The 2022 NBA Playoffs are underway and Phoenix Suns fans will be hoping for another positive postseason display. Their team have yet to win an NBA Championship but the Suns came so close to glory in 2021.
Having won the Western Conference, Phoenix made it all the way to the finals series before going down at the death to the Milwaukee Bucks. In order to avoid another heartbreaking conclusion to the season, just what can the Suns do to go one step further?
2021 saw the Phoenix Suns claim their first Conference Title since 1991 and only the third in their history. Years of shrewd drafts, trades and youth development had seen them build towards becoming one of the most powerful franchises in the NBA.
Standing in the way of ultimate glory were the Milwaukee Bucks. With the Bucks having finished in third place in the Eastern Conference, Phoenix were highly rated but it wasn’t to be.
A 4-2 defeat left fans distraught, but the Suns have risen and are back in the playoffs again.
As Phoenix tackle their first round playoff games against the New Orleans Pelicans, the neutral view is that this team can go all the way this time. If we look at the betting for the NBA playoffs , the Suns are marginal favorites, just ahead of the Golden State Warriors.
Other teams who are highly rated include the Boston Celtics, the Miami Heat and the defending champions Milwaukee Bucks. That’s an encouraging endorsement and it also underlines who the most dangerous opponents will be as the playoff series moves forward.
Improvements Needed on the Road
One key stat from the finals series against the Bucks underlines an area where Phoenix need to improve. With home court advantage, the Suns had no issues in the opening stages as they claimed a 2-0 lead.
It all went wrong when the action switched to the Fiserv Forum in Milwaukee. A 3-0 losing record handed the pennant to the Bucks while the Suns also lost on their home return.
Could it be that Phoenix buckled under the pressure of a partisan crowd? That’s a debatable point but it’s certain that the Suns’ away record needs to improve.
The acquisition of Chris Paul ahead of the 2020-2021 season was one of the catalysts for the Suns’ improvement. The experienced Point Guard has maintained his form levels and has been chosen for the NBA All Star team in each of his two Suns campaigns
Paul has also claimed a number of individual awards and will be a key player for Phoenix as the playoffs develop. Shooting Guard Devin Booker has also made those All Star teams and will need to be at his best at this crucial time.
At the other end of the court, Mikal Bridges was one of the nominees for the NBA Defensive Player of the Year Award. While he ultimately missed out, Bridges’ contributions have also been vital.
As we have seen from the markets, the biggest challenge to the Phoenix Suns this year may well come from the Golden State Warriors. With the mercurial Stephen Curry in the form of his life, GSW are getting back to their best.
With the return of two players from their most successful rosters of the 2010s, the Warriors are in good shape. Golden State and Phoenix are scheduled to meet in the Western Conference Final and that could be a more closely contested game than the NBA Finals themselves.
Before they can think about the Western Conference Final, the Suns must get past the Pelicans in the first round. From there, they will take on either the Dallas Mavericks or the Utah Jazz. As winners of the Northwest Division, the Jazz may offer the stiffest challenge, but Phoenix should be too strong for either team.
If the Suns can claim their second Conference Championship in succession, who will be waiting for them in the NBA final? There’s a long way to go but the teams most strongly tipped to progress are the Milwaukee Bucks and the Miami Heat.
Any finals game will be tough, and this is the point where Phoenix failed to raise their game in 2021.
Can they do it?
The biggest test for the Phoenix Suns may well come from within their own Conference. Golden State Warriors may not be quite as strong as the side who won three Championships in four years up to 2018 but they are a competitive unit.
Much will depend on the potential showdown between GSW and Phoenix in the Western Conference Final. If the Suns can get through it, they should have the quality and the belief to go one step further in 2022.