The Phoenix Suns lose in game one of the second round to the Denver Nuggets 125-107, and the game got away from them after the first quarter, and there are 3 key reasons as to how this took place. These are also the same 3 keys to how they can win game 2 and even this series.
- Suns need to be more Physical
Much like the “Suns in four” fight in the stands two years ago, which resulted in a Suns sweep, the Denver Nuggets can be had if the Suns can out-physical them on the court, This has happened in the past to a Nuggets team as we have heard Coach Mike Malone call his team soft on several occasions in the media for this particular reason.
Physicality is the name of the game when you cross into the second round of the Playoffs, this is where the thoughts of actually winning the title will tell who the stronger team is and who just can’t handle the pressure.
In game one the Suns did not handle the physicality very well after playing a great first quarter (32-31) in the second quarter they begin to get bumped off of their comfort spots and it resulting in turnovers. The Suns went on their heels after that and allowed the Nuggets to go on a big run and win the 2nd quarter 37-19 and get control of the game at the half up 17 points.
The physical Nuggets even caused star Forward Kevin Durant to turn the ball over an uncharacteristic 7 times, making him uncomfortable dribbling the ball and getting to his spots on the floor, this physicality caused a chain reaction as the spacing on the floor strunk and the turnovers were coming at a high clip in the clutch moments to stay in the game.
DeAndre Ayton did a good job in battling with Nikola Jokic but could have been a little more physical with him on the offensive end and forced Joker to pay him tight. In game 1 the Suns look like a team that is way too finesse and needs to get more physical as Ayton said here in his locker room interview:
# Suns need to simply make shots particular more 3’s
Phoenix never made up the double-digit deficit for the entire second half, and this brings us to the next key for the Suns to turn things around for game 2. There is an old saying in the NBA that says “It’s a make-or-miss league” and as simple as that sounds, it’s the truth as we have seen with the Suns in regard to consistently making shots.
The deeper you get in the playoffs the harder it becomes to consistently make shots, but the key is that you are getting many contributions from guys, particularly off the bench.
The Suns have had way too many instances where they just simply go cold with making shots and have these 3 to 4-minute lulls without scoring, then the opponent making shots, results in a double-digit lead and giant runs that are hard to recover from.
Monty Williams’s questionable rotations the bench guys have not brought that extra punch needed for the starters to get rested.
The three-ball has not gone down in these playoffs consistently for the Suns and it’s hard to fathom when they have at least 4 guys on their team known for knocking down the long ball.
Terrance Ross and Damion Lee are two guys known for the 3-ball, but Ross, can’t find the floor, and that is probably because he may be a defensive liability and has been in a shooting slump.
Shooters come out of slumps when they continue to get shot opportunities, if they do not even get the opportunity how can they get out of the slump.
This brings us to the final key to the Suns winning this series.
3 Coaching Adjustments in game and game to game
Game 1 is usually a feel-out game and players get acclimated with each other’s style of play, and then the adjustments from game to game will dictate the team that moves on to the next step in winning a Chip.
The 3rd key for the Suns to win this series is better coaching.
This is not an attack on Monty Williams at all, it’s just time for the coach to pull out all the stops and use what he has on his bench more effectively.
We have seen the Suns get out-coached by coaches that are great X’s and O’s type of guys, like Clippers Coach Ty Lue in the last series, yes they lost the series but Lue greatly out-coached Monty in terms of maximizing the pieces he had.
The Suns won that series on pure star talent and that can only take you so far, the minutes the Suns starters are averaging so early in the Playoffs are going to be the death of them late.
Monty has to come out of his comfort zone and try and put trust in guys on his bench that have had playoff experience, partially TJ Warren. Warren went on a scoring beige in the Bubble and was one of the top-scoring players throughout that run for the Pacers he is more than capable of at least getting points to maintain momentum in a game.
We will see if there is a drastic change in the lineup to give some aid to the starters, Monty said in his presser after the game.
Game 2 is important, it’s not yet a must-win, but if the Suns have any chance at winning this series they have to get the split here in the Mile High State and make it a 5 game series rather than have to beat the Nuggets 4 out of 5 games with 2 more on the road.