Can Phoenix repair his attack in time?


Phoenix Suns goalie Devin Booker (1) is fouled while driving to the basket while Los Angeles Clippers goalie Patrick Beverley (21), forward Paul George (13) and goalie Luke Kennard (5 ) defend during the first half of Game 5 of the NBA Western Conference Basketball Finals, Monday, June 28, 2021, in Phoenix. (AP Photo / Matt York)

It stands to reason that the Phoenix Suns will have to make it to the NBA Finals playing their own way, ahead of a Los Angeles Clippers team testing them in what they do best.

The various defensive looks and changes of the Clippers have infected the Suns offense. He’s got Phoenix in a rut.

Including the exit of Game 1 where the Suns scored 120 points thanks to Devin Booker’s masterpiece, Phoenix’s offensive rating for the series is 106.8, which would have placed 28th in the regular season.

The Suns’ offense on Monday moved indecisively as the Clippers are a tick they just can’t scratch.

Los Angeles in Game 5 opened the game in a zone, a way of plugging a few holes without center Ivica Zubac.

As most AoE defenses do, he got his job done by making things a little dirtier and dismissing the Suns just enough.

After five games we’ve now reached a point where Chris Paul and Booker seem unable to find a solid flow with their teammates through play and vision from the pitch, which hasn’t been the case most of the season.

It’s a bizarre observation to make, but looking at Monday night’s loss for the Suns, there was possession after possession like this where the action came to a complete stop and reduced the scoring chances.

Paul or Booker continued to dribble inside the three-point line, finding nothing and then whipping the ball, where it would stop.

It kept happening.

Again and again.

There are a number of ways for possession to proceed from there. Booker or Paul could get their midrange rider. They could also get into the teeth of the defense, either to open a passing lane for a player in the perimeter, to try to score at the edge, or to make it easier to find Deandre Ayton for a pass.

A handful of unsuccessful trips for the Suns ‘offense were like this, where the running back could have headed towards Ayton to get the Clippers’ defense to react in a certain way. And if Ayton doesn’t have 2-3 bodies around him, it’s a simple high pass for him to get and finish from there.

But that’s not a pass the Suns can do from 25 feet. They have to get close to him, and they couldn’t do it.

It’s proof of what we’ve seen all year, that the only real zero-record moment in this offense is when he’s trying to get Ayton in. There is little to no cohesion established, which they tried to do and failed early in the season.

Ayton needs to read those ball spins and not allow Luke Kennard to face him.

Ayton needs to see the way because his dive is wide open as soon as Paul attacks.

And to get past the obvious, the looming threat Ayton presents is sucking up defenders to give Phoenix shooters an open look.

When everything is working normally, it looks nice, as we are used to.

Booker and Paul just have to be better too. The reason the Suns can have a very effective offense around two guys who shoot mostly from the midrange is because, well, they’re more precise from there than anyone else in the league.

This was not what happened in the Western Conference Finals.

According to Cleaning the Glass, Booker shot 50% from the midrange in the regular season, 48% against the Los Angeles Lakers and 57% against the Denver Nuggets. For Paul, those numbers are 53% in the regular season, 40% in the Lakers series with the bad right shoulder and 60% for the four games against Denver.

In the Clippers series, Booker is at 38% and Paul at 37% is just as bad. On Monday, Booker was at 4 of 11 but Paul bounced back to 7 of 11.

With what went wrong for the Suns in Game 5 like sometimes terrible defense and bad live ball turnovers, their top two players just aren’t hitting enough shots.

He’s a mix of Clippers deserving a lot of credit while not being an impenetrable defensive monster that leaves little to no options for offense. If Phoenix is ​​just above average offensively against these Clippers, they’ll beat them nine times out of 10. But for some reason it’s just a lousy game that didn’t get them there outside of the spectacular. Booker’s triple-double effort in Game 1.

Booker and Paul also spent their fair share of Game 5 chasing lags in the Clippers’ defense, and while it’s good and dandy when either one rolls around and can find someone who deserves to be seriously exploited, the two have not lit any Clipper this is not a center. And when the offense doesn’t flow, it just makes it worse.

Expect to see a much more structured and defined attack from the Suns in Game 6 that lends itself to becoming more fluid, as the way they were bottled up on Monday cannot happen again on Wednesday if they are to wrap up the series.



Helen L. Cuellar

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