Collective effort propels Suns to first NBA Finals in 28 years

Published July 2, 2021, 7:00 PMRenee Ticzon

The entire team showed up to help the Suns close out the Clippers and put an end to the franchise's Finals drought.

After the Phoenix Suns’ Game 5 defeat that left everyone questioning their ability to move forward. Just a few days ago, we wrote an article about the Suns’ lack of inside presence, highlighting that either Jae Crowder or Deandre Ayton needs to step up and carry the load.

By Game 6, Phoenix’s performance was night and day. Crowder and Ayton both played long minutes and made the most of their time on the floor. 

Chris Paul specifically singled out Ayton and told him to be more aggressive prior to tipoff, as the veteran guard recognized that his activity will be the key to their success. Ayton dominated with a double-double of 16 points and 17 rebounds along with two blocks. He was doing everything from both ends of the floor, going 8-of-10 from the field and crashing the defensive boards 12 times of his 17.

Crowder, on the other hand, was one of the biggest contributors to the Suns’ early lead. He got going from the very beginning, scoring 16 of his 19 points in the first half. He made five shots from downtown with a 55.6 percent clip.

However, not all starters had a spectacular game. Mikal Bridges only had nine points in the 24 minutes he played. It’s likely for fans to think that this would be a problem considering how in sync the players have to be for Phoenix’s system to work.

Not exactly, said Torrey Craig. His contribution wouldn’t be so obvious with only three points under his name. But it was his energy, not his scoring, that had a profound effect on his team. He was intense, giving the Suns eight rebounds after averaging just 3.9 in the regular season. He was also plus-28 in the box score, a game-high even after playing 30 minutes.

Even before Paul took over, his team was already giving everything they could to advance to the NBA Finals. It was the collective effort especially in the first half that kept the Suns a couple possessions ahead of the LA Clippers almost the entire game.

Of course, Paul’s leadership and 41-point explosion were the biggest reasons why Phoenix is advancing to the Finals, but his teammates also fought hard to make it easier for them to move forward.

The Suns outrebounded the Clippers 47-32, made more of their shots with 56.4 versus 41.8 percent from the field, and got everyone involved with nine more assists than LA – a near-perfect game for Phoenix.

They even replicated (sort of) the Clippers’ dominance inside the paint in Game 5, going 54-34, but at that point, it was just the icing on the cake.

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