

Signs point to progress being made if the Suns can make those things trends beyond a three-game stretch.

“A lot of turnovers come from those dead possessions where we get the ball up the court slow and don’t move that much,” Allen said Friday. “I don’t think that’s coming from any traditional point guard. I think that’s all five guys being in tune to each possession and helping each other out.”

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