Hand an NBA team an opponent that’s shooting below 30 percent, turning the ball over at a high rate and without its best player, and most teams would make due. The Phoenix Suns didn’t...

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The Suns looked like they were in for an easy night against a tired team when they jumped out to a quick 7-0 lead and at one point built an 11-point margin. But the Cavs battled back on the strength of their offensive rebounding and forced turnovers and turned the tide with a 17-6 run that started in the final three minutes of the first half and stretched into the third quarter to take their first lead of the game.

Folks, it was ugly out there as the two teams combined to go 27-77 with 22 turnovers in the first half. Two bad defensive teams created some kind of negative polar attraction that resulted in the metallic rim repealing the leather ball.

Those forces realigned a bit in the second half as the defensive deficiencies started to show themselves more which allowed Anderson Varejao to get loose for 14 points on 7-of-8 mostly wide open shots. The Suns, however, adjusted their pick and roll rotations to cover the one Cav with a hot hand and managed to open up a 12-point lead going into the fourth quarter.

It was mostly transition offense (10 fast break points) and a mix of shots from a variety of Phoenix players that put 34 on the board in the third.

The Suns put the game away in the fourth thanks to something we've not seen since Shaq was in town, a legit low post game. It was simple old school basketball with the ball going into the post to either the rejuvenated Jermaine O'Neal or the crafty Luis Scola. On two consecutive possessions the Cavs doubled the post only to have the Suns swing-swing-swing the ball to an open Dragic who nailed two corner threes in a row to put the game to bed.

- Strong effort from Michael Beasley. It was only 15 points but he played well and was an efficient 6-8 shooting. Hard to say if his finger is feeling better, if he's mentally more engaged or relaxed or whatever, or if he's just coming back to his historic scoring norms. Then again, it's only two games so let's not build him a statue just yet.

- The Cavs ran out of gas...and talent once the Suns ended the madness that was leaving Varejao wide open. Andy finished with 20 points and 18 rebounds to build his case for an All-Star spot. Rookie Dion Waiters had 16 points but took 20 shots to get there.

- Dragic finished with team-high 19 points and had those nice threes in the fourth but his ability to push the ball quickly in transition in the third quarter was a big key to the win.

- It wasn't one for the highlight reel, but the Suns took care of bidness and walk away avoiding an embarrassing loss.

Suns are now an exciting 7-8 with a chance to reach .500 (!) with a win over Detroit tomorrow night.


Final - 11.27.2012 1 2 3 4 Total
Phoenix Suns 19 18 34 20 91
Cleveland Cavaliers 13 19 27 19 78

Complete Coverage >


Fear The Sword


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The Phoenix Suns and Cleveland Cavaliers lived up to the billing and put on a display that featured ugly, dumb, and yet at times somewhat entertaining basketball. The Suns started strong, let the Cavs back in the game, but put the hammer down to close strong.

It's Tuesday night. You have no life. You are a supporter of the Phoenix Suns Professional Basketball Club. Young stud Kyrie Irving is sidelined with a broken finger. Old stud Anderson Varejao is playing like an All-Star (see, this is what an All-Star caliber center looks like...and I quote: "Anderson Varejao was once again a total monster. He hauled in 22 rebounds (8 offensive) to go along with 15 points. If this man isn't an all-star, it's a damn crime."). The Cavs are coming off a three-game road trip including a loss in Memphis last (Monday) night. The Suns are rested. The Cavs have some nice intriguing young players. The Suns have P.J. Tucker. The Cavs don't have LeBron James. The Suns don't have Steve Nash. Phoenix is 22-27 all-time in the city that rocks. This is now the worst paragraph ever written. My deepest apologies.

But seriously, you try and make a story about the Phoenix Suns vs. the Cleveland Cavalier even mildly interesting. These teams just aren't that good but the Suns, one would think, should be slightly better.

Let me repeat and embolden that bit of brilliant analysis in case you missed it.

These teams just aren't that good but the Suns, one would think, should be slightly better.

You can stop reading now and just skip to the videos.

The Cavs feature Tyler Zeller (insert Zeller brother joke here) (or don't) (screw you too); Tristan Thompson, who is a less athletic and less talented version of Derrick Favors but gets more minutes because he plays on a bad team; and Dion Waiters (insert "waiter" joke here) ( or don't) (ok, screw me too) who shoots a lot (15 times per game!) and sometimes can score too.

They play kinda hard under former ASU Sun Devil Byron Scott but have no depth at all and outside Andy and the ghost of Luke Walton's father's feet, not much in the way of "veteran leadership" either.

Some of you clowns like numbers so here's some numbers. The rest of you clowns can just skim over these in a drug induced haze that you perpetually live in....and don't try and tell me half you aren't stoned all the time and the other half are just waiting for your next chance to light up.

- With an offensive rating of 103.1, the Cavs are 18th in the league in putting the ball efficiently through the twine. Their scoring, shockingly, hasn't dropped off that much since Irving decided to break a finger four games ago.

- The Cavs are 1-3 since Kyrie's latest injury (not that I'm calling a guy who's on his 4th major injury while only weeks into the second year of his NBA career "injury prone") but the team has played balls out during that stretch.

- Jeremy Pargo dropped 28 points on Jrue Holiday in a win over the same 76ers the Suns just lost to. Let me repeat that, JEREMY PARGO.

- The Cavs scored 108 points and had eight players in double figures against the mighty Miami Heat...and lost by only two points.

- And last night in Memphis they scored 78(!!!) against the Grizzlies!!!

- Defensively, they are horrible. The Cavs are ranked 27th in the league giving up 108.7 points per 100 possessions. That's ridiculous. It's like they aren't even trying to get stops. Heads should roll when your defense is that bad. The Suns are worse.

- So folks, please let's make a pledge to stop talking about what the Suns are or aren't doing on the offensive end until they are least are ranked around 20th on defense? k?

- I don't care how many long twos they are taking. I don't want to hear about Beasley driving to the basket or not. Post up Gortat. Don't post up Gortat. Whatever.

- We need to collectively recover from the Steve Nash years and remember that basketball is played at both ends of the floor and the Suns have been promising us better defense since Steve Kerr took over. They are NOT BETTER ON DEFENSE AND WE SHOULD BE FORMING A LYNCH MOB OVER THAT!

Oh, right, we were talking about numbers...

- The game starts at 5:00 pm in Arizona and 7:00 pm on the East Coast where the cool kids all live. And by "cool", I literally mean cold.

Speaking of colds, here's Goran Dragic sounding rather stuffy while talking to Suns.com from a mystery practice court somewhere in the depths of Ohio, a place no one should be forced to go.


Check out Fear The Sword, where they are funny and rock and after watching this tourism video I now want to move to there! Who's with me!!!

Not convinced yet? Watch this and you'll be packing your bags before you can put down your pipe.

Bright Side of the Sun likes you, won't you LIKE us back?

- Lucas Cameron Harangody is also injured.


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It's Tuesday night. You have no life. You are a supporter of the Phoenix Suns Professional Basketball Club. Young stud Kyrie Irving is sidelined with a broken finger. Old stud Anderson Varejao is playing like an All-Star (see, this is what an All-Star caliber center looks like...and I quote: "Anderson Varejao was once again a total monster. He hauled in 22 rebounds (8 offensive) to go along with 15 points. If this man isn't an all-star, it's a damn crime."). The Cavs are coming off a three-game road trip including a loss in Memphis last (Monday) night. The Suns are rested. The Cavs have some nice intriguing young players. The Suns have P.J. Tucker. The Cavs don't have LeBron James. The Suns don't have Steve Nash. Phoenix is 22-27 all-time in the city that rocks. This is now the worst paragraph ever written. My deepest apologies.

But seriously, you try and make a story about the Phoenix Suns vs. the Cleveland Cavalier even mildly interesting. These teams just aren't that good but the Suns, one would think, should be slightly better.

Let me repeat and embolden that bit of brilliant analysis in case you missed it.

These teams just aren't that good but the Suns, one would think, should be slightly better.

You can stop reading now and just skip to the videos.

The Cavs feature Tyler Zeller (insert Zeller brother joke here) (or don't) (screw you too); Tristan Thompson, who is a less athletic and less talented version of Derrick Favors but gets more minutes because he plays on a bad team; and Dion Waiters (insert "waiter" joke here) ( or don't) (ok, screw me too) who shoots a lot (15 times per game!) and sometimes can score too.

They play kinda hard under former ASU Sun Devil Byron Scott but have no depth at all and outside Andy and the ghost of Luke Walton's father's feet, not much in the way of "veteran leadership" either.

Some of you clowns like numbers so here's some numbers. The rest of you clowns can just skim over these in a drug induced haze that you perpetually live in....and don't try and tell me half you aren't stoned all the time and the other half are just waiting for your next chance to light up.

- With an offensive rating of 103.1, the Cavs are 18th in the league in putting the ball efficiently through the twine. Their scoring, shockingly, hasn't dropped off that much since Irving decided to break a finger four games ago.

- The Cavs are 1-3 since Kyrie's latest injury (not that I'm calling a guy who's on his 4th major injury while only weeks into the second year of his NBA career "injury prone") but the team has played balls out during that stretch.

- Jeremy Pargo dropped 28 points on Jrue Holiday in a win over the same 76ers the Suns just lost to. Let me repeat that, JEREMY PARGO.

- The Cavs scored 108 points and had eight players in double figures against the mighty Miami Heat...and lost by only two points.

- And last night in Memphis they scored 78(!!!) against the Grizzlies!!!

- Defensively, they are horrible. The Cavs are ranked 27th in the league giving up 108.7 points per 100 possessions. That's ridiculous. It's like they aren't even trying to get stops. Heads should roll when your defense is that bad. The Suns are worse.

- So folks, please let's make a pledge to stop talking about what the Suns are or aren't doing on the offensive end until they are least are ranked around 20th on defense? k?

- I don't care how many long twos they are taking. I don't want to hear about Beasley driving to the basket or not. Post up Gortat. Don't post up Gortat. Whatever.

- We need to collectively recover from the Steve Nash years and remember that basketball is played at both ends of the floor and the Suns have been promising us better defense since Steve Kerr took over. They are NOT BETTER ON DEFENSE AND WE SHOULD BE FORMING A LYNCH MOB OVER THAT!

Speaking of defense, the Suns are speaking about defense and, you guessed it, promising improvement!

Defensive woes mount when Phoenix Suns ‘lose focus’
“The concentration from the neck up has been a problem,” Turner said. “We lose focus on game-plan matters and situations. If (New Orleans’) Ryan Anderson is the shooter at the beginning of the play and they pass the ball around five or six times, he’s still a shooter at the end of the play. We just get lost. We don’t maintain concentration a possession or a game, for that matter.”

Oh, right, we were talking about numbers...

- The game starts at 5:00 pm in Arizona and 7:00 pm on the East Coast where the cool kids all live. And by "cool", I literally mean cold.

Speaking of colds, here's Goran Dragic sounding rather stuffy while talking to Suns.com from a mystery practice court somewhere in the depths of Ohio, a place no one should be forced to go.


Check out Fear The Sword, where they are funny and rock and after watching this tourism video I now want to move to there! Who's with me!!!

Not convinced yet? Watch this and you'll be packing your bags before you can put down your pipe.

Bright Side of the Sun likes you, won't you LIKE us back?

- Lucas Cameron Harangody is also injured.


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Since the change, the Suns are 2-1. They have scored 114, 111 and 101 points for an average of 108.7 points per game and have held opponents to 87, 108 and 104 for an average of 99.7 points per game. In the 11 games with the original starting line-up, the Suns had a 4-7 record and scored 98.3 points per game while giving up 104.3.

It is true the Suns played some weaker teams in their last three games, but I think it is safe to say that there has been at least some improvement with Markieff Morris and Shannon Brown in the starting five. The primary issues with the old line-ups and rotations were poor play from a few of the players, slow starts in the first and third quarters by the starting five and an inability to score by the second unit. So what effect has Gentry's adjustments had on these areas? Let's take a look.

Old Players, New Roles

A few players struggled in the roles they began the season with.

One of the most notable of these struggling players was Jared Dudley. Dudley, known affectionately as the Junkyard Dog, began the year as the starting shooting guard just as he did last year. And just like last year, he came out of the starting gates ice cold. He bricked all manner of open shots from deep, mid-range, coming off of screen and probably even a couple of bunnies. But worse than that, the same level of activity and hustle that earned him the JYD moniker was absent, for whatever reason. He just wasn't having the same positive effect on the team that he had his entire prior Suns career. So instead of having the patience to let him shoot out of his slump like last year, Gentry decided to make a change. And so far for Dudley, it has had the desired effect.

Starter Reserve
Games 11 3
PPG 8.5 6.7
FG% 42.7 40.0
3FG% 31.4 40.0
ARS 4.5 6.7
MPG 32.2 24.7

He's still not shooting as well as he normally does, hitting just eight of his 20 attempts over the three games. However, he has made four of his 10 3-point attempt, and more importantly, he's much more active.

In the chart above, ARS stands for Assists+Rebounds+Steals and it's a measure of how much Dudley is doing on the floor other than shooting. I'm talking about smart plays and hustle plays, the things that defined Dudley's game before this year. As you can see, Dudley is playing nearly eight less minutes per game yet his ARS has gone up over two per game. We're starting to see more of the hustle we've come to expect from Dudley, and hopefully that trend will continue.

While +/- isn't worth much without context, it is worth noting that over the past three games, Dudley is a combined +37 and one of only three Suns that have been in the positive in all three (the other two being P.J. Tucker an Jermaine O'Neal). The bench has been kicking butt, an he's been a part of it.

He still hasn't quite found his stroke, but he is a career 47.2 percent field goal and 40.5 percent 3-point shooter, an I still have complete faith that he will get back to shooting that way before long.

Replacing him in the starting line-up was Shannon Brown, and although Brown is averaging less points and shooting worse from the field, he's fit in better with the starting line-up than I anticipated. He is taking better and fewer shots with the starters and isn't disrupting the flow of the offense too much. Meanwhile, the bench is doing better without him taking every shot.

The most dramatic change in play has come from Markieff Morris, who is now starting at the power forward spot. Morris was one of the Suns' worst players in his 11 games coming off the bench. Horrible shooting numbers, poor decisions and plenty of foul trouble negated anything positive Morris was able to do. However, since being moved into the starting line-up, he has been a beast.

Reserve Starter
Games 11 3
PPG 7.6 16.7
FG% 35.4 64.7
3FG% 28.6 60.0
RPG 4.6 6.7
MPG 19.6 28.7

Morris has fit seamlessly into the starting line-up and has adjusted to his new role. Morris was 4-14 from deep as a reserve, but has already connected on three of his five attempts as a starter. As a rookie, we saw that he was capable of hitting 3-pointers at a high rate but we also saw he was capable of falling into big slumps. Three games is a tiny sample size, but the fact that three of his seven made threes have come as a starter may mean something. In addition to knocking down his 3-pointers, Morris is taking smarter shots and finishing at a much higher rate inside. He's also not fouling at a ridiculous rate any more, which is nice. Overall, the move to the starting line-up has had the exact opposite effect as it did a year ago when he was a rookie.

Luis Scola was the one moved to the bench so that Morris could start, and it has been to the benefit of the entire team. Scola was a defensive sieve in the starting line-up, and while he is a potent scorer, his post-ups and high post game took away from what guys like Goran Dragic, Marcin Gortat an Michael Beasley were able to do offensively. He has replaced Shannon Brown as one of the primary options for the second unit, and although his numbers are down (8 points, 4 rebounds, 1 assist per game on 52.6 percent shooting), the team is better off.

Slow Starts

The biggest reason for the change was the slow starts by the starters in the first an third quarters. Through three games with the new starters, the results are mixed.

In the Portland game, which the Suns won easily and controlled throughout, the starters opened the game very well. According to PopcornMachine.com, the starter played the first 8:46 and rode a 13-1 run to a +7 before Gentry made the first substitution. In the third quarter, they got off to a 10-2 run before giving up a 16-6 run by the Blazers. When Michael Beasley and Brown took a seat at the 2:28 mark, they had played the Blazers even. For the game, the starting five was +7 and the all-bench teams were +13.

But in the New Orleans game, things were back to normal. The starters played the first 8:16 of the game and were -6, and were -4 over the next four minutes or so after Dudley replaced Beasley. They were even worse in the third quarter, managing to end up -10 in only 4:10 of action.

In the Philly game, the starters were neither great nor terrible. The starting five was -1 in 9:25 seconds, but they were -6 against the Philly starting five before rattling off an 8-0 run after the Sixers subbed a few players in. They did a little better in their 8:49 of play in the third quarter, finishing +1.

Three games, three very different results out of the starting unit. It's too early to draw too much of a conclusion in this particular area, but I don't think the change has magically fixed our early game woes.

Second Unit Struggles

One thing we've seen since Jermaine O'Neal rejoined the team and the emergence of P.J. Tucker is the return of the five-man bench unit, and through three games, those units have been kicking butt and taking names. The former second unit really struggled offensively with Shannon Brown being the only real scoring threat (and the only one getting to shoot the ball). However, things have been flowing much better offensively with Scola and Dudley joining the reserves and the tough and scrappy defense by O'Neal, Tucker and Sebastian Telfair.

Over the past three games, the all-bench units are a combined +29. The bench produced 43 points against Portland, 50 against New Orleans and 40 against Philadelphia. That is not bad at all. In fact, the bench has been the Suns' biggest strength since the change, and it also played a huge part in the Suns early season comeback wins.

Final Thoughts

It has only been three games and we cannot draw any legitimate long-term conclusion as of yet, but things are definitely looking up since the change. I was in favor of giving the starters more time, but kudos to Gentry for making the right move. This hasn't solved all our problems (like that pesky 3-point line), but the Suns appear to be getting better.

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