For those that thought the Phoenix Suns (2-1) would finish with 16 wins and be historically bad from a franchise perspective, they now need to go 14-65 to close the season. That would take more effort than it would to win more games. Is my math right, Jim?
All three had quality debuts and continue to prove that they deserve, and might have always deserved, a bigger role than they were ever given. Those three have played great while rookies Alex Len and Archie Goodwin have been playing as expected for 19 and 20 year old first year players.
Around the NBA there have been other introductions from the likes of Michael Carter-Williams and Victor Oladipo, and reminders from Chris Paul and Kevin Durant as to why they are some of the best players in the league.
For the Suns this has been a team effort. P.J. Tucker (13.0 points per game), Gerald Green (11.0), and Channing Frye (10.0) have filled in the gaps. Goran Dragic and Bledsoe are the team engine(s) with the way that they push the ball and control tempo. In the pre-season they were turnover prone, but so far in the season that matters they have been more controlled.
Third year forwards Marcus Morris and Markieff Morris have bounced around the rotation, each starting one game and coming off the bench the rest of the games. They are a work in progress like the rest of the team as they try to work their way into a comfort zone in the rotation. This whole roster is a work in progress, but one heck of a fun one so far, that is for certain.
Key Stat: 5th and 22nd
For some reason, early in the season, the Suns are fifth in the NBA in three-point attempts despite being 22nd in shooting percentage from deep. The team is not loaded with shooters this season and in fact the team leader in attempts is Bledsoe, a slashing, athletic point guard who has shot 30.8% from three for his career.
Sometimes less is more and, for the 2013-2014 Suns, less three-point shooting might be more for their offense.
Quote of the Week
"It was reversed now it is even," Coach Hornacek after the Jazz game. "I thought Gordon gave P.J. a little shove to back up and make the three. That was a great shot by him. We had our guy do the same thing. Two great plays by two great players."
(A smile and a wink as Hornacek was clearly joking about the push-off in reference to another famous push-off in Utah Jazz history)
The High: Bledsoe Game Winner
In person, this was fantastic. On the possession where Gordon Hayward hit the game tying three I told my cohorts in the media section that if he caught the ball it was going in. He had been playing well all game and his confidence was growing. After he made the move to create separation (or the push, according to Coach Hornacek) it was over. That was until Bledsoe stepped up.
For the Suns, Bledsoe caught the ball confidently, dribbled to center court, and rocked Hayward to sleep before pulling up in his face... ONIONS! Great shot, great crowd reaction, and great moment for a fan base that is starved of those.
The Low: An Undefeated Season, No More
The Suns were predicted to be one of the worst teams in the league this year record wise, but after a 2-0 start it was clear that they were not going to go into the night quietly. They can still finish at the bottom of the standings, but with the way they play with energy, effort, and excitement makes for a team that can surprise anybody on any given night.
A loss to the Thunder means that there will not be an undefeated Suns team this year. Time to go back to the "tanking" talk.
Full Staff Predictions
|Kris Habbas||Jim Coughenour||Sean Sullivan||Jacob Padilla||Sreekar Jasthi||Dave King||CONSENSUS|
|MVP||P.J. Tucker||Goran Dragic||Eric Bledsoe||Goran Dragic||Goran Dragic||Channing Frye||Goran Dragic|
|LVP||Marcus Morris||Emeka Okafor||Emeka Okafor||Gerald Green||Ish Smith||Ish Smith||Ish Smith|
|DPOY||P.J. Tucker||Eric Bledsoe||Eric Bledsoe||Eric Bledsoe||Eric Bledsoe||Eric Bledsoe||Eric Bledsoe|
|6th Man||Gerald Green||P.J. Tucker||P.J. Tucker||Channing Frye||Marcus Morris||Marcus Morris||T-P.J. Tucker and Marcus Morris|
|Rookie||Alex Len||Archie Goodwin||Archie Goodwin||Alex Len||Alex Len||Archie Goodwin||T-Archie Goodwin and Alex Len|
|All-Suns||Goran Dragic||Goran Dragic||Goran Dragic||Goran Dragic||Goran Dragic||Goran Dragic||Goran Dragic|
|All-Suns||Eric Bledsoe||Eric Bledsoe||Eric Bledsoe||Eric Bledsoe||Eric Bledsoe||Eric Bledsoe||Eric Bledsoe|
|All-Suns||Gerald Green||P.J. Tucker||P.J. Tucker||P.J. Tucker||P.J. Tucker||P.J. Tucker||P.J. Tucker|
|All-Suns||P.J. Tucker||Channing Frye||Channing Frye||Channing Frye||Channing Frye||Channing Frye||Channing Frye|
|All-Suns||Channing Frye||Miles Plumlee||Miles Plumlee||Miles Plumlee||Miles Plumle||Miles Plumlee||Miles Plumlee|
|Most Improved||Goran Dragic||Miles Plumlee||Miles Plumlee||Eric Bledsoe||Miles Plumlee||Miles Plumlee||Miles Plumlee|
|Biggest Surprise||Alex Len||Win Lotto||Gerald Green||Archie Goodwin||Alex Len||Miles Plumlee||Alex Len|
||Markieff Morris||Markieff Morris||Alex Len||The Morris Twins||Markieff Morris||The Morris Twins||Markieff Morris|
|Most Likely to Achieve||Miles Plumlee||P.J. Tucker||Eric Bledsoe||P.J. Tucker||Goran Dragic||P.J. Tucker||P.J. Tucker|
Player of the Week:
Eric Bledsoe - 22.0 PPG 8.6 APG 6.3 RPG 2.0 SPG 40.1% FG (22.2% 3PT)
With all do respect to the great play of Plumlee in the first game of the season, the week belonged to Bledsoe with a game-winner and a career-high under his belt. In just three games with the Suns Bledsoe has three of his Top 10 scoring performances and his career-high in both assists and turnovers. This is rapidly becoming Bledsoe's team. As Jalen Rose and Bill Simmons joked about in their preview series, "there are 30 teams in the NBA and DeMarcus Cousins owns one of them."
Well, there are 30 teams in the NBA and one of them is owned by Eric Bledsoe.
Previewing the Week Ahead:
Tuesday, November 5th @ New Orleans Pelicans (1-2)
Wednesday, November 6th @ San Antonio Spurs (2-1)
Friday, November 8th vs. Denver Nuggets (0-2)
Sunday, November 10th vs. New Orleans Pelicans (1-2)
The Suns suffered their first loss of the young 2013-14 NBA season as they fell in Oklahoma City, 103-96. Goran Dragic was playing well (10 points, three rebounds, two assists) before spraining his ankle early in the second half, but with the Dragon out of commission Eric Bledsoe stepped forward and took control. Bledsoe went off for 20 points, eight assists and five rebounds in the second half to finish with 26, a career-high 14 assists and seven rebounds. After turning the ball over six times in the first half, Bledsoe cut it to just two in the second.
The Suns made more 3-pointers and connected at a higher rate in this game than they did in the first two games combined (14-37 compared to 10-41), but they also turned the ball over 23 times and sent the Thunder to the line 37 times.
The Suns got off to a good start against OKC behind a few threes by Channing Frye. Goran Dragic was also feeling it early on, doing a little of everything with six points, two assists, two rebounds and a steal.
The front line of Frye and Miles Plumlee protected the rim well early on, blocking some shots and making it tough for the Thunder to finish. However, Plumlee picked up his second foul just over five minutes into the game and had to take a seat.
In addition to his three 3-pointers, Frye also took Kevin Durant down to the post to draw a foul and hit a dribble pull-up from 15 feet out.
Jared Dudley was watching in support of his former teammate, and offered an explanation for that pull-up.
Frye finished with 10 points and two rebounds in the first quarter.
Unfortunately, Eric Bledsoe had a difficult time with the Thunder defense, turning the ball over four times in the first period. Despite Bledsoe's struggles, the Suns still found themselves up 24-21 after Marcus Morris hit a three late.
Russell Westbrook showed that the knee was just fine on a couple of plays, but overall he and Durant were held in check in the first with five and four points respectively.
The bench came in to play with Dragic to start the second period, and the Morris twins (Keef in particular) were all kinds of awful while Bledsoe started racking up assists but also continued to struggle with ball security.
Gerald Green provided a huge spark, however, and picked up the slack with his teammates struggling. Green brought a ton of energy and finished the period with 10 points and four rebounds.
Kevin Durant started to heat up, however, scoring nine in the quarter.
At the end of the half, the Suns still led 45-44.
The Suns suffered a major blow when Goran Dragic injured his ankle on a nice drive to the basket. Dragic sprained his left ankle and had to be helped from the bench back to the locker room. He obviously did not return.
With Dragic out of commission, Eric Bledsoe stepped up for the second straight game, and the Suns continued to play well without the Dragon. At the end of the third quarter, the Suns were still leading, 70-67.
The tide began to turn in the fourth quarter, however. The Suns expanded the lead to six at 79-73 with just under eight minutes to go, but the Thunder responded with a 22-8 run as Durant and Westbrook asserted themselves. A 3-pointer by P.J. Tucker and a step-back jumper by Frye brought the Suns within one possession, but failure to box out led to a rebound and slam by Durant.
The Suns ran a play to get Gerald Green open in the corner for a 3 and he hit it to cut the lead to three again. However, Tucker fouled Westbrook with just under 30 seconds left and Westbrook hit both. The Suns tried to run the same play to get Green open, but he stepped on the sideline, tuning the ball over and effectively ending the game.
The Suns have gotten off to a great start this season, although they haven't faced the stiffest of competition. The Suns opened the season with a double-digit win over a Portland Trail Blazers squad who wasn't ready for opening night. The DragonBlade bakcourt looked dominant while Miles Plumlee came out of nowhere to post a huge double-double.
Things went much less smoothly against the Utah Jazz on Friday, but the Suns still managed to come out on top thanks to some late heroics by Eric Bledsoe. Dragic and Bledsoe both struggled mightily early one, and the Dragon took an early exit after a collision with P.J. Tucker led to a facial contusion. After scoring just one point through three quarters, Bledsoe exploded for 17 in the fourth including the game winning three right in Gordon Hayward's eye with less than a second remaining.
The Thunder's first game went much like the Suns' second, as they pulled out a close win over the Jazz thanks to a big fourth quarter by Kevin Durant. Durant had 42 points, including 15 in the final period, and got just enough help from his supporting cast (14 each from Reggie Jackson and Thabo Sefolosha) to get the job done.
However, things got out of hand early against Minnesota and the Thunder never got back into the game. Durant finished with just 13 points while Jackson turned the ball over seven times and scored just eight points.
The Suns' early success has had a lot to do with Goran Dragic and Eric Bledsoe, which isn't a surprise at all. However, it's the unexpected production that is leading to these wins. Miles Plumlee has had double-doubles in both games, averaging 14 rebounds per game and showing off a nice array of skills offensively. P.J. Tucker, better known for his defense, rebounding and all-around hustle, has been a potent scorer early on with 18 and 12 points in the two games. Even Dionte Christmas, who made his debut after sitting out game one, came up huge for the Suns by hitting a couple of shots that got the team going in the second half (he finished with nine points, four rebounds and a game-high +17).
However, while these guys have been a pleasant surprise, the Suns have struggled mightily from 3-point range as most expected them to. Phoenix has shot a combined 10-41 (24.4 percent) from deep in two games. P.J. Tucker (he of the trebuchet shooting motion) has been the Suns' best shooter while Channing Frye has understandably struggled with his shot. The Suns are going to have to start hitting some shots if they want to keep winning games.
The Thunder have been without superstar point guard Russell Westbrook so far this season while he continues to recover from injury,
and that will be the case again in this game. Reggie Jackson played pretty well in his place during the playoffs after Westbrook went down, and played well in the opener. But he was a train wreck in their last game. Serge Ibaka has also been unable to get it going early in the season as he has yet to reach double figures in scoring and has shot 7-28 from the field. Second-year guard Jeremy Lamb hasn't even been as good off the bench as Kevin martin was last year, let alone James Harden. They needed Durant to go off for 40 in order to reach 100 points. That team is designed for Durant and Westbrook to score more than half the team's points, and without Westbrook this team is very beatable.
Dragic's status is unknown at this time; if he is held out I'm guessing Gerald Green gets the start and we see both Ish Smith and Dionte Christmas again. We'll update you when we know more. Per Paul Coro, Dragic is fine to play and left the last game early because the facial contusion inhibited his vision. No concussion as some had feared.