One of the toughest jobs in sports is getting up off the mat after a devastating championship loss. In a moment when you gave your all, when the pinnacle of your professional sphere was within reach, you failed. Any ensuing effort, by comparison, is no longer worth it. Why try? Failure will be inevitable and only heartbreaking again. It is here, in this mental space, where many finalists suffer disappointments or hangovers. They’re not as stellar, not as hungry, not as healthy, or all three, and they’re not living up to expectations. They don’t even come near the bar.
That’s definitely not a problem for the Suns this year.
We’re approaching the 2022 NBA All-Star Game, a natural break in action, and the Suns are an astonishing 41-10. They’ve won 11 of their last 12 games over the past month, including victories over other heavyweights like the Jazz (twice) and the Nets. That kind of dominance, of course, comes after they lost one of the most thrilling yet exhaustive NBA Finals in recent memory to the Bucks last June.
How did they do it? How did they not let past failures dictate their present, like any excellent self-help book tells you to avoid such a prospect?
In four words: Head Coach Monty Williams.
13-1 in January.
Congratulations to Coach Monty on your second Coach of the Month honor this season! 🎉 pic.twitter.com/Q7ESTSZOtc
— Phoenix Suns (@Suns) February 2, 2022
In his fourth season at the helm of Phoenix, Williams, 50, continues to push all the right buttons. Usually two Coach of the Month honors in a season that is only three months old would be enough to demonstrate his incredible ability to push his team. But you can’t help but be impressed that this outburst comes after such a defeat in the final. The easy decision for Williams and the Suns would have been to stock up, let last year be their defining moment. But they didn’t. He didn’t let them.
The Suns may have a loaded roster featuring Devin Booker (a 2022 All-Star), Chris Paul (also a 2022 All-Star) and DeAndre Ayton, among others, as well as a deep bench led by Cameron Johnson and Bismack Biyombo. However, it takes a single, well-rehearsed leader to maximize and develop such a group. Williams is one of those rare leaders. Right now, Tipico Sportsbook has Williams at -130 to win his first-ever NBA Coach of the Year award. These odds feel exceptionally secure in his hands.
Try saying he’s not a guy his players like. You would be an obnoxious liar.
Monty Williams congratulates Devin Booker on making his 3rd #NBAAllStar
—NBA (@NBA) February 4, 2022
Of course, we’d be remiss if we didn’t detail what the Suns did well among their peers. Where, oh where, to start:
- Third in offensive efficiency, second in defensive efficiency
- Third in points (113 points per game), seventh in defensive points allowed (102.5 per game)
- First in team shooting (47.8%), third in opposing shooting percentage (44%)
- Fourth in team three-point shooting (36.6%), fourth in opposition three-point shooting (33.3)
- Fifth in assists (26.4 per game)
- Sixth in steals (8.6 per game)
The Suns will again be a favorite to win the Western Conference and give Chris Paul his first championship. Tipico currently has Phoenix (+260, second behind the Warriors) to win the West and (+550, third-best overall) to win the NBA title. They are the red giant ready to engulf the NBA‘s solar system once it expands in circumference.
More than ever, it’s evident that Williams has his Suns ready to avenge their finals loss and clinch the gold crown they believe they deserve. Stand in their way and you could get burned.
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