The following is not meant to foreshadow the results of the next three games. From all accounts, the Suns are likely better than their next three opponents. But... winning on the road in the NBA is difficult. Even most good teams struggle mightily to win half their road contests. For bad teams one could consider a different factor, because while bad teams are historically putrid on the road they generally have a chance at beating the great majority of the teams in the league on any given night.

At first, it would seem like the preponderance of players wearing purple should prevail. But you already know that's not what this article is about (or at least I hope you do). Look at the slim pickings from the next three adversaries.

Cleveland 3-10

Detroit 3-11

Toronto 3-11

So the Suns are going to trounce this trio, right? Don't be so sure. Allow me to present a cautionary tale... At the crux of my argument is what I alluded to earlier. Home court advantage. This article from hoopdata.com makes my case for me (and I didn't even have to lift a finger - just clicked one a couple times). The median (not mean, because I don't like being atrabilious) is 3.1 points from the study. Not too bad, right? That's 3.1 based on a neutral site. Since we all know that NBA teams don't play on neutral sites the real difference is 6.2 points. Last year the median difference between playing at home versus on the road was 6.2 points per game.

By now you're probably asking, "What does that have to do with this article and the Phoenix Suns?" But I jest. In actuality, I'm sure you all know what I'm getting at by now. You're a pragmatic, keenly discerning bunch.

**Warning - small sample sizes are not to be trusted (but the 2011-12 stats pretty much make the case)**

Cleveland Cavaliers 3-10 (2-2 home, 1-8 road)

Cleveland hasn't had a very large gap in their home/road performance. Burn the outlier! For a heads up, I'm linking all of these splits to their pages on basketball-reference.com, my personal Mecca for NBA stats (this is my Mecca of all that is basketball).

Cleveland -4.5 home, -5.5 road

Only one insignificant point. That means that the Suns 107-105 thrashing of the Cavs in Phoenix earlier this year should hold up, right? More on this later. Can a bad team beat a good opponent at home? Well, Cleveland beat the same Philly team that just snuck by the Suns by nine points at home earlier in the season, 92-83.


Detroit Pistons 3-11 (2-3 home, 1-8 road)

Detroit +1.2 home, -10.0 road

There we go, some meat and potatoes, or turkey and mashed potatoes for those of you that still have some leftovers in the refrigerator (Damn, I talk a lot about food in my articles).

That's an 11.2 point swing. Jumbo large. Based on that, and the Suns 92-89 victory over the Pistons at home this season, that means Detroit is going to pummel us by eight points. That would be no bueno. The Pistons best home victory was a 103-83 debacle for the Boston Celtics.


Toronto Raptors 3-11 (2-4 home, 1-7 road)

Toronto +1.0 home, -7.3 road

8.3 points. That's still pretty significant. With no previous match to base a rematch on, let's just surmise the Suns better show up for this game. Like the Minnesota Timberwolves didn't, when the Raptors crushed them by 19, 105-86.


Now, we get to our beloved Suns. Our purple paladins riding in on their orange chariot to vanquish the insolent heathens.

Phoenix Suns 6-8 (5-3 home, 1-5 road)

Phoenix +3.5 home, -11.2 road.

14.7. That's the biggest disparity of the lot. The Suns are the most bipolar team of this grouping. Let's take this back to Cleveland. The Cavs game could turn from a nailbiter to a cushy win for Cleveland based on the Suns mercurial nature. What also seems alarming is that the Suns road record is shockingly similar to these other "bad" teams. In fact, teams with bad road records, like the Suns, are traditionally what these other bad teams feast on at home. Deliciously bad teams. The Suns do have a road win against a team with a winning record, the Charlotte Bobcats, but at this point I don't think that qualifies them as worldbeaters.


What do all these stats mean? Nothing... I think not. The splits throughout time support this same dynamic, which is also a perfectly reasonable assumption. If it looks right, sounds right and is supported by the complete history of the league in terms of empirical evidence then it must be... unreliable in predicting the outcomes of games over a very small sample size. Do you like how I used that one way to make my point and then flipped the script to discredit myself? I knew you would.

What it ultimately means to me is that the Suns need to be focused and play with heart and desire. Anything less could lead to a truly catastrophic road trip. This could be a tipping point. There are no gimmes. Not this season. Not for these Suns. And if this incarnation of Phoenix basketball starts counting chickens they might just get their asses plucked.

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I got up this morning hoping there would be some kind of explanation of why coach Alvin Gentry benched Marcin Gortat in favor of Jermaine O'Neal in the fourth quarter. Gortat, fresh of his public moaning about his lack of touches, seemed to get plenty of leather in the first half which he didn't convert (2-5, 5 points) and then came out and esploded in the third quarter (5-6, 13 points).

I'm sure Gentry was asked why O'Neal played while Gortat sat and I'm willing to bet your lunch money that he gave a non-answer along the lines of -- "I just went with the match ups I thought would work." -- or something equally useless. That's his prerogative to not answer a potentially loaded question, but it leaves us only with speculation for our morning gruel.

In reading through what was said, this quote from J.O. seemed most telling on the topic (and in general).

Phoenix Suns can’t complete rally against Philadelphia 76ers
“We’re not good enough to feel comfortable or relaxed after winning two games in a row until we’re 10 games over .500,” O’Neal said.

“We’re a below-.500 team. Our record is who we are. We’ve earned that. We could get quickly put in the basement with the bottom-of-the-barrel teams if we don’t get our act together. These guys played last night and went into overtime and, at times, had a lot more energy than we had.” [emphasis added]

So, is O'Neal calling out his younger colleague for waiting until the second half to turn it on and was Gentry's benching a message along those lines? We will probably never know so let's just go ahead and say that, maybe it could have possibly been the reason unless there was some other reason....ahem, Spencer "horrible defender" Hawes was also benched.

As Suns fans are likely to never forget, Jrue Holiday was passed over in favor of Earl Clark in the 2009 NBA Draft. Sarver really should fire all the front office people involved in that horrible decision!...oh, right.

The folks at Liberty Ballers certainly have plenty of Jrue love, but point out another factor in the win:

Sixers Edge the Suns: Game Recap - Liberty Ballers

Evan Turner's jumper. Turner knocked down three triples tonight, which, coupled with Notre Dame's unexpected success, has people wondering if we really only do have 28 days left on this earth.

Yup, the Suns gave up MORE open threes and the defensive suckitude was the focus of Alvin Gentry's postgame concern.

Overall, (Jrue Holiday's) 33 points hurt, but those aren’t the ones that beat us. The ones that beat us were the ones that we gave up when we weren’t doing what we were supposed to do. When rotations broke down and we rotated up from the corner when we weren’t supposed to, or we pre-rotated, or we tried to go for steals. That’s what got us in trouble. So we just have to correct that."

And more from Gentry as transcribed by Valley of the Suns:

Philadelphia 76ers 104, Phoenix Suns 101 -- Holiday's weekend
“I would say once again it’s a great effort game for us, but we’ve got to do a better job of executing,” Gentry said. “I thought we did a great job down the stretch, but you go back in the game and we have five or six plays where we don’t execute defensively and we give up three-point shots. It comes down to a one-possession game, so we’ve got to do better in that area right there.

“The effort is great. We continue to really compete and do a good job, but we have to be able to make the plays that win games for you. Tonight we had too many breakdowns, not at the crucial moments, but it creates crucial moments because we don’t do it then and before you know it we’ve given up three, four three-point shots, and that’s 12 points. We’ve just got to do a much better job in that department right there, but we played well.”

You will note no quotes posted from Beasley. You can go read them yourself, but basically he said, oops, that final shot should have gone in. Sorry, guys. I need to work on my right hand.

Overall, I'm not inclined to blast Beasley for missing the shot. He had a decent offensive game but as many others have said, it's time for him to get consistent on both ends.

And what's up with Goran Dragic? He looks like he's playing with cement shoes on his feet lately. Hidden small injury? Illness? Fight with his girlfriend? Who knows, but hopefully he snaps out of it soon.

One final link to Kris Habbas' Suns week in review:

Center of the Sun: A Week In Review 11/19 - 11/25 - SB Nation Arizona
A belated Center of the Sun today as the team played a midday Sunday game against the 76ers, but nonetheless here is the best, worst, and everything in-between for the Phoenix Suns this week.

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Why do you think Gentry benched Gortat in the fourth quarter?

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The Phoenix Suns signed Michael Beasley hoping he would develop into their go-to scorer, the guy they throw the ball to over and over again down the stretch when they need important buckets. For the...

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The Suns lost a heartbreaker, as they battled back in the closing minutes only to lose a nailbiter to the Sixers, in a game with a couple of new wrinkles and plenty of old skeletons.

This is a story stream.

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