After the Pheonix Suns beat the Golden State Warriors this week extending their win streak to 17, search interest in ‘longest NBA winning streak’ spiked up +700% in the US. Now after taking down the mediocre-at-best Detroit Pistons, setting a franchise record, Suns have amassed the fifth-longest win streak of the last 10 years. But it was not long ago when people were writing off the 8-0 bubbled Suns or the Chris Paul signing, as nothing more than overly hyped signs for inevitable failures. Kind of like every other Suns season for the entire 2010s decade. But while the Suns continue their streak, are they really more than just a super tough Western Conference team?
Zach Lowe pointed out on The Lowe Podcast that it was not a fluke the Suns went to the NBA Finals last season and he's right. They were the best in the NBA against other playoff teams, second-best in the clutch, third-best point differential, and were the best on the road. But is it possible that caring so much about winning regular-season games with a beyond-veteran point guard in CP3, a now injured All-Star in Booker, and a future centerpiece yet to play more than 70 games in a season in Ayton - a bad idea? Absolutely not.
People love to bring up extreme regular-season success as reasons for postseason failure. Bill Simmons has brought up on more than one occasion that a reason the 73-9 Warriors blew that lead late in the seven-game series was that they were exhausted from going 73-9. Because it’s not like Draymond Green’s suspension and Andrew Bogut’s injury were not more significant factors in the Warriors getting clobbered on the glass, losing momentum, and blowing the series. No, it’s because they played too hard every night on a balanced roster when the standings were irrelevant. Sure. We are still very early into the season - the perfect time for a run like this. Just ask the ‘13 Heat or ‘14 Spurs who had 27 and 19 game win streaks ending in the last quarter of the season.
But this season's Suns will already be remembered for shattering two mainstream stigmas, regardless of their playoff results. The first as alluded to earlier, is how their previous Finals run, just like their season-ending run the year prior, was by no stretch a fluke. After the Suns went 8-0 in that memorable bubble, and signed then still franchise-altering Chris Paul, Bleacher Report predicted them as the ninth seed with a 35-37 record. Instead, they went 51-21 but were still predicted to not even make it out of the first round. If they can beat the Golden State Warriors, especially after Curry’s putrid game in their first meeting, the Suns should deservingly be looked upon as the third-best team at worst and first at best. But like with every other game after Curry has played badly, beating a vengeful Curry might be easier said than done.
The second glass-shattering chapter of this great team is Chris Paul. Specifically, how the hell is he so good at his age? CP3, as well as LeBron, is living proof of the ingenuity and value of modern-day science. Not to take anything away from them, we’re talking about the elite of the elite, but they are proof that we can't compare their longevity to past greats. When looking at the great point guards from the 2000s, like Stockton and Kidd, they don’t come close to the CP3 effect at his age. This is mostly because small guys in the league get banged up, meaning the removal of the hand-checking rule may have added on a few prime seasons for the Point God. But that still doesn’t explain how even in OKC, Paul was entering unprecedented territory as the only 34-year old point guard to average 17 and 7. Now he's putting up 15 and 10 as a 36-year old for what seems to be the gazillionth time ever - that makes no sense.
Still remember when Rockets owner, Tilman Fertitta, reportedly said that Chris Paul’s contract was the worst in sports history after sending him to the Thunder. Since then the Rockets are on track for the worst record in the league while Chris Paul is the head honcho on a Finals favorite. Funny how that works.
With all 29 teams circling their calendars to play the Suns while on this historic streak, things will only get more entertaining. Not to say any team that wins 18 games in a row are legit contenders, the ‘15 Hawks are a great example with 19. But these Suns are not any team. They have youth, they have Finals experience and they have not one but two go-to guys when things get dicey. That seems to be a consistent formula for one day holding a Larry O'Brien trophy up if you ask me.