If the Suns want to make the playoffs, they will have to be one of the better defensive teams in the NBA.

So far this season, the Phoenix Suns defense is marginally better than last year in terms of points per possession, a measure that evens the playing field among teams that play at different pace. Last year, the Suns finished 15th in defensive efficiency. This year they are 11th after the first 16 games.

The Suns play at one of the league's fastest paces, currently ranking 4th overall, with 96.4 possessions per game. Last year, they were 8th in the league at 95.6 possessions per game. Not much difference, as you can see, but still an uptick. The Golden State Warriors play at the league's fastest pace (98.7 poss/gm) while the New York Knicks play at the slowest (89.7 poss/gm).

*all stats courtesy of basketball-reference.com

Measuring defense in terms of points per possession levels the playing field for better comparison of defenses. The Suns give up the 24th most points per game overall, but surrender the 11th fewest points per possession.

Frankly, if they would just stop putting opponents on the free throw line, their defense would be even better. The Suns are 24th in offensive rebounds allowed and 30th in free throws allowed. The offensive rebounds are a byproduct of playing a smaller lineup and being such a threat on fast breaks. In a pick your poison philosophy, opponents are sometimes selling out on getting offensive rebounds to limit the Suns transition opportunities.

It's the shooting fouls, resulting in free throws, that could be limited without changing the personnel.

"If you're a split second late, you're going to foul," coach Hornacek said. "Earlier in this season, we weren't even in that position to foul. A lots of times we looked at the tape and on the weak side our guys were way over. Now at least they are pinching in, they are at least in the vicinity. Now we just do a better job of getting there a split second earlier and we'll eliminate that."

Last year, the Suns go-to defender in crunch time was P.J. Tucker. This year, he's got a companion when it comes to defending the guards in Eric Bledsoe.

"You need go-to guys defensively," Hornacek said of closing out games. "Last year it was P.J. in that role, sometimes he would be on even a guard at the end of a game. P.J. we can still do that. Eric [Bledsoe] is stepped up into that role where he can handle a guard at the end of the game. He can get over screens very well."

Bledsoe has the team's best Defensive Win Shares among the guards, and last year was by far the best point guard defender in terms of ESPN's Defensive "Real Plus/Minus", a new tool to determine defensive effectiveness.

The Suns are always going to play smaller than their opponents. Markieff Morris is slightly undersized at PF and Miles Plumlee is slightly undersized at C most of the time. The Suns like to go even smaller, too, with Markieff playing center to get more scoring on the floor. Only Alex Len has plenty of length, and even he isn't the thickest guy on the court.

For the Suns to make the playoffs, they will need to be a better defensive team. They have already negated the rebounding deficiencies by grabbing nearly as many total boards as the opponent (though both numbers are really high because of the Suns' fast pace). Now they need to limit the opponent's free throws that make it that much easier to score.

Watch the Suns' defensive rating this season. If they can get into the Top 10 consistently while maintaining a Top 10 offense, the playoffs should be eminently reachable.

Interested in playing Daily Fantasy Basketball with the chance to win money? Sign up for FanDuel here! You can put Noel against Len yourself and potentially take home some money!

Vote!

The annual voting for hottest online/digital brands and sites is closing on Dec 1. Vox/SB Nation is still in the running for three of the awards.

They've whittled the voting pool down to a shortlist of 3 nominees for each category. Vox is still in the running for our 3 original categories: Hottest Digital Publication, Hottest in Native Advertising,and Hottest in Sports.

Please vote, and vote often (no limit per person): Vote here

I will be highly disappointed if SB Nation loses out to ESPN or Fansided in the Sports category

Revisiting a couple classics.

Kevin Johnson Christmas Ornament

We've featured several Suns ornaments the last few weeks. This is just one of many. If you look hard enough you'll find your favorite player. KJ is $13 after shipping.

Markieff Morris Black History Month Game Used Shirt

Six days left on this game worn merchandise. Seller reports that Markieff Morris wore this on the bench during black history month. Bidding is now at $13.

Tom Chambers Prototype Suns Jersey

We've featured this jersey on Suns Swag before, and it appears to be the same one. $235 if you want to own this Suns jersey that never made it to the court.

Steve Nash Face T-Shirt

This t-shirt features nothing more than Steve Nash's face, and I think it's hilarious. If you also think it's hilarious, you can add it to your wardrobe for less than $13.

Suns Vintage Starter Parka

This masterpiece is an extra large and new with the tags still attached. If you can scrape together $200 bucks, it's yours.

Goran Dragic Autographed Pennant

Little more than a day left on this item. No bids as of Thursday night. This autographed pennant includes a COA. Bidding starts with a ten dollar bill.

Phoenix Suns Dammit Doll

NEW-Phoenix-Suns-Fanatical-Basketball-Fans-Stress-Relieving-Dammit-Doll

For stress relief when things aren't going your way. I tend to just use alcohol. I won't judge though. Sixteen bucks after shipping.

Suns 40th Anniversary Bobblehead Set

$109 is where the bidding starts. $225 if you want to buy it now. $11.25 for shipping. I'll let you do the math. Collection includes Barkley, Van Arsdale, Adams, Johnson, and Chambers.

Phoenix Suns Decanter

We featured this several months ago, but at the time the item was empty. Twenty bucks gets you this piece filled with Wild Country aftershave. I couldn't make that up.

Newspapers Announcing Steve Nash Trade

Less than twelve bucks if you want to remember Nash taking off from Phoenix to head to Los Angeles. Can be had for as little as $9.

The Phoenix Suns beat the Denver Nuggets on Wednesday in a thrilling offensive display by both teams. The Suns pulled it out with some Gerald Green wizardry.

Phoenix– “Offensively they all did great.” It was a simple summary offered by Suns coach Jeff Hornacek after the Phoenix Suns improved to 10-6, their best record through 16 games...

[[ This is a content summary only. Visit my website for full links, other content, and more! ]]

First it was the Eric Bledsoe and Goran Dragic show. Then for a little bit the Alex Len show. Then Gerald Green said hello, dominated the fourth, dropped the mic and walked out with a Suns win.

The Phoenix Suns came out running hard and the Denver Nuggets stayed with them for three quarters.

And then GERALD GREEN happened. Dunks. Threes. It was a thing of beauty.

And then the game was over, despite there being 6 minutes left.

Suns highlights:

  • Markieff Morris: 15 points, 9 rebounds, 6 assists, 4 blocks and 3 steals
  • Correction: Markieff Morris 15 points, 10 rebounds, 7 assists, 4 blocks, 3 steals DAMN!
  • Eric Bledsoe: 21 points, 10 assists, 3 steals
  • Goran Dragic: 20 points, 5 rebounds, 4 assists, 2 steals
  • But Gerald Green was the player of the game: 24 points in the most spectacular fashion possible!
Post game, Goran Dragic said Green is "like a video game". Huge smiles all around.

Enjoy this one, Suns fans. Please. Just for a night, be happy and don't throw anyone under the bus.

PEACE AND LOVE!

First quarter

Isaiah Thomas sat out the game with a twisted ankle, hurt on that "offensive foul" on Monday night that partially cost the Suns the game against Toronto. Hornacek said the minutes would go to Dragic, Bledsoe and Green.

Good decision!

The game started with Bledsoe letting Faried get the tipped ball, but then Bledsoe calmly took it back. The Suns got out to a 5-0 lead but then the Nuggets began following their own shots for putbacks, then Afflalo put Goran's nuts on the chopping block while making a turnaround, then sank a three and got four points on their next possession on a fast break slam, foul and tech. Suns down 14-9 quickly.

The Suns came to tie it on a couple of nice shots by Bledsoe, Kieff and Marcus Morris (a three) around a Mozgov third-chance jumper on the baseline.

The Nuggets scored the next six points on nice plays to Afflalo (post up), Chandler (FB) and lob to Mozgov in the half court. But then the Suns went on a run of their own.

Fast game, men and women. Fast game.

And then it was the Alex Len show! First a pick-and-roll dunk and-1. Then an FB dunk. Then a drive, finish and-1. LEN! The Nuggets only stayed close on a couple of threes.

The runs were crazy: Suns up 5-0, then 7-7, then Nuggets 14-9, then 16-16, then Nuggets 22-16, then 24-24, then Suns 34-30 at the end of the quarter.

Second Quarter

The second quarter started just as fast as the first. The Suns got bailed out by a Gerald Green three on a bad possession after Len had a great block on Nate Robinson in the lane.

The Suns ran out to a 39-33 lead but then the Nuggets came right back on Suns miscues. First, the Suns scored on themselves on a missed rebound, then Alex Len tried (and failed) to run the break on a turnover.

At one point Dragic and Robinson began going at each other with Nate getting most of the calls but Dragic finishing most of the shots.

After 15 minutes, Markieff Morris quietly had 9 points, 3 rebounds, 3 assists. While we were all looking the Slash Bros and Alex Len.

The Suns had a nice lead 50-45 but then the Nuggets went on a run to take a 55-53 lead on a three by Afflalo (who drew the foul but missed the shot).

The Suns had been doing well defensively this past week, but the Nuggets ran all over their transition defense for 64 points before intermission. Ty Lawson had 5 points and 8 assists by halftime. That's pretty good.

The Suns barely kept up, tied at 64-64 at halftime.

For the Nuggets, Arron Afflalo had 14 points at halftime on 7 shots and Ty Lawson had 8 assists.

For the Suns, Eric Bledsoe had 14 points, 4 assists and 3 steals. Alex Len had 10 points, 3 rebounds (vs. Mozgov's 10 and 7). The Dragon had 8 points, 2 rebounds and an assist. And Markieff Morris had the 9, 3 and 3. The Suns only went 8 players deep, with Isaiah Thomas out.

Third Quarter

The Suns started well but the Nuggets weren't going away. They kept up the pace (might there be 150 possessions each tonight?) and kept runnin.

Markieff Morris is so dangerous. Catches the ball on the high post and waits as guys cut through the lane. He passes or drives for open shot. On one possession, it was a nice interior pass to Marcus for a short jumper. On the next, it was his own drive for a short jumper.

Oh, and the Slash Brothers were slashing. Time after time, driving down together on the fast break.

Suns at one point built a 10-point lead as the Nuggets looked to be tiring out (78-68). The Nuggets cut it to 6, but then the Suns kept it up to 10.

And then Bright Side got what it wanted all week. ALL THE MINUTES FOR GORAN. F Thomas (out with ankle). F Bledsoe (out with hip). You got it. Right back to February 2014 all over again. FEEL THE EUPHORIA!

Wait. What's that? They were a .500 ball club with just Goran in the back court? Gasp.

The Suns promptly fell apart and the Nuggets pulled back to within three before the Suns finally a got clean look (Green for three) and then another that wasn't clean but still went in (GREEN).

Suns up 93-86 despite Nuggets getting 41 free throws by the end of the third quarter.

Fourth Quarter

Bledsoe came back (PHEW! Just kidding Suns fans - I know you love Eric!) and the Suns promptly got the lead back to 10. The Nuggets keep going to that rim, tho.

But the Suns were out for blood, especially Gerald Green.

That inbounds dunk. Those high floating threes that somehow look like they are coming down hill from how high he jumps, to an alley-oop dunk in the half court, to another THREE!

Holy crap its the GERALD SHOW! Someone please put together a montage for us. This is UNREAL.

Suns by 16.

The rest is just filler.

GIF me Suns fans!

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