How did the Phoenix Suns reach this seemingly unimaginable
point, an NBA Finals appearance for the first time in 28 years? It
was largely due to their offensive system.
Suns head coach Monty Williams implemented the “0.5 Offense”
predicated around ball movement to find the most optimal shot
selection. Within a half-second timeframe, players must decide to
take a shot, drive to the basket or pass it for a better
opportunity elsewhere. Throughout the 2020-21 season, Phoenix lived
off the “0.5 Offense” principles and it worked to perfection.
Acquiring Chris Paul via trade was the cherry on top to a sundae
ready-made to carve up defenses on a nightly basis.
After taking a commanding 2-0 lead on the Milwaukee Bucks in
their first Finals appearance since 1993, Phoenix continued to hold
true to their “0.5” style, and Milwaukee had no answers. In Game 1,
Devin Booker and Paul went mismatch hunting on the Bucks’ bigs,
which ended in a resounding 118-105 win.
In Game 2, the Bucks dared Phoenix to beat them by playing even
more to their “0.5” philosophy, playing off their shooters while
limiting opportunities for Booker and Paul. This led to Mikal
Bridges scoring a career-high 27 points, while Jae Crowder and
Cameron Johnson both canned multiple three-pointers as well.
Whether it’s scoring or setting up others, the Suns’ offensive
engines of Booker and Paul were having their way against the
With the series heading back to Milwaukee, the Bucks made a
series-changing adjustment. Jrue Holiday would hound Chris Paul
with full-court pressure, taking the basketball out of his hands
more quickly than the first two games in Phoenix. Paul’s time of
possession fell off a cliff thanks to Holiday’s harassment:
Game 1: 10.5
Game 2: 10.1
Game 3: 8.3
Game 4: 8.7
Game 5: 7.3
Limiting Paul’s rhythm within the Suns’ offensive flow created
serious issues, including nine turnovers for CP3 over a two-game
span. Also, the Suns’ potential assists have steadily declined
throughout the Finals: 53, 44, 41, 38, 29. Milwaukee icing out
Paul’s effectiveness while not playing off their wings in the
corners, sans Game 2, has turned the Suns into an iso-heavy offense
with a lot of ball-watching. This is a complete identity shift from
how the Suns reached the Finals in the first place.
Milwaukee’s critical adjustments led to them being more
comfortable with a one-man band of Booker attempting to beat them
while limiting everything else around him. After Booker’s sub-par
Game 3 (10 points on 3-of-14 shooting), he’s gone off for
consecutive 40-plus point outings. It hasn’t mattered, with the
Bucks now holding a 3-2 series lead with the chance to win an NBA
championship on their homecourt on Tuesday night.
Another point worth noting is that Paul hasn’t looked 100%
either. With Holiday’s aggressive on-ball defense picking him the
length of the court almost every possession, Paul’s partially torn
ligaments in his right hand seem to be a more consistent issue.
This puts even more pressure on Booker to put on his Superman
cape and will the Suns across the finish line to a title. Over the
last two games, Booker has averaged 41 points on a remarkable 61
True Shooting percentage. Add in the fact that Booker’s usage rate
in Games 4 and 5 totaled out to 42.9, and he has effectively become
their whole offense. In both games, Phoenix nearly pulled out a win
-- even without anyone else supplying strong secondary support
around their 24-year-old star.
So, what do the Suns need to do to force the Bucks back on the
plane to Phoenix following Game 6? The answer is simple: play Suns
basketball. While the adjustments Milwaukee made throughout the
series have severely limited the Suns’ efficient scoring attack,
the fourth quarter of Game 5 showed there’s success to be found.
When Booker and Paul were able to get inside the lane and force
drive-and-kick opportunities, which was a huge factor in their Game
2 victory, it led to so many easy looks from the corners. And when
the extra help from Milwaukee didn’t come, the Suns’ backcourt duo
won their one-on-one matchups on a few key possessions late.
Booker can continue to be the superstar scorer he is, but the
basketball needs to whizz around the perimeter to find better looks
If the Suns can secure another hot scoring night from Booker,
while also keeping the ball moving for better opportunities when
needed, their odds of keeping confetti from falling inside Fiserv
Forum will grow exponentially. When the Suns hold true to Williams’
“0.5” principles, it gives them a much better chance of pulling off
the upset and forcing a winner-take-all Game 7 at the newly
re-named Footprint Center.