The struggling Phoenix Suns face the Dallas Mavericks, Houston Rockets and Los Angeles Clippers this weekend in a big road test for the smallest team in the NBA.

Winning on the road is difficult. Beating a better team there is even harder. The Suns so far this season are 5-4 on the road, but have lost their last two to the Toronto Raptors and Denver Nuggets.

Now, the Suns go on the road for three games in four nights against the Dallas Mavericks, Houston Rockets and Los Angeles Clippers.

Unfortunately, the Suns have been scuffling lately. Not only are they missing a big scorer off the bench, but the vaunted depth has not translated to success with Thomas out.

Over the last five games (two games on road, three at home) the Suns are 2-3 and playing worse in just about every phase of the game. Meanwhile, the Rockets are winning despite missing Dwight Howard (they just beat Memphis last night by 20), the Mavericks are winning consecutive games in OT and the Clippers are suddenly one of the best teams in the NBA.

Check out the numbers:

suns-stats-last-5

The Suns have lately gone from decidedly average to just a smidge below average. Their 11-8 record is more a product of the opponents than anything: the Suns are 3-5 against .500+ plus team and 8-3 against losing teams.

Now the schedule gets tougher in December, starting with this killer slate of the Mavericks (Friday), Rockets (Saturday) and Clippers (Monday) before returning home next week for a couple games against Eastern foes.

Interested in playing Daily Fantasy Basketball with the chance to win money? Sign up for FanDuel here! You can bet on Suns players doing well this weekend, or bet on their opponents like Monta Ellis or James Harden.

The Suns could use Isaiah Thomas, but they also could use better shotmaking, better rebounding and better defense.

With P.J. Tucker in the starting lineup now, it's possible we will see a bit more synergy in the rotations. The starting unit needs to start playing better while the second unit needs to get back to feasting on opponents.

The Suns don't have the perfect team. We all know that. They are the smallest team in the league who needs to play faster than their opponent and with more energy to win games they shouldn't win.

avg-height-NBA

avg-weight-NBA

"It was a big talk for us all the last two days of having that enthusiasm," coach Hornacek said after beating Indiana on Tuesday. "Having that energy and not working somebody and I think these guys took to heart what we talked about, some of the things they actually talked about and this is how we think they can play."

Hornacek expounded on what they need to work on: defense, turnovers and speed.

"Some of it was defense," he said about a season-high in fast break points against the Pacers. "It was really about when we got stops and they miss, we were able to run. I thought our guys did a great job of pushing the ball and the other guys ran too. Sometimes we only have the point guard running, but everybody was running this time and our point guards were making some good decisions like kick-outs and getting in the lane, not forcing anything and just making easy passes and it just made the game easy."

The Suns will need to play reckless and with a spirited defense to win games this year against quality opponents.

Hopefully, we see that starting Friday night.


PHOENIX — Last year, Jeff Hornacek didn’t know what to expect from his Suns, so keeping them focused by splitting the season into three-game sets seemed like a good idea, however it went....

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

It took a game that Goran Dragic admits only comes "two or three times a season" to beat the Pacers. For the Suns to match or exceed last year's win total, they will need have another weapon in Isaiah Thomas and they need to play with that same chip on their shoulder as last year.

The Phoenix Suns reprised their "best of 2013-14 season" in the second half of Tuesday night's win over the Indiana Pacers. Goran Dragic and Eric Bledsoe combined for an incredible stat line of 61 points, 10 assists, 8 rebounds, and 8 steals (against only 5 turnovers) in 74 minutes of play.

But it took those performances to beat a short-handed Pacers team at home. As much as we all loved the vintage Slash Brothers, the Phoenix Suns cannot bank their entire season on Goran Dragic and Eric Bledsoe playing near-perfect basketball every night to win games.

"Every time when I touched the ball it feels great," Dragic said after scoring 34 points. "Hopefully we're going to have a lot of games like that, but like players we know that it's probably two or three times a season."

The Suns need leading scorer Isaiah Thomas back healthy, and they need him right now. If you don't agree, just ask Gerald Green - the guy who's lost the most minutes as a result of Thomas' insertion in the rotation.

"We miss him, we miss him, we miss him," fellow backup guard Gerald Green said on Tuesday night after the loss to Orlando. "Just his competitive spirit on the court drives not only me but the rest of my teammates."

Without Thomas, the Suns gone 2-2 over the past week with an offense often looking like a jumbled mess. Thomas doesn't add beauty to the offensive flow, but he does add much-needed scoring. Without at least two of Dragic, Bledsoe and Green breathing fire, the Suns struggle. And that's happened more often than not this season.

"We really miss Isaiah," Green said after the Orlando loss. "We missed him in the Denver game and we missed him tonight. Hopefully he'll be available for the next game but we know he's going to take his time to get healthy and the training staff is going to do a good job to get him healthy."

Thomas has been a lightning rod of love/hate here on Bright Side, with most of the blame being levied on him for the slow starts of Bledsoe and Dragic.

Well, they've had four games to "breathe" with Thomas out, get all the minutes they can handle, and yet the combination of Dragic and Bledsoe being the catalysts to winning a game has only happened once (last night against the Pacers).

I'm not "hating on" Dragic and Bledsoe here. Keep reading.

I love the Slash Brothers (I coined the nickname! someone, most likely on Bright Side coined it, but that doesn't take away from my love for the Slashies just because it might possibly not have been me who first coined it), but the problem is two-fold: (1) they can't be expected to carry a team every single night and (2) opponents are geared up for them now.

"Maybe last year nobody was believing in us," Goran Dragic said. "So it was maybe easier because we didn't have so much pressure on us. This year everybody is expecting us to play well, to make the playoffs and of course it's a different story."

The Suns need a new wrinkle to play even better than a year ago, which is a must to even match their 48-win total. Because there's no more surprises this year when the Suns come to town. Teams get up for the Suns now.

"I think last year people didn't take us serious," Green said. "Now they do. I think that's the biggest difference. A lot of people didn't take us serious. Now they do."

Bad teams see a win over the Suns now as a major accomplishment. Good teams gear up for a war. While those teams began to feel that way a year ago, it wasn't ingrained in league mindset then as much as it is now.

And the Suns players need to be ready for it. So far, they're not quite ready for having a target on their backs.

"They were out to prove everybody wrong last year that we were supposed to only win 19 games," coach Hornacek said of the recent lackadaisical performances. "And so every night they went out there with a different attitude. Now I think for whatever reason we think we don't necessarily have to do that. If we just play our game and play well we will win the games. Doesn't happen like that in this league."

The win over Denver last week without Thomas saw the Slash Brothers combine for 41 points, 14 assists and 5 steals in 71 combined minutes, but it was Gerald Green's incredible energy and shotmaking performance that closed out the 8-point win. Green had 24 points, many of the spectacular variety.

Then the Suns laid eggs in Denver last Friday and at home against Orlando on Sunday with Dragic and Bledsoe playing poorly. The lament from the coaches and players as well was that the team lacked energy.

"Guys were great last year," Hornacek said. "They played with a chip on their shoulder. Maybe we're a year later and we're better and we're going to automatically win more games."

"Coach said it," Dragic said, "We are not such a talented team that we are going to score every time we get the ball. We are not San Antonio. So, we need to bring effort every night and try to play all 48 minutes. If we don't do that, those games are going to end like [the Orlando loss]."

It can help having another scorer in the lineup who can carry a team to a win, just like Dragic, Bledsoe and Green can. That way you're sharing the pressure of high performance among more players making the Suns a "much deeper team", as Dragic says.

Thomas has provided that spark quite often this season when the starters have come up short out of the gate. As Rollin wrote yesterday, the starting lineup has been a net-0 this year while many of the Thomas-led lineups have been a net-positive. Sure, Thomas is playing against backups often, but he's also finished several games because he's been playing so well the coach can't take him out.

In the win over the Lakers on November 4, Thomas and Green combined for 48 points in 53 minutes while Dragic and Bledsoe put up only 24 in 50 minutes. Thomas finished the game as the closed out the win.

In the win over Golden State on November 9, it was Thomas who led the charge as the Suns went on a 38-12 run to blow out the Warriors. That's still one of only two losses for the Warriors on the season. Thomas and Green combined for 41 points in 44 minutes, while Dragic and Bledsoe put up 27 in 51 minutes.

In the win over the Nets on November 12, Thomas and Green combined for 49 points in 49 minutes while Dragic and Bledsoe put up 29 points in 58 minutes of play. The Suns won by 8.

On the 4-2 road trip, the Suns had the luxury of evening out the minutes across the rotation and still get the wins they needed without overtaxing their stars. As much as Bledsoe and Dragic want to play 35+ minutes a night, that's tough to do at a high level on a long road trip. With Thomas in the lineup, the coach doesn't have to overplay his starters to get wins over struggling teams.

As evidenced over the weekend, with losses to Denver and Orlando, the Suns could have used another spark off the bench when Dragic and Bledsoe came out cold and/or lacked aggression.

It's good to see the Slash Brothers have a great game against Indiana on Tuesday.

"Finally, you know, we've been struggling a little bit," Bledsoe said after the Indiana win. "This game, really was easy for us. Goran had it going early and everybody else just helped him out. We played great as a team."

"Yeah, it's much easier when both of me and him, we are hot," Dragic said. "And the defense cannot stay focused on only one guy."

Maybe they can break out of their early-season funk and provide great minutes when they're out there together for the rest of the year. The Suns are fun to watch when Dragic and Bledsoe are breathing fire together as the Slash Brothers.

For starters, they need to start having fun again.

"We've got to get back to having fun," Suns guard Bledsoe said to Paul Coro at practice on Monday after the Orlando loss. "I think we're missing the bigger picture. Even the games we lost [last year], we had fun and gave ourselves a chance to win. I don't think we're giving ourselves a chance. We come out struggling."

Where the Suns will separate themselves from the pack this year, though, is adding even more firepower to their arsenal. And Isaiah Thomas is the one who can provide that.

It took a great effort by Bledsoe and Dragic to win a winnable game at home. The Suns were down 9 points in the second quarter despite Dragic being incredible to that point. And even Dragic knows games like the Indiana are few and far between.

"Like I said, every time when I touched the ball it feels great," Dragic said after scoring 34 points against Indiana. "Hopefully we're going to have a lot of games like that, but like players we know that it's probably two or three times a season."

As I highlighted above, the Suns might not even be as good as 11-8 at this point without Isaiah Thomas stepping up big in some wins. Dragic came out of the gate slow, just like he did last year, and Bledsoe spent a lot of time trying to prove he's a $70 million man before settling back into the Bledsoe we know and love in the past two weeks. The chemistry and performance was messed up. It's quite possible we'd have had a month full of games like this past week, or even worse, if Thomas wasn't on the team.

"At the end of the day, man, we are over .500," Green said on Sunday night (November 30) after the Orlando loss. "It's still November. We still have 4 months, 5 months of basketball left. We are just setting ourselves at a high note. We are setting high standards for ourselves. We just want to be the best we can be."

With all three of Thomas, Dragic and Bledsoe breathing fire, maybe this can still be a magical season.

Gerald Green jumps high.

Just in case you had already made that disaster against the Magic a distant memory, here's the game against Orlando by the numbers.

Win or lose, the balance among the top five scorers for the Suns is remarkable.

I know you've already seen this, but let's take another opportunity to appreciate the theatrics from Gerald Green Sunday night.

Here's a rather interesting take on what body parts many Suns players have to be thankful for this holiday season.

"I wouldn't say he took me under his wing, I think I kind of put myself underneath that wing." Channing Frye says that he found his most influential mentor while with the Suns.

Jeff Hornacek believes that part of his team's offensive difficulties can be attributed to the approach of his point guards.

A fund created to pay for the construction of US Airways arena is having money siphoned off by a downtown Phoenix hotel that has lost more than 28 million dollars since 2008.

Pardon me. That arena has a new name.

On Sunday several members of the St. Louis Rams made a pregame gesture in response to the recent events in Ferguson, Missouri. Here's a list of some other gestures made in the sports world, including a powerful Suns statement in 2010.

Suns legend Dan Majerle returned to his collegiate stomping grounds of Mt. Pleasant, Michigan this past weekend. This time it was as head coach of the Grand Canyon Antelopes for a game against his alma mater, the Central Michigan Chippewas.

You already knew this, but "by winning occasionally, the Lakers may be losing."

There are a ton of power rankings out there, so here, I pulled one out of the hat.

You know how close you are to seeing history right? The Philadelphia 76ers are close to setting new benchmarks for futility. Sixers coach Brett Brown knows it. "We're not that far away." Maybe that's not what he means.

Fine here's one more set of power rankings. This one won't make you feel any better though.

Enjoy this list of what every NBA team should be thankful for this holiday season.

The Slash Brothers showed up last night in a big way to help the Suns get a win at home against the Pacers. Here's what they had to say after the game.

The Phoenix Suns took control in the second half against the Indiana Pacers, to ensure a much needed win last night, before embarking on a three game road trip against some tough Western Conference competition.

Goran Dragic scored 34 points, and Eric Bledsoe scored 27.  The Slash Brothers combined for a total of 61 points in their best game of the season.  When you also add in Gerald Green and his 15 points on 5/11 shooting, the Suns back court scored a total of 76 points last night from the guard position.  And they did it without the help of Isaiah Thomas who was still out with a bruised ankle.

After allowing the Pacers to shoot 58% in the first quarter, and 61% in the second quarter to take a 56-54 lead going into the half, the Suns allowed only 43 points in the second half, dropping the Pacers' field goal percentage to only 40% in the third quarter, and just 33% in the fourth.

That was the biggest difference in the game.  Not only because of the points, but because the Suns were able to get out and run much more on Indiana's missed baskets than they did in the first half, which helped them to execute their transition offense as well...which is when the Suns are at their best.

Here's what the Suns' coach and the players had to say about the win (and a big thanks to our awesome video guy Evan Wendt for editing these videos late last night!).

Suns Coach, Jeff Hornacek

Hornacek mentioned that he didn't think the Suns necessarily played bad defense in the first half, but that Indiana was executing very well, and making some tough shots, which I agree with.  The Pacers not only made a ton of tough shots in the first half, they also made more than their fair share of lucky ones.  Fortunately, their shot percentages regressed to the mean in the second half, and the Suns were able to take advantage of it.

Gerald Green

The normally lively and out-spoken Gerald Green was a man of few words tonight.  He didn't seem upset or unhappy whatsoever, he just wasn't in the mood to do a lot of talking for whatever reason...which is fine.  Green was another key part of last night's win, hitting some big threes and timely shots when the Pacers started to scratch their way back in it.  Green helped the Suns keep them at bay, and pull out a big victory in the fourth quarter with enough time to let the rookies play.

Eric Bledsoe

Bledsoe humbly credited Goran, saying that he "had it going" tonight, and he and the rest of the team just helped him out.  However, Bledsoe had a great night himself, not only with his 27 points, but leading the team in assists with 7, getting his hands on 4 steals, and grabbing 3 rebounds as well.  Great all around game tonight from the Suns' $70 million dollar man.

Goran Dragic

Goran talked at length tonight answering many questions in the huge media scrum surrounding him in the locker room after his best performance of the season, and the third highest scoring game of his career.  Dragic talked about how much more effective the guards are when both he and Bledsoe have a good game, because the defense can't focus on just stopping one of them.  He also talked about the importance of pushing the ball, and that he thinks they weren't in as good of condition early in the season, which may have slowed them down and made them less effective.

Dragic also mentioned that the players held a meeting yesterday after practice to discuss their goals as a team, and each write something down on the locker room board that they thought was important for everyone to do, in order to achieve their goals this season.  I thought this was a good sign that the players seem to be on the same page together, and working hard to help each other to be successful this season, as a team.

It's working so far.  Let's hope the Suns can keep it going on the coming road trip, starting Friday.

Page 30 of 1606

30

Sponsored Ads