Is everything coming together at right time for Phoenix Suns to make a championship run?
Phoenix is getting Kevin Durant back from injury, won their last two games and the bench has been cooking the last three.
SALT LAKE CITY — Phoenix Suns being full strength has been a rarity this season.
They’ve dealt with injuries all season, but are a Kevin Durant return away from being fully healthy going into the final seven games of the regular season.
Sources inform The Republic the two-time finals MVP is on course to return Wednesday against the Minnesota Timberwolves to finally make his Suns home debut.
They’d gladly take that alone, but the Suns (40-35) are also riding a two-game winning streak after pulling away from Utah, 117-103, Monday before a sellout crowd of 18,206 at Vivint Arena.
The bench continues to produce, Deandre Ayton made his return from injury and five of Phoenix’s last seven games are at home.
And Durant is days away from hearing a wild and resounding roar from a sellout crowd at Footprint Center when he takes the court for the first time in Phoenix, but do they have enough time to pull it all together to make a championship run?
In between now and then, here are five takeaways as Devin Booker scored a team-high 24 points to lead the Suns to take the season series over the Jazz, 2-1, after Monday’s win.
All-Star Lauri Markkanen paced the Jazz (35-40) with a game-high 25 points.
Bench still warm
The Suns' bench is averaging 59.3 points in its last three games.
- 68 (season-high) Friday at Sacramento.
- 53 Saturday vs Philadelphia.
- 57 Monday at Utah.
Terrence Ross and T.J. Warren have been the two consistent scorers. Ross followed up his season-high 30-point blast against the Kings with 13 against Philadelphia and at Utah.
This is what Ross does. Now he’s shot 2-of-9 from 3 in his last two games, but the Suns may have to live with that if they get a 6-of-10 performance he put on against the Kings.
Warren is the one to watch.
He’s not only found a rhythm, but a comfort zone with his new teammates to the point he showed emotion after a basket plus the foul to put Phoenix up 13 points with 6:36 remaining in the game.
Warren rarely talks like that, but he was fired up. He made a point to walk over to Cameron Payne, who fed him on the break, to give him a high five.
A healthy, in-rhythm Warren is a problem for opponents coming off the bench.
A healthy, in rhythm and emotionally engaged Warren who's picking up more and more of Phoenix's system on both ends is an even bigger problem.
Suns coach Monty Williams didn’t have Ayton on a minute restriction despite his starting big missing four games with a hip injury suffered March 16 in the fourth quarter of a home victory over Orlando.
Ayton wanted it that way.
He talked after the game about working his cardio so he could fall right back in the swing of things.
Ayton didn’t dominate the Jazz like back in November when going for 29 points and 21 boards, but he did go for 14 and eight in playing 30 minutes.
The most important part of his play was he came out of the game healthy.
Last week, Williams talked about forming a “more concise” rotation that consists of 9 ½ to 10 players.
He’s only stuck to that script once since.
- 11 played at Lakers.
- 10 played at Kings.
- 12 played vs. 76ers.
- 12 played at Jazz.
Landry Shamet is the one guy to watch moving forward.
After scoring 10 and 15 points, respectively, in his first two games back from a foot injury that sidelined him two months, he scored five total in his next three which all came in his third game back at Sacramento.
Shamet has been the first person off the bench, but he’s a combined 0-for-6 in his last two games.
The combo guard did have four assists on Monday, but isn’t scoring like Ross, Warren, or Payne, who has gone for 14 and 12 points, respectively, in his last two games on a combined 10-of-18 shooting after a 0-for-5 effort (1 point) at Sacramento that included three turnovers.
Then there’s Ish Wainright, who went from not playing against the Lakers or Kings to helping close out the Jazz with two 3s in the fourth quarter. He finished with 11 points, going 3-of-5 on 3s and looking like he did at Dallas.
Williams said after Monday’s win he has an open mind on the rotations, especially after throwing Damion Lee out there and seeing him knock down a 3 Monday in just four minutes after not playing in the previous three games.
Who knows, he may never find a consistent rotation, which could be problematic, but maybe through all the injuries and adjustments, Williams has a roster full of guys who can fill several roles.
The question is can he choose the right ones and will they come through to the point their head coach doesn't just keep throwing new guys out there to see if that move will work?
Is he really?
Finally, Booker is never going to say he’s hurt.
If he’s not on the injury report, Booker’s good, but he grabbed at his right hand during Monday’s game and had that same grimacing look when gripping his right wrist late in the loss at Sacramento.
Booker has had his left hand taped and had ice on it after Monday’s game.
Not good when the guy being asked to score seems to have something happening with his hands.
Booker shot 5-of-9 in the first quarter Monday.
Went 2-of-10 the rest of the way and committed four turnovers for the game.
That’s not fine. Not fine at all, but he was still going after steals, blocking shots and diving for loose balls.
He’s not in the MVP race, but where would the Suns be without Booker? Certainly still not in fourth.
Booker has carried the team offensively since Durant went down with the injury. He’s averaging 31.7 points in 36 minutes a night in the 10 games Durant has been out.
Been facing the blitzes and the zone defenses.
When Durant returns, Booker may get back to that guy who continues to score, but fresher.
May never be healthier for the rest of the season, but carrying a lesser load will help him feel better.
Have opinion about current state of the Suns? Reach Suns Insider Duane Rankin at email@example.com or contact him at 480-787-1240. Follow him on Twitter at @DuaneRankin.