A look at Suns-related news floating around the internet from the last week. Also an open thread to discuss anything and everything.

The Phoenix Suns are now 5-3 after a tough, heartbreaking loss against the Portland Trail Blazers last night. On the bright side (because that's how we roll around here), there were plenty of positives to take away from that game - Eric Bledsoe's continued brilliance, Plumlee's play, the consistent defensive effort of the entire team, etc.

The Suns will next play the struggling Brooklyn Nets on Friday night in Phoenix. The Nets, at 2-5, have begun the season in poor fashion and many of their fans are already in panic mode. This should be a fantastic matchup of an old yet talented team of All-Stars playing lethargically and underperforming versus a young, overachieving roster of athletic players.

Anyway, let's take a look at some random Suns-related content that floated around various parts of the internet this last week.

Power Rankings

CBS Sports (Nov. 11) - #9:

They're in every game. They never give up. They have so many weapons. They stay calm when things go badly. None of these things are things I expected to say about this team this season.

Sports Illustrated (Nov. 11) - #7:

The Suns continue to defy expectations, winning three of their last four games despite the absence of starting point guard Goran Dragic. Eric Bledsoe is playing like a mini-Russell Westbrook, averaging 20.9 points, 7.3 assists, 4.3 rebounds and 1.9 steals. It doesn't hurt that Markieff Morris has been on fire, averaging 24.7 points off the bench in the last three games.

ESPN (Nov 11.) - #16:

With a 4-0 start at home and a 2-0 mark against the playoff-chasing Pelicans, Phoenix is threatening to surpass Philly for No. 1 in November's Cinderella rankings. More important: Jeff Hornacek already gives you the impression that he can get his players to buy in. Which is huge if it lasts.

USA Today (Nov. 9) - #10:

Eric Bledsoe nickname suggestion: "Get Rich or Fly Tryin'."

NBC Sports (Nov. 11) - #8

The fast start is in part due to Eric Bledsoe, but also Jeff Hornacek has them playing the seventh best defense in the NBA (based on points per possession). It's early, we'll see what kind of level they can sustain, still this is a good sign for trying to build a foundation going forward.

Preposterously Premature Playoff Picture

Wc_standings_11-14_medium

See you in the postseason, OKC!

Link of the Week

If there's one link you click on this week to read something about the Suns not on Bright Side of the Sun, make sure it's this phenomenal profile on Bledsoe's play thus far into the season by Jack Winter of Hardwood Paroxysm. It's fantastic and you won't regret it.

Plays of the Week

Kieff's put-back dunk on Mozgov after a missed free throw:

Eric Bledsoe's block on Anthony Davis:


Gerald Green's Windmill Dunk


Tweets of the Week

Goran Dragic dominated the Twitter headlines for the Suns this week, first with the birth of his son Mateo (Baby Dragon!) and then with the nasty cut he received on his face against Portland:

I would like to thank everyone for sending their best wishes. It is the best feeling in the world! #maliJunak

— Goran Dragic (@Goran_Dragic) November 12, 2013

Just wanted to take time out to say congratulations to a great teammate @Goran_Dragic on his new born son!!

— Archie Goodwin (@A1Laflare10) November 11, 2013

Congratulations to @Goran_Dragic and his wife on their new baby boy!

— Miles Plumlee (@milesplumlee13) November 11, 2013

On Nov 12, 2010 Steve Nash had a son he called "Matteo". On Nov 11, 2013 Goran Dragic had son he called "Mateo". Both babies were 7lb 7oz.

— Seth Pollack (@sethpo) November 11, 2013

Exclusive photo of Goran Dragic's wife and their newborn son, Mateo (aka Baby Dragon): pic.twitter.com/5RhA2RX6e7

— Sreekar (@sreekyshooter) November 12, 2013

RT @suns_jfie: Goran Dragic has just gotten off of the doctors table, 13 stitches to close gash on side of nose (NASH WOULD BE PROUD)

— Marc Stein (@ESPNSteinLine) November 14, 2013

I be back next game!!! Nasty cut pic.twitter.com/sMbzcGqOHr

— Goran Dragic (@Goran_Dragic) November 14, 2013

Goran Dragic gives his son the same name as Steve Nash's son, gets a vintage Nash injury the next day. COINCIDENCE? pic.twitter.com/mRGFJG2Pye

— Sreekar (@sreekyshooter) November 14, 2013

Non-Suns Related Tweet of the Week

I had to make a new category just to post the gem of a tweet Matt Barnes shared with the world last night after he (shocker) was ejected for his role in instigating a ruckus against the Thunder. Barnes then tweeted the following (while the game was still being played) but deleted it after a while. For some reason, athletes tend to forget that the internet always remembers what you share:

Png_medium

Bright Sider of the Week

The second Bright Sider of the Week award in the history of awards goes to (drumroll please).....Andy Buckdawg for his awesome "Comedy Screencaps" fanpost. If you haven't seen it yet, go check it out. Andy, you can collect your award when you post your next issue of comedy screencaps. Congrats!

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Any other news you'd like to share? Any suggestions for what else you'd like me to do/include in these weekly segments (I'm open to anything!)? As always, feel free to discuss below!

More from Bright Side Of The Sun:

The Portland Trailblazers have played eight games on the young season. Six of them have been easy offensive nights, but the two against Phoenix were struggles brought on by Phoenix's stifling defense.

Thanks to SB Nation partner, BlazersEdge, we got a lot of quotes out of the Portland locker room about the Suns defensive effort disrupting Portland's 5th ranked offense for the second time this season.

Head Coach Terry Stotts

  • "I give Phoenix a lot of credit. They play hard. I don't think anybody could watch that game and not come away with the feeling how hard Phoenix plays."
  • "They compete for catches, they push out post-ups, they're physical in the paint, they go after the ball. They're active with their hands."
  • "I give Phoenix a lot of credit with their defense. Like a lot of games, you're going to miss shots, but I'll give them credit, they're a good defensive team."
Forward LaMarcus Aldridge (12 points on 5-for-19 shooting; scored 20+ points in 6 of first 7 games this season)
  • "They're just active. They crash the boards, they're in the passing lanes. They use their young athleticism to their advantage."
Shooting guard Wesley Matthews (11 points; scored 18+ points in 5 of first 7 games this season)
  • "They're a different kind of team. You look at them and you don't think they have a true shot-blocker or rim protector. They do it by committee. They're one of those teams that does everything by committee."
  • "They play hard, they're in the passing lanes, they convert to the ball, they make you make the extra play."

BlazersEdge writer Dave Deckard (in the game analysis article linked above)

  • "It was an unfair ending for the Suns, who play as hard and disciplined on defense as any young team in recent memory. Phoenix opened the game with two deflections and a steal on Portland's first three possessions, and they succeeded in making Portland's offense look choppier than it has since opening night."
BlazersEdge writer Timmay (in the game recap)
  • "Phoenix came in with a defensive game plan and ran it nicely, taking the Blazers out of their element by preventing three-pointers."

It's rare when an opponent gives any credit to the other team, and even rarer when it's after pulling out the win at home. Almost exclusively, a team talks about itself - what THEY did right or wrong. Rarely does the team gush about the opponent.

But a week after San Antonio squeaked out a win at home over the Suns and Tony Parker said the Suns are a good team, now Portland is giving some love as well.

Also, check out this great analysis of the Suns D from Randy Hill of Fox Sports Arizona.

More from Bright Side Of The Sun:

The Phoenix Suns fell to 5-3 on the Season after falling to the Portland Trail Blazers in a game that went right down to the final second.

Summing it Up

The Phoenix Suns went to Portland and came up just one point shy, losing 90-89 in a game that went down to the very last second.

The Suns played terrific defense all night, locking down Portland point guard Damian Lillard for 47 minutes and 45 seconds. However, he broke free in the final 15 seconds to score the game-winning layup for the Blazers on a complete defensive breakdown by the Suns. Lillard and LaMarcus Aldridge combined for just 23 points on 32 shots, but it wasn't enough for the Suns to get the win. Eric Bledsoe had a phenomenal first three quarters before struggling in the fourth. Oh, and Goran Dragic had to exit early again with another injury.

Telling the Story

The first quarter set the tone for the rest of the game as the two teams traded blows and neither was able to oull away.

Goran Dragic was active early but picked up two early fouls and had to take a seat. Fortunately for the Suns, however, LaMarcus Aldridge followed him to the bench in foul trouble shortly after.

The two teams traded, in Eddie Johnson’s words, "boneheaded" plays late in the quarter. Marcus Morris fouled Thomas Robinson 30 feet from the basket on a desperation heave with the shot clock about to expire. Then the Blazers returned the favor by fouling Eric Bledsoe on his own 3-point attempt with less than one second left on the clock. Robinson made one of his attempts while Bledsoe made all three, so I guess advantage Suns.

When the dust settled, the Blazers were ahead 25-22.

Aldridge and Dragic returned to the court to start the second quarter, and the two teams went back and forth early on, with each squad hitting a two and a three to up the score to 30-27. The two teams also traded a series of missed layups as the rims were not kind in Portland. The Morris to Morris three-quarter court connection resulted in a layup that actually stayed in and brought the Suns within one at 34-33 halfway through the quarter.

The Suns took the lead on a fastbreak layup by Dragic that was created by terrific defense, particularly by Markieff Morris on Aldridge. Robin Lopez answered with a hook shot but a fastbreak dunk by Archie Goodwin and a pair of free throws by Dragic put the Suns ahead 39-36. The teams continued to trade points. LaMarcus Aldridge scored his first points of the game with 25 seconds left in the half after being locked down in the first 23:35 by Markieff Morris and Channing Frye.

Phoenix took a 43-41 lead into halftime. As the low score indicates, it was an ugly half with each team shooting 39 percent from the field (including all the layups that rimmed out). The fact that Robin Lopez had 10 boards in the half tells you how many bricks were thrown up.

The Suns held the duo of Damian Lillard and Aldridge to just seven points on 3-14 shooting combined. Goran Dragic struggled in his return to the starting lineup, shooting just 2-7 for six points. Eric Bledsoe, however, had a big half with 11 points and was the only one in the game to reach double figures in the first half.

The shooting woes for both teams continued into the third quarter, and the Suns managed to hang on to their lead throughout the quarter. Portland pulled within two at 58-56 with just over two minutes left in the half, but Phoenix exploded for a 10-3 run to expand the lead to 9. Unfortunately, Mo Williams banked in a 3-pointer at the buzzer to cut the lead to 68-62 at the end of the third quarter.

Bledsoe continued to roll for the Suns, scoring 10 in the period to push his total to 21.

Portland scored the first five points of the final period, but Phoenix responded with a 6-2 run as Dragic hit two 3-pointers. A nasty collision between Williams and Dragic resulted in both guys going down, but the Suns continued to play and Gerald Green drilled a 3-pointer. Unfortunately for the Suns, Dragic had to be taken back to the locker room to get stitches. Dragic would not return to the game.

Following Dragic’s departure, the Blazers went on a 9-0 run to take a 78-77 lead with just under seven minutes remaining. Neither team was able to get a stop as the two teams traded buckets for the next couple minutes until Thomas Robinson was fouled and missed both free throws. Phoenix scored and came right back to fouling Robinson, this time intentionally, and he split a pair.

Bledsoe took it straight to the rack and finished for the Suns (unfortunately, his only points of the quarter), but Wesley Matthews responded with a tough step-back 3-pointer. An offensive foul by Tucker gave the ball back to Portland and they capitalized to take an 88-87 lead.

Bledsoe pulled up for a jumper and missed, but Plumlee managed to get a hand on it and tapped it back to a teammate. Following a timeout, Bledsoe found Plumlee rolling to the basket for a layup to put the Suns back up by one. On the other end, the Suns got the stop they needed as Aldridge missed a turnaround jumper over Mook Morris.

Eric Bledsoe looked to expand the Suns' one-point lead with a strong drive to the rack, but he couldn't finish at the rim and the Blazers secured the rebound with 11.3 seconds left.

Needing a bucket, the Blazers run a high pick-and-roll, which the Suns decide not to defend (Bledsoe got picked off, Frye stuck with the screener, and nobody else helped). Lillard virtually strolled to the rim for a layup with 6.5 seconds left.

Phx_por_no_defense_medium

(picture courtesy of Matt Moore of CBS)

Trailing by one, the Suns had one more chance. Once again, Bledsoe got all the way to the basket ... and once again, he wasn't able to finish. P.J Tucker and Markieff Morris both had a chance at tip-ins but neither one fell and the clock ran out.

Game over, Portland wins.

Standout Performers

  • Defense on Aldridge and Lillard: In the first meeting between these two teams, Aldridge and Lillard combined for 60 points. In this one, they didn't even reach 30. Channing Frye, Markieff Morris and Marcus Morris all took turns on Aldridge and held him to just 12 points on 5-19 shooting. Eric Bledsoe attacked Lillard on offense all night, and made life miserable for him on defense. He finished with 11 points on 4-13 shooting. It's just a shame that the last possession went the way it did after such a great performance overall.

  • The Centers: Miles Plumlee played big with his fourth double-double of the season, finishing with 10 points on 5-8 shooting and 10 rebounds. Robin Lopez played even bigger for Portland, recording his third straight double-double with 13 points on 5-11 shooting and 15 rebounds.
  • Portland Bench: Last year's Blazer bench was one of the worst benches ever assembled. Tonight, they gave Portland 34 points on 14-22 shooting.
  • Eric Bledsoe: Bledsoe was terrific through the first three quarters, scoring an efficient 21 points. Unfortunately, he couldn't keep it up int he fourth and only made one of his seven shot attempts. The final line read 23 points on 10-21 shooting and six assists, but it could have been even better had he been able to convert a couple of those fourth quarter layups.

Final Thoughts

  • First of all, yes, Nicolas Batum had his hand on the rim on the final tip in attempt. It was goaltending and the Suns should have won.

Goaltend_medium

(screen cap taken from a picture by Suns TV's Bob Adloch)

  • HOWEVER, the goaltend didn't really affect the shot and the Suns had every opportunity to win it by themselves instead of relying on a technicality. In fact, Keef's tip at the very end was right on the rim and just barely fell the wrong way.
  • Markieff Morris' 23-plus-point game streak was snapped after three games as he finished with eight points on 3-8 shooting, four rebounds, four assists, three steals and two turnovers. Keef didn't have the dominant game he had in the previous three, but overall I thought he played pretty well. He didn't take too many bad shots, put together a well-rounded stat line and played pretty good defense against Aldridge. He was also sick, so let's not hold this eight points on eight shots performance against him.
  • Goran Dragic just can't catch a break. He had to leave yet another game with an injury. This one took 13 stitches to get sealed up. After the game Goran tweeted out a picture of himself after the collision. Does this look familiar to anybody else or is it just me?

Dragic_blood_medium

  • Looking at the final stats, this game was about as competitive as any game that has been played this season. It was a single digit game throughout, paint and bench points were more or less even, the Suns won fastbreak points but the Blazers controlled the glass ... Overall it was a really hard-fought game between two good teams. It wasn't necessarily pretty, but it was competitive.

More from Bright Side Of The Sun:

Phoenx had three point blank chances to win at the buzzer, but the ball just wouldn’t go down as the Trail Blazers eked out a 90-89 win over the Suns in Portland. After a defensive miscue allowed...

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

Your Suns take their three-game winning streak to the Pacific Northwest for a second meeting with the Portland Trail Blazers.

Suns @ Blazers

  • Records: PHX 5-2 (1st, Pacific); POR 5-2 (2nd, Northwest)
  • Time: 8 p.m. local, 9 p.m. CST, 10 p.m. EST
  • TV: Fox Sports Arizona
  • Radio: Arizona Sports 620

Previous Meeting

The Suns showed up ready to play on opening night, while the Blazers ... didn't. Portland stars LaMarcus Aldridge and Damian Lillard combined for 60 points, but they didn't get much help from the other starters and the bench was just as bad (that is, historically bad) as it was last year.

The Suns jumped ahead early in the first quarter and held on for the rest of the game. Goran Dragic showed just how good he can be when healthy with 26 points and nine assists, an he took over down the stretch and carried the Suns to a 104-91 victory.

Eric Bledsoe (22 points, seven rebounds, six assists) and Miles Plumlee (18 points, 15 rebounds) both had big debuts for Phoenix and gave the fans a glimpse of what they were going to get from the two newcomers.

Congratulations Goran

If you haven't already done so, go ahead and congratulate Goran Dragic on the birth of his first child, Mateo. That's great news for Goran, but even better for the Suns as Dragic will be free to play against the Blazers with the baby already here and doing well.

Suns


FG 3PT FT Rebounds Misc
G M M A Pct M A Pct M A Pct Off Def Tot Ast TO Stl Blk PF PPG
Eric Bledsoe 7 33.9 6.7 12.9 52.2 1.3 3.9 33.3 6.1 7.6 81.1 0.6 3.9 4.4 7.3 4.3 1.9 0.1 2.4 20.9
Markieff Morris 6 28.7 7.0 11.2 62.7 0.5 1.0 50.0 2.7 3.3 80.0 1.5 5.3 6.8 1.7 1.3 1.7 0.2 1.8 17.2
Gerald Green 7 26.1 4.9 10.0 48.6 2.4 5.6 43.6 1.1 1.4 80.0 0.9 2.4 3.3 1.1 2.1 0.6 0.7 2.4 13.3
Goran Dragic 4 28.8 5.8 12.5 46.0 0.5 2.8 18.2 1.3 2.3 55.6 0.0 3.0 3.0 4.8 1.8 0.8 0.3 1.8 13.3
Miles Plumlee 7 30.7 5.1 10.1 50.7 0.0 0.0 0.0 1.4 2.9 50.0 3.1 6.4 9.6 0.3 1.3 0.4 2.3 2.1 11.7
Marcus Morris 7 21.7 2.7 7.3 37.3 1.3 3.0 42.9 1.7 2.0 85.7 1.3 4.4 5.7 1.0 2.4 1.4 0.1 2.4 8.4
P.J. Tucker 7 31.6 3.0 7.3 41.2 1.3 2.6 50.0 0.9 1.0 85.7 1.3 2.7 4.0 1.9 1.6 1.3 0.4 1.9 8.1
Channing Frye 7 23.9 2.6 7.7 33.3 0.9 3.4 25.0 0.7 0.9 83.3 0.6 4.1 4.7 0.1 1.1 1.0 0.7 2.9 6.7
Ish Smith 5 12.0 1.4 4.0 35.0 0.2 0.8 25.0 0.6 0.6 100.0 0.2 1.6 1.8 2.8 0.8 0.6 0.2 0.8 3.6
Dionte Christmas 5 10.2 1.2 2.8 42.9 0.4 1.2 33.3 0.6 0.8 75.0 0.4 1.6 2.0 0.2 0.4 0.4 0.0 1.0 3.4
Archie Goodwin 6 11.3 1.5 4.3 34.6 0.2 1.3 12.5 0.0 0.0 0.0 0.3 1.0 1.3 0.3 1.0 0.3 0.8 0.8 3.2
Alex Len 2 10.5 1.0 2.0 50.0 0.0 0.0 0.0 0.5 1.0 50.0 1.0 0.5 1.5 0.0 1.0 0.5 1.0 3.5 2.5
Viacheslav Kravtsov 3 3.7 0.3 0.7 50.0 0.0 0.0 0.0 0.3 0.7 50.0 0.7 0.3 1.0 0.0 0.7 0.0 0.0 0.3 1.0


Eric Bledsoe has been incredible for the Suns so far this year. With Dragic in and out of the line-up due to injury, Bledsoe has stepped up his play and is leading the Sun to wins. 21-7-4-2 isn't too shabby for a first-time starter.

But more surprisingly, right behind him on the scoring chart is Markieff Morris at 17.2 points per game. Keef was outstanding last week and his play was recognized as he was named Western Conference Player of the Week.

The Suns are getting tremendous production off the bench as well. Gerald Green has played well for the most part, whether he's started or come off the bench, and the Morris twins have been a force in the second unit.

Blazers


FG 3PT FT Rebounds Misc
G M M A Pct M A Pct M A Pct Off Def Tot Ast TO Stl Blk PF PPG
LaMarcus Aldridge 7 36.9 10.3 20.3 50.7 0.0 0.1 0.0 2.0 3.1 63.6 1.3 7.0 8.3 2.7 1.9 0.9 0.9 2.0 22.6
Damian Lillard 7 37.6 6.1 15.7 39.1 3.6 7.9 45.5 5.3 6.3 84.1 0.6 4.9 5.4 5.4 1.9 0.7 0.3 2.1 21.1
Wesley Matthews 7 33.7 5.7 10.3 55.6 2.4 4.7 51.5 2.0 2.6 77.8 1.0 4.4 5.4 2.0 1.4 1.1 0.3 1.7 15.9
Nicolas Batum 7 35.1 4.7 10.6 44.6 2.0 5.3 37.8 1.4 1.9 76.9 2.1 5.0 7.1 6.1 2.7 0.7 0.6 2.3 12.9
Mo Williams 7 25.1 3.9 9.0 42.9 0.6 2.6 22.2 0.4 0.4 100.0 0.7 1.0 1.7 4.3 2.4 0.3 0.4 2.7 8.7
Robin Lopez 7 30.0 3.3 7.1 46.0 0.0 0.0 0.0 1.6 2.4 64.7 3.4 2.7 6.1 1.1 1.0 0.7 1.4 3.0 8.1
Dorell Wright 7 14.7 2.0 4.1 48.3 1.4 2.9 50.0 0.7 0.7 100.0 0.4 2.6 3.0 1.0 0.4 0.6 0.1 0.7 6.1
Joel Freeland 6 15.5 1.7 4.3 38.5 0.0 0.0 0.0 1.0 1.3 75.0 2.3 1.5 3.8 1.5 1.2 0.2 0.7 2.5 4.3
Thomas Robinson 7 9.6 1.6 3.4 45.8 0.0 0.0 0.0 1.0 1.4 70.0 0.9 1.9 2.7 0.3 0.7 0.1 0.0 1.9 4.1
Meyers Leonard 2 7.5 1.0 1.5 66.7 0.0 0.0 0.0 1.0 1.0 100.0 0.5 1.5 2.0 0.0 0.0 0.0 0.0 1.5 3.0
Allen Crabbe 2 1.0 0.0 0.5 0.0 0.0 0.0 0.0 0.0 0.0 0.0 0.0 0.0 0.0 0.0 0.0 0.0 0.0 0.0 0.0
Victor Claver 2 1.0 0.0 0.0 0.0 0.0 0.0 0.0 0.0 0.0 0.0 0.0 0.0 0.0 0.0 0.0 0.0 0.0 0.0 0.0
Will Barton 2 1.0 0.0 1.0 0.0 0.0 0.5 0.0 0.0 0.0 0.0 0.0 0.0 0.0 0.5 0.0 0.0 0.0 0.0 0.0


The Blazers have a very strong top four in Aldridge, Lillard, Wesley Matthews and Nicolas Batum, an all four have played very well so far this season. Aldridge is a force both on the block and at the high post, Lillard can fill it up in a hurry and Matthews and Batum are both versatile, two-way players that compleement their two stars well.

The Blazers' downfall was their historically inept second unit. They were active in free agency looking to upgrade the bench during the offseason and the results have been pretty good so far with Mo Williams and Dorell Wright both making significant contributions.

Since the season opening loss to Phoenix, the Blazers have been on a roll, winning five games and losing only to the Houston Rockets.

Starting Lineups

  • PG: Eric Bledsoe - Damian Lillard
  • SG: Gerald Green - Wesley Matthews
  • SF: P.J. Tucker - Nicolas Batum
  • PF: Channing Frye - LaMarcus Aldridge
  • C: Miles Plumlee - Robin Lopez

Goran Dragic could start ahead of Green, but the team has played well with the starting lineup above and Dragic coming in off the bench.

Match-Ups to Watch

Aldridge vs. Markieff Morris: Keef has had an outstanding last four games, averaging 22 and 8. Meanwhile, Aldridge has basically averaged that over the whole season. I'm not expecting Morris to outplay Aldridge, who is a bona fide All Star. However, if he can continue his strong, efficient play and cancel out at least some of Aldridge's production, the Suns will have a great chance to win.

Bledsoe vs. Lillard: Lillard is the driving force behind the Blazers' attack, and it's going to be up to Bledsoe to slow him down. If Bledsoe can continue his current production while also preventing Lillard from getting his teammates involved or going off. If Bledsoe can hold Lillard to low 20s in points and less than five assists, that will give the Suns supporting cast a chance to win the game.

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