Six consecutive losses. All within four points in the final four minutes. All losses by the Phoenix Suns, who have killed themselves by taking nearly two-thirds of their shots from behind the three-point line when the game is on the line.
On the season, in which the Phoenix Suns are 12-14 overall, but they are just 3-9 in clutch situations defined by me as tied or trailing up to four points in the final four minutes. That parameter allows me to include the Houston game, which started as a blowout but got quite close at the end. Over the past 10 days alone, the Suns are 0-5 in such situations.
First 20 games
*all stats according to nba.com/stats
In the Suns first 20 games, they were 12-8 overall and 3-4 in such clutch situations. Not an awesome record, but you're talking about an inherently difficult situation to win - tied or trailing in the waning minutes. Conversely, the Suns were 2-0 in games they led by a close margin going into the final minutes, and 7-4 in all other games.
In those seven clutch games where the Suns had to earn the win in the final minutes, they took half their shots from behind the three-point line, making 50% of them (On the season, 31% of the Suns shots are threes, of which they make 37%), allowing them to win those games despite grabbing less than half the available rebounds during that stretch.
Fools gold? Maybe.
Last 6 games
Over the past week, the train has gone off the rails, and it's all tied to that three-point shooting. Five of these six losses were close games, where the Suns were tied or trailed by 4 points or less in the final four minutes.
In those losses, 62% of all their field goal attempts in those final minutes were three-point attempts, but they only made 23% of them. (On the season, 31% of the Suns shots are threes, of which they make 37%).
That's staggeringly bad, yet it passes the eye test. When the game is close, the Suns are taking the easy way out by hoisting threes like a spirited game of beer pong. And when they miss, they take even more.
Their opponent, on the other hand, is taking a healthier distribution of shots, with only 33% of their shots being three-pointers and making 50% of them in the closing minutes over the past 10 days.
What does this all mean?
More than ever, the Suns are dying by the three in the waning minutes of these games.
You could say this is a run of bad luck, especially since two of the losses are buzzer-beating banked-in three pointers by the opponent.
You could say that the law of averages will even out and the Suns will go back to their winning ways.
Or, you could say the Suns should do more driving to the hoop in the final minutes rather than hoisting so many damn three pointers (50+% of all field goal attempts in the closing, tight minutes are threes?!).
Some of that is on the coach. Some of that is on the players who are breaking from the play to hoist a three. And some of that is credit to the opponent for giving the Suns a way to kill themselves.
Whether it is, something has to change.