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How Suns overcame injuries, COVID-19 to have NBA's best record – The Arizona Republic

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Jazz coach Quin Snyder started with Monty Williams.
Then he mentioned Chris Paul’s leadership, Devin Booker’s scoring ability, Mikal Bridges’ defense and Jae Crowder’s toughness.
“You can go down the line,” Snyder said.
He nearly did. 
Snyder next talked about Cam Johnson’s shooting ability and spoke about the bench’s competitiveness.
“I won’t go through the whole roster, but I think it’s relevant that you recognize all those guys ’cause that’s what makes up the team,” Snyder added.
Snyder didn’t make reference to Deandre Ayton, who is a major a part of Phoenix’s success this season, but overall, that’s a pretty good breakdown of the Suns (64-17).
What can’t also be forgotten is Phoenix was able to have the NBA’s best record by nearly 10 games despite having multiple guys out all season due to injuries, COVID-19, illness, rest and reconditioning.
“We have good players,” Williams said. “We have guys that really work at it. They love to compete. We have guys who have bee through some experiences that that have helped us through some tough times and adversity. That’s what I always look at.”
Even Williams and associate head coach Kevin Young missed multiple games after testing positive for COVID-19 and being placed in the NBA’s health and safety protocols.
“They’re a team that’s got an identity and that’s why they do so well with their execution,” Snyder said. 
That identity is sharing the ball on offense and making teams uncomfortable with their defensive pressure.
The Suns were able to play that way and win despite several key players missing 10-plus games.
“We just have really good players and we have guys who are willing to step and just play their role and not try to do too much,” Williams said. “That’s where is starts and ends for me. We just have guys who commit to our system and try their best every night and I’m grateful it has worked out for us in that way.”
Backup big JaVale McGee sat eight games, but Phoenix went 7-1 in those matchups. 
“That’s a credit to the coaching staff, to (Coach Williams),” Paul said. “The guys that were here. The culture. We have a system so it’s plug and play. No matter who is in the game, there’s a standard that we play to and we try to do that on a nightly basis.”
Going into Sunday’s regular-season finale against Sacramento at Footprint Center, the Suns have had 13 different starting lineups.
Their opening night lineup of Paul, Booker, Bridges, Crowder and Ayton have only started 38 games this season. They’re 31-7 with that starting lineup.
With their remaining 12 startling lineups, the Suns are 33-10.  
“You can see how well coached they are throughout multiple aspects of the game,” Snyder said. “(Williams’) personality is evident in how they play.” 
The Suns somehow managed to set an NBA record for most wins in a season when leading after three quarters. They are 47-0 with a lead going into the fourth.
“The experience we have and the efficiency that we try to play with on both ends,” said Williams, as Phoenix is fourth the NBA in offensive rating and second in defensive rating behind the Boston Celtics.
“Meaning that when we get a lead or if we have a lead, our guys are intent on maintaining or increasing it. I put a lot of pressure on the bench, especially Cam Payne. That’s his job. To maintain or increase the momentum.”
Then Williams paused for a second before saying their ability to close largely stems from having Booker and Paul. 
“A really good backcourt that can manage a lot of situations in the game,” said Williams, who has called Paul and Booker the NBA’s top backcourt multiple times. “Our defense has been top notch all year long.” 
By having such a deep team, the Suns pride themselves on leaving their opponent gassed come fourth quarter.
“It’s literally about just staying the course,” Paul said. “The wear down mentality were we’re just going to keep playing the same way all game long until hopefully you break.”   
The Suns have a chemistry and an inner support system, but also hold each other accountable. This has led the players having a high level of belief in each other.
“We really put the time in and we really trust our work,”  said Payne, Paul’s backup at point guard. “That’s like a big-time thing for us. We come get our work in and you’ve got to go out there and play with confidence. It’s just awesome to see our results.”
That togetherness can waver when guys are injured or working their way back from injuries, but Phoenix makes sure everyone stays connected.
“Our leadership level never fails or never dwindles,” Crowder said when Paul was out 15 games with the fractured right thumb.
“Even if a guy is in the lineup or out of the lineup. Chris has been out for a month or two now, but his voice is still being heard. I think that’s great for our team, especially for our younger players. We have a job to do even if we’re not in the lineup and that’s to lead and help our team and we’ve been doing that.”
Have opinion about current state of the Suns? Reach Suns Insider Duane Rankin at dmrankin@gannett.com or contact him at 480-787-1240. Follow him on Twitter at @DuaneRankin.
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