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Thirteen games into the young season, the Phoenix Suns are allowing opponents to make more than 43% of their three-point attempts, the worst rate in the entire Association this season by far.

The league's most generous three-point shooting defenses the prior three seasons were Denver (38.3% allowed), Cleveland (41.1%), and Philadelphia (39.3%).

The Suns, by contrast, have allowed 35.2%, 36.7% and 35.5% three-point percentage to opponent the last three seasons. League average has been between 34.9-35.5% during those seasons. Despite finishing in the bottom quartile in defensive efficiency and points allowed each year, three-point defense has not been the primary culprit.

This season, though, it sure seems to be. If you look at the team's "four factors" on defense, sticking out like a sore thumb is their opponents effective shooting percentage which takes the extra point on threes into account.

2012-13 Season (13 games)

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While the other defensive marks are middling (a big bonus in Suns-land!), the effective shooting percentage (eFG%) of their opponents is really, really bad.

As always, the Suns are also poor in the area of defensive rebounding, but 22nd is not that bad relatively speaking. The front line of Gortat/Scola/Morris/O'Neal have been at least respectable on the glass.

Opponents have not been great 3-point teams

Maybe the Suns have just faced a really proficient number of offenses so far? Uh no. The Suns opponents this season have been Golden State (currently 27th in 3pt shooting), Detroit (16th), Orlando (8th), Miami twice (FIRST), Charlotte (LAST), Cleveland (11th), Utah (18th), Denver (26th), Chicago (22nd), Lakers (20th), Portland (5th) and New Orleans (17th).

Only five of the Suns first 13 opponents have shot better than average on three-pointers this season, but the Suns have been the elixir for many of them so far this season. Klay Thompson made 4 of 7 in the opener. Aaron Afflalo, J.J. Redick and E'Twan Moore combined for 9 of 10 in game three. Mario Chalmers, LeBron James and Ray Allen made 8 of 10 in game four. Byron Mullens went 6 for 10 in game five. Daniel Gibson and Dion Waiters made 8 of 12 in game 7. Andre Iguodala went 3 for 3 in game 9. Ron Artest was 5 for 10 in game 10. Ryan Anderson went 8 for 13 on Friday night.

Ouch. How can the Suns be so bad on three-point defense?

"I have no idea," Gentry said before Wednesday's game against Portland. "Usually, the best three-point shooting in the league is from the right corner but for some reason they are coming from the left corner against us. It's something that we really emphasize and we're baffled as to why teams are shooting so well against us."

While opponents are not taking an abnormal number of three-pointers per game (league average) against the Suns, you have to believe that their shooting percentage is contributing to these double-digit deficits. And despite the thrill of comebacks, the Suns have lost 7 of 11 times they've been down by at least 10.

Road Trip a true test

This upcoming 6-game trip will shed some light on whether the Suns' three-point defense is really that bad, or if the first 13 games were an aberration that will naturally correct itself.

The Suns face Detroit and Cleveland for a second time, while seeing Philadelphia (6th), Toronto (14th), New York (2nd) and Memphis (12th) for the first time.

Today's opponent is especially interesting. While they are a good three-point shooting team, they run a terrible offense (27th overall in offensive efficiency). The Suns just might be the elixir they need.

Every team on this trip is at or above the league average on three-point shooting. Keep an eye on their conversion percentage. If the Suns come out of this road trip still at the bottom of the league, then further adjustments need to be made on their defensive scheme.


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Welcome to the first installment of what will be a new weekly top 10 ranking of the Phoenix Suns' individual players here at Bright Side of the Sun!

We'll be taking a look at how well or poorly each player performed over the past week and ranking their importance to the team accordingly. A significant portion of the weekly rankings will of course be based on stats. However, because most of us realize there are some aspects of the game that simply do not show up on the box score...no matter how many advanced stats and logarithms are used, there will be some weight placed on the eye-test as well.

This should give each week's piece just the right amount of subjectivity to hopefully create a nice discussion, so feel free to disagree and share your opinions as well in the comment section below!

Without further adieu...Here's a look at how the players did, and where I believe they rank based on this week's performance alone.:

1. Markieff Morris

Weekly Average: 21 points, 5 rebounds, and 2 assists in 30 minutes of play; +8

Morris had an excellent week on both ends of the court for the Suns. Gentry's plan to inject youth, athleticism, and defense into the line-up is paying off in spades thus far. Keef had by far his most impressive week of his short NBA career. The offensive numbers only tell part of the story...his defense has also been very good and his tendency to foul has been greatly reduced. The only question is will he continue his impressive play?

2. P.J. Tucker

Weekly Average: 13 points, 4.5 rebounds, and 1.5 assists in 30.5 minutes of play; +24

Who would have guessed that a relatively unknown free-agent who had previously been playing overseas would have such a huge impact on the Suns thus far this season? This was a tough call...PJ Tucker easily could have been ranked #1 overall for his defense, energy, and hustle if not for Keef's breakout week on both ends of the floor. His offensive game also took a huge leap forward, but it's his suffocating defense and inspired play that has really been the difference for the Suns.

3. Goran Dragic

Weekly Average: 17.5 points, 8 assists, and 3 steals in 32 minutes of play; +/- 0

Dragic had a very good week statistically. However, Goran did struggle somewhat defensively against Greivis Vasquez last night as he went 10-13 from the field for 25 points and also tallied 14 assists. Damian Lillard also scored 24 points on 7-13 shooting against Dragic in the Portland game, and again, a great deal of that is just really impressive play from the leading candidate for rookie of the year. But still, Dragic gave up more points than he scored this week...that can't be overlooked.

4. Jermaine O'Neal

Weekly Average: 15 points, 8 rebounds, and 2 Blocks in 24 minutes of play; +21.5

O'Neal is the latest player that seems to be benefiting from the Suns' training staff and their secret fountain of youth and wellness. Jermaine actually considered retiring at one point this off-season before eventually signing with Phoenix. And if this week is any indication, the rejuvenated former six-time all-star still has plenty of gas left in the tank.

5. Marcin Gortat

Weekly Average: 14 points, 6 rebounds, and 0 Blocks in 27 minutes of play; -13

Gorat had two very different games this week. His first against Portland and Myers Leonard was fantastic. He scored 22 points to go with 7 rebounds and played very good defense against the impressive but inexperienced Leoonard, taking him to school on both ends of the floor. Last night against Robin Lopez and the Hornets was a different situation entirely. Gortat couldn't find his rhythm and struggled from the floor going 2-7 offensively for only 6 points while failing to win the battle against his former backup.

6. Sebastian Telfair

Weekly Average: 4 points, 4.5 assists, and 1 steal in 17 minutes of play; +14

Looking at those offensive numbers one may question why Bassy is ranked ahead of some of the other players on the team. Well, it's his defense and energy that have made all the difference. Telfair was everything the Suns could hope for out of a back-up PG this week. He played within himself and helped force bad shots and turnovers by the opposition while setting up his teammates.

7. Shannon Brown

Weekly Average: 10 points, 1.5 assists, and 1 steal in 26.5 minutes of play; -8

Brown has definitely given the Suns an offensive spark in the starting unit. However, while his defense hasn't been too bad, he still definitely has room for improvement. And while his shot selection is getting better, he still has a tendency to over-dribble at times rather than moving the ball. Overall a solid week for Shannon though.

8. Luis Scola

Weekly Average: 7 points, 2.5 rebounds in 18.5 minutes of play; +10.5

Scola took his demotion to the second unit like the professional that he is and continued to play hard this week. Although he is certainly limited defensively, Scola is still one of the craftiest players in the league offensively, and has a nice mid-range game that helps open up the defense. He appeared to have a rough time adjusting to coming off the bench against the Blazers, but played well overall in his reduced minutes against the Hornets last night.

9. Jared Dudley

Weekly Average: 6.5 points, 2.5 assists, and 2.5 rebounds in 24.5 minutes of play; +16

Going back to the bench could have been just what the doctor ordered to break Dudley out of his funk. He's been playing more like the Dudley of old these past two games and has helped give our second unit the three point shooting threat they so desperately need.

10. Michael Beasley

Weekly Average: 3.5 points, 2 rebounds, 2 assists, in 18 minutes of play; -14

There's just no excuse for the way Beasley has been playing. The guy who was brought in to possibly the go-to guy on offense has failed to produce whatsoever, and has been a defensive sieve to boot. Despite his potential, Gentry will have no choice but to sit him on the bench very soon if he continues to perform like this.

So there you have it. Feel free to voice your opinion in the comments below!


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You've already seen the win that the bench pulled out of the loss column, or you've read the recap I posted immediately after the buzzer. And maybe you watched the videos that Seth put up this morning.

But you have not yet read what the players think about digging themselves yet another big hole, only to rise once again and play like they could beat anyone in the NBA.

The Suns went on a 39-9 run in a span of 12 minutes in a flurry of defensive stops and great shotmaking to take a 10-point lead that makes you wonder how they built a 19-point deficit in the first place.

"We got behind again which I wish we could avoid doing," Alvin Gentry said after the game. "But we have a tendency when we do to tighten up our defense and do a good job."

Michael Beasley and Marcin Gortat "led" the starting unit to a terrible showing (Beasley was -18 for the game, Gortat was -26) against a Hornets lineup that played really well despite being on a 5-game losing streak and missing their two best players, Eric Gordon (lingering, undefined) and Anthony Davis (stress fracture in foot), and one of their best bench players, Jason Smith (eye injury less than a minute after entering the game).

"As for our starters, outside the turnovers, I thought they played about as good as they could have played tonight," Hornets coach Monty Williams said. "I just didn't think our bench played with the kind of hunger that I saw from [P.J.] Tucker. I thought he and Sebastian Telfair kind of changed the game."

Tucker set a career high with 15 points, including 2-3 on three-pointers, 7 rebounds and 3 assists. Sebastian Telfair had 5 assists and a three-pointer and Jermaine O'Neal dominated in the paint once again. O'Neal scored in double digits for the fourth straight time and got his first double-double of the season (13 points, 11 rebounds and 3 blocks).

"[Tucker] epitomizes what I want our entire team to be, really," Gentry said, pointing out that last game-closing offensive rebound while smiling and shaking his head. "That is a hard, grind-it-out worker that never quits on any play."

"He is aggressive," Goran Dragic said of Tucker's impact on the game. "When you see your teammate being aggressive you have to be the same. You have to cover his back and play as hard as him."

While many of the players who stayed to talk to the media were at least mildly excited about the win, one guy in particular was having none of it.

"I am discourgaged," Luis Scola said, about the ongoing deficits. "I know we are going to lose a lot more games than we are going to win if we put ourselves 15, 16, 18, 19 down. We are going to lose most of those games."

This was the 11th time in 13 games that the Suns have built at least a 10-point deficit. They have come back to win four of those, all at home, while losing the other seven. So far this season, there is an 84% chance the Suns will dig themselves a double-digit deficit and they have lost 7 of 11.

Alvin Gentry changed up the starting lineup the other day in an effort to mix and match and avoid lose deficits. It worked for one game, but that's it. Scola (+7) and Dudley (+13) were a big part of the comeback against the Hornets after being associated with the starting unit that dug those holes.

"it doesn't seem like that was the problem," Scola said of the lineup change. "I have been giving it a lot of thought, but I just can't figure out the reason. I'm being honest. I don't know why we put ourselves in that situation."

There are only three starters left who have contributed to each huge deficit and lackadaisical play early this season. Despite Markieff Morris (career high in scoring) and Shannon Brown playing as hard as they could, the Suns still found a way to appear slow and tentative as a unit until that third quarter turnaround.

But hey, that's what gets the blood flowing right? Despite sitting on press row and being expected to remain neutral along with everyone else, I couldn't help but hoot and holler during that amazing 39-9 run. The whole arena was rocking like it was 2010, with the crowd rising collectively on every three as it arced toward the net and cheering wildly as it found nothing but net.

Jermaine O'Neal was a +29, Tucker +25, Jared Dudley +13, Sebastian Telfair +13 and Luis Scola +7. The common thread on the second unit that plays so well is O'Neal/Tucker/Telfair. Those guys play with heart and effort like nothing I've seen in a long time.

O'Neal was ready for retirement, Tucker was in Europe and Telfair was on the street when the Suns found them, cleaned them up and threw them on the court. Got to give some credit to the Suns front office on these guys. They just might save the Suns' season.

The Suns now embark on a 6-game road trip, where you definitely cannot afford to dig a big deficit and hope to come back. The starting unit and bench units must match intensity and play with a purpose. Let's hope they find themselves on this trip.


The Phoenix Suns rallied again behind the strength of Markieff Morris and the amazing exploits of P.J. Tucker and Jermaine O'Neal.


PHOENIX — No one in the Suns’ locker room is quite sure what it is, but there’s something about Friday night games at U.S. Airways Center this season. For the third consecutive...

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