EMPIRE OF THE SUNS

What do Phoenix Suns have left facing sweep vs. Timberwolves?

Apr 27, 2024, 4:58 PM | Updated: 4:58 pm

Kevin Durant #35 of the Phoenix Suns handles the ball under pressure from Jaden McDaniels #3 of the...

Kevin Durant #35 of the Phoenix Suns handles the ball under pressure from Jaden McDaniels #3 of the Minnesota Timberwolves during the first half of game three of the Western Conference First Round Playoffs at Footprint Center on April 26, 2024 in Phoenix, Arizona. The Timberwolves defeated the Suns 126-109. (Photo by Christian Petersen/Getty Images)

(Photo by Christian Petersen/Getty Images)

PHOENIX — There is nothing left to say on the Phoenix Suns beyond we know what they are and we know the team we will continue to see. It has been evident for months, dating back to December, and the mission statement at that point became if they could do enough insta-repair work to get the machine running through the playoffs while hoping the shoddy fixes didn’t fall apart to reveal the true identity.

The group at least said they believed the mending had occurred but boy has that not come to fruition in an 0-3 hole against the Minnesota Timberwolves.

Minnesota decides our fate, how much longer this series goes on for. If it can stay away from the loose mindset some squads in its position fall into, we’re done here. The T-Wolves have proven they can execute the winning formula: stay level enough over the course of the game before snatching it when blood is in the water.

They somehow managed a two-point lead through one quarter when three starters were in foul trouble before the Suns’ bumbling and stumbling play started in the next two periods.

What gives the Suns the best chance in Game 4 on Sunday to keep their season alive? Well, we know they can’t stick to one style or find an identity for beyond a quarter or two. And we know the pathway to success involves taking a lot of 3s and making enough to get the type of offensive performance they were created to produce.

So, they should start the game small. Tunnel the lineups down to one unavoidable brand of basketball.

This is at no fault of starting center Jusuf Nurkic, who has given the Suns more than they could have expected when acquiring him. In a different three-game stretch where he was more impactful, it’s a different story. And it doesn’t really have to do with that too much, honestly.

If the Suns have him come off the bench in spurts in favor of a wing or guard, it will give the group on the floor no choice of how to play. They will have to space it out, keep the ball moving and get bodies going around the floor. The defensive intensity, particularly on the glass, could not afford any slippage. The rebounding issues have been there with bigs on the floor anyway and haven’t been as pronounced in the small chunks of small-ball we’ve seen in this series.

Phoenix attempted only seven 3-pointers in the middle quarters of Game 3 after taking nine in the opening period. It is completely and utterly incapable of sustaining that. The best effort at that we saw this season was one of the strangest quarters of basketball in franchise history, a narrow win over the resting Los Angeles Clippers in the last week of the regular season that included 20 of the Suns’ first 27 shots being 3-pointers. It felt like watching a live protest, an “Oh, you want us to take 3s?!” or an, “Enough, we are taking 3s.”

Devin Booker, in particular, is trying to take every open pull-up 3 possible in this series. He’s an incredibly in-rhythm player so it’s obvious when that is affected and this development has been one of the telling signs. Finally getting his playmaking going to lead the charge on the movement front has to be the top priority and this is the best way to unlock that. Everything else has not worked and will not work.

These lineups would get the Suns to 40-plus 3-point attempts, at least a step in the right direction. Grayson Allen playing would help after he missed Game 3 due to re-spraining his right ankle. He is questionable once again. It would also get the assists up to a respectable number. Phoenix couldn’t reach 20 in back-to-back games before a total of 24 in Game 3 was aided by seven in garbage time– I mean, the fourth quarter.

Would this work? Probably not. Will the Suns try this? No.

But much of the discussion surrounding Game 4 coming into it will be how much fight the Suns have left. This would be the best way to find out.

Empire of the Suns

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