Mikal Bridges
Mikal Bridges #25 of the Phoenix Suns looks on during the first half of the NBA game against the Toronto Raptors at Footprint Center on March 11, 2022 in Phoenix, Arizona. The Raptors defeated the Suns 117-112. Kelsey Grant/Getty Images


  • The Phoenix Suns' bench depth has found their footing just in time
  • Playing smarter defense needs to be a point of emphasis for them moving forward
  • Devin Booker can afford to stay on the sidelines for the foreseeable future

The Phoenix Suns have put themselves back into playoff contention in the extremely tight Western Conference with a dominant 128-97 victory over the short-handed Charlotte Hornets.

Here are some quick observations from the statement win.

Suns Are Actually Deep

Phoenix fans have bemoaned their lack of depth to start the 2022-23 NBA season and it showcased itself early on after dismal performances against teams like the Orlando Magic, Houston Rockets, Washington Wizards and New York Knicks.

The return of Cameron Johnson shocked the Suns offense to life when he made his return on January 19 against the Brooklyn Nets despite not having Devin Booker, Cameron Payne, Deandre Ayton and Chris Paul at different points.

Johnson started off hot against the Hornets after rattling off 16 points in the first quarter by making all six of his attempts, four of which were three-pointers, and gave the Suns a massive 36-15 lead.

The Hornets would whittle it down in the second quarter, but the Suns went on to win despite the losses of Booker, Payne and Ayton by committee.

Jock Landale brought out his bag of tricks for 15 points and three boards, Dario Saric and Damion Lee repeatedly found their marks throughout the floor and Bismack Biyombo swatted away five shots - all in the first half.

Paul chipped in with a 14-point, 11-assist double-double of his own to gain their first four-game winning streak since November 26.

They have the benefit of a bench unit that can go off at any given minute where many counted them out and will be the key towards getting a higher seed with a healthy roster.

Cameron Johnson, Phoenix Suns
Cameron Johnson #23 of the Phoenix Suns reacts after hitting a three-point shot against the New Orleans Pelicans during the second half of Game Two of the Western Conference First Round NBA Playoffs at Footprint Center on April 19, 2022 in Phoenix, Arizona. The Pelicans defeated the Suns 125-114. Christian Petersen/Getty Images

Big Leads Need To Be Sustained

Second quarter meltdowns have been the Suns' Achilles heel and it almost happened again versus the Hornets.

A lead that grew as high as 33 was whittled down to just eight points in the second half after the Suns defense suddenly decided to allow easy baskets inside the paint and with multiple and-1 opportunities.

It was almost a disaster until the Suns responded with a strong 40-30 third quarter and capped it off by outscoring the Hornets 30-20 in the final frame.

For whatever reason, the Suns have had trouble defending their leads throughout the season and it has prevented them from reaching their full potential.

With the hopes of an NBA title in their back pockets, the Suns need to produce another definitive performance against the Dallas Mavericks on Thursday, January 26.

Bismack Biyombo
Bismack Biyombo #18 of the Phoenix Suns handles the ball against Isaiah Jackson #23 of the Indiana Pacers during the first half of the NBA game at Footprint Center on January 22, 2022 in Phoenix, Arizona. Photo by Christian Petersen/Getty Images

Devin Booker Need Not Rush His Return

Dealing with any sort of muscle strain is no joke since NBA fans have seen such injuries debilitate the best players in the league.

James Harden's case has been the most prolific in recent history as it had fans questioning whether he will ever return to All-NBA team levels after dealing with his own hamstring issues.

The Philadelphia 76ers decided to play it cautious with Harden and the Suns will need to play the same game if they want to have him at his healthiest entering the postseason.

Booker is currently dealing with a left groin strain that he suffered against the Denver Nuggets in the very first quarter of the Christmas Day loss.

Similar to a hamstring injury, groin strains cannot be rushed and the Suns have confirmed that they are in no rush to bring Booker back to the court unless he is completely healthy.

Suns fans can rest easy with the presences of Cam Johnson and Mikal Bridges both stepping up mightily in his absence, the latter showcasing his abilities as a scorer and the former getting back to form.

Devin Booker, Phoenix Suns
Devin Booker #1 of the Phoenix Suns shoots over Marcus Morris Sr. #8 of the Los Angeles Clippers during the first half at Crypto.com Arena on October 23, 2022 in Los Angeles, California. Kevork Djansezian/Getty Images