1. What impressed you the most over the road trip? Kevin Zimmerman: Phoenix won the games it should. Look, at this point it’s clear the Suns are talented but still working out the kinks. They...

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Your weekly recap of the week that was for the Phoenix Suns, as well as a look ahead.

After a disappointing 5-5 start, our Phoenix Suns headed east to make things right and after the dust from an extended six-game road trip settled, now find themselves at a respectable 9-6. There were close games (BOS, DET), blowouts (PHI, IND), and a comeback that almost was (TOR).  It all added up to a much-needed 4-1 stretch, and our boys will be coming back home.

This Suns team is clearly one to be reckoned with, despite their growing pains, but unfortunately the competition hasn't changed much out West. In fact, it has only grown stronger.

Memphis (1) 12-2
Golden State (2) 10-2
Portland (3) 11-3
Houston (4) 10-3
Dallas (5) 10-4
San Antonio (6) 9-4
Sacramento (7) 8-5
LA Clippers (8) 8-5
Phoenix 9-6
New Orleans 7-5
Denver 6-7
Utah 5-9
Minnesota 3-9

LA Lakers

Oklahoma City



Detailed within this wonky table are the standings out West, as recent as 8PM Monday night. The Suns find themselves in a familiar position, being just outside the top-8, but that isn't even the most precarious part of the equation.

Below the Suns are Anthony Davis' Pelicans, plus an Oklahoma City team that everyone knows will be out for blood once they secure the returns of Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook from injury. Even the Denver Nuggets, the subjects of such ridicule during the first two weeks of the season, have now ripped off four straight wins and are on the verge of righting the ship at .500.

Last year's bloodbath garnered plenty of headlines as there were three teams (DAL, PHX, MEM) fighting for the last two playoff spots. This year is shaping up to be even nastier, as the Thunder and Pelicans figure to join the Suns in the steel-cage deathmatch, and even the Nuggets might make an appearance as well.

Meanwhile, out East, Brooklyn is currently sitting at no. 8 with a laughable 5-8 record.

There have been countless articles pushing for playoff reform in light of the East/West imbalance, and I won't waste your time by retreading all the fine points that have been made in this regard. It is a silly problem with a painfully obvious solution and frankly I'm tired of hearing about it.

I can only hope that our new commissioner realizes that real change goes beyond sleeved jerseys and 44-minute preseason games, and doesn't step in the same cowpie that his predecessor found a cozy home inside of, ridiculing all notions of progressive thinking while stubbornly clinging to the old tried-and-true method of rearranging problems in lieu of actually providing solutions.

Shunning Anthony Davis and/or our own League Pass darling Suns from the playoffs in favor of the Hawks/Bucks/Nets would seem idiotic to any outside observer, but as is often the case in our society, change isn't achieved until there is no feasible way to avoid it. Perhaps another 48-win team watching from home for the second-straight year will finally push the issue to the front-burner.

At this point the case for playoff reform has been exhausted. The burden should now be on those who oppose it to offer any good reason why it should stay the same. In the meantime, I'm just a fan of a wonderful team that has the rotten luck of playing in the Western Conference.

Moving on.

The Roundup (click the links for full recaps)

Nov 17 @ Boston, W 118-114

Three Suns players reached career highs in this game: Markieff Morris with 30, Alex Len with 19, and rookie T.J. Warren with 7. Boston turned this one into a barn-burner, and Phoenix had just enough tricks up their sleeve to secure the win.

Nov 19 @ Detroit, W 88-86

The antithesis of the Celtics game, the Suns were lulled into 48 minutes of sedated rim-clanging that only barely resembled a game of basketball. Eric Bledsoe led the way with 18 points, including a clutch go-ahead layup.

Nov 21 @ Philadelphia, W 122-96

The Suns did what they needed to do against the maladroit Sixers, who are an NBA team in name only. Isaiah Thomas led the way with 23 points on only 9 shots.

Nov 22 @ Indiana, W 106-83

The Pacers are a team of injury-replacements at this point, and the Suns were never really threatened in this one. Gerald Green tormented his former team with 23 points. Just a reminder, because I never tire of pointing this out: Miles Plumlee, Gerald Green and Bogdan Bogdanovic for Luis Scola.

Nov 24 @ Toronto, L 104-100

The only loss out East. The Suns mounted a thrilling fourth-quarter comeback only to come up short on a handful of bungled offensive possessions down the stretch. Jonas Valancuinas dominated with 27 points on 10-11 from the field, while Bledsoe had perhaps his best game of the season with 25/7/6.

On The Horizon

  • Wednesday, Nov 26 vs Denver
  • Friday, Nov 28 @ Denver
  • Sunday, Nov 30 vs Orlando

The Suns swept the season series versus both Denver and Orlando last year, but the Nuggles have won four-straight and apparently aren't content with entering Western Conference Doormat status, while the Magic are at 6-9 and might be the best "bad" team in the NBA.

Of course, Sunday's game will feature the return of Channing Frye, which leads us to...

The Shark Tank

That damn shark just won't go away. Who swam ahead and who was sucked under?

"Faster than sharks, so it's no big deal": This week's Faster Than Sharks award goes to Alex Len. He achieved his career high in points at Boston, and during the Eastern portion of the road trip he shot 17/22 from the field, showing off his offensive arsenal to go with his already imposing presence in the paint. He used to be a gymnast, so I imagine he has the requisite moves to evade a dumb ol' shark.

"We're gonna need a bigger boat": I'm sacrificing Marcus Morris to the shark this week. During the five-game Eastern swing of the road trip, Mook had games of 5 points vs DET, 6 points vs IND and 5 points vs TOR. Factor in his 3 points vs the Clippers back when this road trip started, and the Suns haven't seen a whole lot of production from a guy who is supposedly in the starting lineup to fill the hoop.

Thanks for reading. See you next time, Suns fans.

We've got a reason to look forward to the next Philadelphia/Phoenix matchup.

DEFENSE? IN PHOENIX? Alex Len and Miles Plumlee are embracing their roles as stoppers in the frontcourt.

"He's been sensational. He's got a great attitude, a great knowledge of the game and is making rapid, rapid progress," Suns President Lon Babby said regarding Len's improvement.

There's plenty of talent at the forward position as well, with the early success of T.J. Warren creating a welcomed logjam.

We're now deeper into the season, but Suns general manager Ryan McDonough said he was "comfortable" with the team's performance through 11 games.

Markieff Morris is looking to "tap all of his talent." And it's a whole bunch of talent.

"Film doesn't lie." Isaiah Thomas has been doing a little more homework recently. Let's hope that the film study is something that continues.

Eric Bledsoe is convinced the Philadelphia 76ers were out to get him during last Friday's 122-96 Phoenix road victory over the league's only remaining winless team.

And the Sixers are on the brink of history, if you didn't know.

So, evidently Bledsoe did sign his qualifying offer this summer, he just didn't send it in because "I wasn't worried about it. I knew everything would take care of itself." Wow.

Check out this new ShotTracker system that will be available starting in December. It's a wristband that will finally prove once and for all that you in fact have no jumpshot.

You will never again see Kobe Bryant play in an important basketball game. Let that sink in. Could the Lakers make a play for Goran Dragic when the season is over?

Who's the X-Factor so for this season for the Suns, who has the best 1 on 1 move, and who has had the best post-bucket celebration so far in 2014?

Charles Barkley refuses to call the basketball team in Washington the "Wizards." They'll always be the "Bullets" to The Chuckster.

Speaking of the Wizards, check out this advice that former Washington LEGEND Gilbert Arenas had for Derrick Rose of the Chicago Bulls.

The NBA is well represented in GQ's Least Influential list.

The Suns failed to complete the comeback victory against the Toronto Raptors. They were down 17 points in the second half.

The Suns started off hot leading by seven early till the Raptors went on a 14-2 run. The Suns went back and forth until the quarter ended with the Suns down 29-26. Markieff Morris had 8 points in the quarter. Jonas Valanciunas had 15 points for the Raptors on 5-5 shooting. Miles Plumlee and Alex Len both were in foul trouble with two fouls.

Plumlee had 3 fouls in 2 minutes and 11 seconds of playing time, he would only play three more minutes in the game. The quarter was back and forth ending with the Suns down 54-48 at half. Goran Dragic was not able to get anything going in the first half, he had 0 points on 0-4 shooting. Dragic ended the game with 6 points, 4 assists, and 4 turnovers in only 21 minutes. Green/Bledsoe/Kieff all had 9 points in the first half. Valanciunas had 17 and Lou Williams had 12 points at half. Bledsoe was 3-10 from the field in the first half.

The Suns struggled shooting the ball in the third quarter and had nine turnovers. Toronto took advantage of the Suns poor shooting and built their lead up to 81-66 going into the fourth outscoring the Suns 27-18 in the quarter.  In the last four minutes of the quarter the Suns had four turnovers on 0-8 shooting.

Hornacek took an early timeout in the fourth quarter and inspired the team. The Suns immediately went on a 14-0 run to close the gap to 83-80. Bledsoe and Thomas both had a great fourth quarter. Isaiah Thomas ended the game with 16 points with 4 threes. Bledsoe ended with 25 points, 7 rebounds, 6 assists, 2 steals, and 2 blocks on 8-16 shooting. Green added 13 and Markieff had 17. The Suns took the lead at 95-94 with Bledsoe free throws. The Suns were down 100-98 when the ball was poked lose from Thomas ending in a jump ball between Kyle Lowry and Thomas. Lowry won the tip ending in two made free throws by DeMar DeRozan. Eric Bledsoe hit two free throws to close the gap back within two but DeRozan again hit two more free throws to seal the game for the Raptors. The Suns won the quarter 34-23 but couldn't get the win. Jonas Valanciunas ended with a career high 27 points on 10-11 shooting for the Raptors. Lowry had 14 points, DeRozan had 23 points, and Lou Williams ended with 17 points. The Suns shot 46.4% while the Raptors shot 45.1%. The final score was 104-100 Raptors.

The Suns ended their road trip 4-2.

Record: 9-6

Next Game: Home vs Denver Nuggets (6-7) Wednesday night at 7:00 PM (Arizona Time)

The Suns, the NBA’s best shooting free throw team coming into Monday, got to the foul stripe just 11 times in a 104-100 loss to the Toronto Raptors, but it was turnovers, especially late, that...

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