The Phoenix Suns travel to Cleveland to take on the underperforming Cleveland Cavaliers.

Before the season began, one of these two young teams was expected to be on the rise and earn a playoff spot for the first time in a few years, while the other was projected to be one of the worst teams in the league. However, things haven't played out as planned, to say the least, and the tables have almost entirely turned between these two teams.

The Phoenix Suns are 24-18 and are currently the 7th in the standings of the rugged Western Conference. Meanwhile, the Cleveland Cavaliers have had a turbulent season, with an underperforming roster, chemistry issues (Dion Waiters reportedly aggressively confronted a teammate -- rumored to be Kyrie Irving -- in a players' only meeting earlier this season), and perhaps the worst rookie season in the history of #1 overall picks in Anthony Bennett.

However, the Cavs do have a great deal of talent, featuring the likes of Kyrie, Luol Deng, and Tristan Thompson, as well as a strong defense (one thing Mike Brown has always been good at). The Suns should win this game as they have clearly proven to be the better team, but they'll need to show up and can't by any means underestimate the opponent.

Who: Phoenix Suns vs. Kleveland Kyrieviers

What: Inter-conference matchup between two young NBA teams.

When: Sunday, January 26 @ 4pm AZ time (6pm EST/3pm PT)

Where: Cleveland. Fox Sports Ohio and NBA League Pass

Why: An electrifying point guard matchup: Goran Dragic vs. Kyrie Irving. Oh, and Anthony Bennett.

Cleveland Cavaliers

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
Kyrie Irving 40 35.1 7.9 18.4 42.9 1.8 4.9 37.2 3.8 4.5 83.4 0.6 2.4 3.0 6.2 2.7 1.2 0.4 2.4 21.4
Luol Deng 31 36.0 6.6 14.6 45.3 0.9 2.8 31.4 4.3 5.2 82.1 1.6 4.5 6.1 3.2 2.5 1.1 0.2 2.2 18.4
Dion Waiters 38 29.1 5.4 13.3 40.5 1.2 3.2 36.4 2.5 3.6 69.1 0.5 2.5 3.0 2.7 2.3 0.9 0.2 2.2 14.4
Tristan Thompson 43 33.2 4.7 10.2 46.1 0.0 0.0 0.0 2.8 4.2 65.9 3.7 6.0 9.8 0.9 1.6 0.5 0.5 2.1 12.2
C.J. Miles 39 20.4 3.6 8.3 42.8 1.6 4.1 39.6 1.3 1.5 84.5 0.5 1.8 2.3 1.1 0.9 0.9 0.3 2.1 10.0
Jarrett Jack 41 26.4 3.5 8.5 40.8 0.9 2.2 38.5 1.5 1.7 87.0 0.2 2.5 2.8 3.8 1.6 0.6 0.2 1.6 9.2
Anderson Varejao 43 30.0 3.7 7.4 50.2 0.0 0.1 0.0 1.5 2.1 71.1 3.1 7.3 10.3 2.6 1.2 1.1 0.8 2.6 8.9
Earl Clark 40 16.1 2.1 5.7 37.2 1.0 2.8 35.5 0.3 0.5 65.0 0.4 2.5 2.9 0.4 0.7 0.4 0.5 1.3 5.5
Matthew Dellavedova 33 16.1 1.5 3.4 42.9 0.7 1.7 42.1 0.5 0.6 76.2 0.2 1.1 1.3 1.6 0.6 0.6 0.1 1.5 4.1
Tyler Zeller 32 11.8 1.6 3.0 54.2 0.0 0.0 0.0 0.8 1.3 60.5 1.2 2.1 3.3 0.3 0.8 0.2 0.5 1.5 4.1
Alonzo Gee 34 17.0 1.2 3.3 37.2 0.3 1.0 29.4 0.5 0.7 75.0 0.5 1.9 2.4 0.6 0.8 0.7 0.1 1.5 3.3
Anthony Bennett 32 10.2 0.9 3.5 25.9 0.1 0.9 14.3 0.5 0.8 62.5 0.8 1.5 2.3 0.2 0.8 0.4 0.1 1.6 2.4
Sergey Karasev 17 8.1 0.6 1.9 31.3 0.2 1.1 22.2 0.5 0.6 90.0 0.0 0.9 0.9 0.3 0.5 0.2 0.1 1.0 1.9
Carrick Felix 6 4.3 0.5 1.3 37.5 0.0 0.3 0.0 0.5 0.7 75.0 0.2 0.5 0.7 0.2 0.5 0.0 0.0 0.3 1.5
Henry Sims 12 4.3 0.4 1.0 41.7 0.0 0.0 0.0 0.2 0.3 50.0 0.7 1.3 1.9 0.2 0.3 0.0 0.3 1.1 1.0

Key Matchups

  • Goran Dragic vs. Kyrie Irving: This is THE matchup everyone will have their eyes on. Kyrie, who was sensational in his first two seasons, is having a bit of a down year in Mike Brown's "system," but is still averaging over 21 points and 6 assists per game, and has been voted in as an All-Star starter in the East. Meanwhile, Goran Dragic is having himself a hell of a season and is finally starting to get some of the national attention he has long deserved. Will it result in his first All-Star berth? That remains to be seen, but I sure as hell hope so.
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
2013 - Goran Dragic 39 34.8 6.9 14.0 49.2 1.3 3.6 36.4 4.4 5.6 77.6 0.9 2.4 3.4 6.1 2.8 1.3 0.2 2.3 19.4

  • PJ Tucker vs. Luol Deng: Luol Deng was having a great individual season for the Chicago Bulls before he was traded to Cleveland a couple weeks ago, and he has brought some defensive intensity and much-needed offense from the three spot to the Cavs. The Suns would like to have PJ Tucker (who I think is somewhat of a Deng-lite) play this matchup to as close to a draw as possible.
  • Channing Frye & Miles Plumlee vs. Tristan Thompson & Anderson Varejao: This matchup of big men will be important to the success of their respective teams, as neither of these two pairs features a legitimate low post threat, but instead has guys help their teams in various other ways. Thompson and Varejao are both good defenders (each in his own way), and Frye and Plumlee will have do their best to not lose the rebounding battle.
  • Dion Waiters vs. whichever Morris brother has a better game: Waiters has become the Cavs' 6th man as his game is perfectly suited to be a scorer off the bench, but he has once again struggled shooting the ball in his sophomore season. Moreover, it has become increasingly apparent that Waiters has a hard time coexisting in the same system as Kyrie Irving -- both need the ball in their hands to succeed -- and Waiters has been in trade rumors all season long. However, he is indeed a threat and the Suns can't let him go off. It's also important that Phoenix gets bench production of their own in this game, and one of the two Morris twins will need to step up and provide it. My money's on Markieff since he's been the more consistent of the two in the last couple weeks.

Prediction: The last time the Suns went on a road trip, they lost a few close games and had a disappointing stretch, going just 1-3. However, I think Phoenix will begin this road trip on a positive note by winning this game 106-100 behind the efforts of Goran Dragic, who will outplay yet another point guard that receives far more attention than him.

This is the first time I've made a game prediction and the result will dictate whether I continue making them or if I shut up and keep my foresight to myself.

While the Phoenix Suns are experiencing a resurgence this season, the core of their defense is Miles Plumlee. His story is much the same as Omer Asik last season.

Last season, Omer Asik led a surprising Houston Rockets team to the playoffs as their anchor at center who took care of most of the defensive responsibilities and rim protection on a team more focused on scoring than defending.

Asik came out of nowhere, having never started in the NBA before and only getting spot minutes behind one of the league's best centers in Joakim Noah.

You could write the same two sentences about the Phoenix Suns center Miles Plumlee, simply by replacing "Last" with "this", "Joakim Noah" with "Roy Hibbert" and switching the applicable team and player names.

Both players hit their jackpot in their mid-20s (Asik was 26, Plumlee is 25).

Six of one...

A look at each player's stats in their breakout year is uncannily similar:


You can see that Asik is the better rebounder and gets to the line more often, but Plumlee blocks more shots and commits fewer turnovers.

A look at their advanced stats shows how those discrepancies level out over the course of the game:


In the end, both have nearly the same Win Shares per 48 minutes - basically a calculation that shows how effective the player is, across all trackable statistics.

Eric Bledsoe and Goran Dragic get all the headlines in Phoenix, just like James Harden and Chandler Parsons did in Houston last year. But in the end, neither the Rockets last year nor the Suns this year would be smelling the playoffs without these guys anchoring the middle.

Why am I showing this?

For one, it's interesting how similar these guy's stories are.

For another, Omer Asik has been on the trading block all season after being supplanted by big free agent signee Dwight Howard.

Certainly, if you're being asked which player you prefer, you'd answer BOTH. Why not have both players sharing all 48 minutes at the center position?

In fact, the Suns need more rebounding in a big way. They are being outrebounded by nearly 5 rebounds per game in January over 12 contests.

But Omer Asik, who could likely be had for the Indiana pick (projected 30th in June), is not a good target for the Suns. He counts $8 million against the cap this year and next year. That cap hit is $7 million more than Plumlee, and $4 million more than rookie Alex Len. In fact, Asik by himself would take up more cap room than the two players (and Slava) put together.

And that's not even considering the extra $7 million any owner has to pay Asik next season as the culmination of that poison-pill contract he got from Houston. So far, Houston has had to pay less than $10 million in cash for Asik's (roughly) $13 million in cap charge to date. All that comes to a head next season when Asik pockets $15 million from someone and takes up $8 in cap space.

If you're going to spend your cap space upgrading the roster, is Omer Asik notably better than the current rotation of Plumlee and Len?

No thanks to Omer Asik. Better to spend the money somewhere else.

So where to get the rebounds?

How about in-house.

A long time Suns fan might say that a rebounding disadvantage is par for the course, and certainly a team missing their second-best player, Eric Bledsoe, can't be too terribly disappointed with a 5-7 record this month.

But Eric Bledsoe doesn't rebound the ball (much), and just a month a ago the Suns spent an entire month outrebounding their opponents on a regular basis. In fact, the Suns outrebounded their 13 December opponents 46-45.

So, what happened?

Here's a rundown of the Suns' regular rebounders:

  • PF/C Channing Frye is down 0.4 rebounds per game, despite playing 7 more minutes a night (5.7 in 26 min in Dec, 5.3 in 33 min in January)
  • PF/C Markieff Morris is down 2.5 rebounds per game (7.0 to 4.5) from Dec to January, despite losing only 2 minutes per game (25 to 23)
  • C Miles Plumlee is down 2.6 rebounds per game (9.9 to 7.3) from December to January, despite playing 2.5 more minutes a night (26 to 28.5)

Just last week, neither Frye nor Morris, despite each averaging 18 points per game for the 3 games, cracked 4.0 rebounds.

Overall, that's 8 more minutes per game for those three players in January, but a net loss of 5.5 rebounds between them.

Overall, that's 8 more minutes per game for those three players in January, but a net loss of 5.5 rebounds between them.

The other complimentary players in the post - Marcus Morris and P.J. Tucker - are rebounding consistently month to month.

Moderate offsetting of the rebounding loss is Alex Len. He's pulling down 2.5 rebounds in just 6 minutes of play in 10 January games after missing December (mostly).

The Suns can do better on the boards, and in turn win more games, just by refocusing their own efforts. Markieff, Channing and Miles need to dial in again and pull down those boards like they did in December.

This was a good week overall for the Suns, going 2-1 and beating the team with the best record in the league in a blowout on national TV. Although the week ended on a disappointing loss to a team they should have beaten, there were still plenty of positives, and a lot of players who stood out. Who deserves to be named the player of the week?

The NBA is all about which player and team can rule the court in the most epic fashion and Bright Side of the Sun has teamed up with Crown Royal to rank the best of the best Phoenix Suns players each and every week. Which player ruled the court this week? #ReignOn

The Finalists

Goran Dragic aka "The Slovenian Slasher"

Weekly Stat Averages:

Points: 18.3  FG%: .589  Assists: 6.7   Rebounds: 3.67

Surprise!  The Dragon had another fantastic week, and is making a very strong case to be an All-Star this year.  Whether or not that actually happens, it doesn't take away from the fact that he has been nothing short of outstanding this season, and is doing everything he can to will his team to victory without Eric Bledsoe.

Dragic has scored 15 points or more in each of the last 14 games...remarkable consistency from the leader of this team.  This week was no different, as Dragic was an efficient scoring machine who also created for his teammates and played pretty well defensively...a very underrated aspect of his game.

Channing Frye aka "Let it Flye"

Weekly Stat Averages:

Points: 18.6   FG%: .559   3PT%: .650   Rebounds: 3.67

Channing Frye had his best game of the season against the Denver Nuggets...Scoring 30 points on 12/16 shooting while grabbing 5 rebounds, and blocking 3 shots as well.  Although he never came close to matching that performance over the next two games this week, he was still a very effective weapon offensively and did a lot to help the team this week.  Frye shot a ridiculous 65% from three this week...going 11/17 overall.  He was actually more efficient from three than from inside the arc, which explains why he seems to prefer launching it from three even when a head fake would give him an easy drive to the basket.

The only complaint about Frye this week was how he was abused defensively by Nene...which isn't a surprise given his strength.  He also needs to get his hands on more rebounds to help Miles Plumlee when he's challenging/blocking shots.  Still, Frye was a net positive, and we know what to expect from him each and every game.  When he is hitting from outside, he changes the landscape of the game, and makes the Suns a very difficult team to match up against and defend.

Markieff Morris "The Philly Phoenix"

Weekly Stat Averages:

Points: 16.3   FG%: .607   Rebounds: 3.67    Steals: 1.3

Markieff Morris quietly had another great week.  While players like Dragic, Green, and Plumlee seem to get most of the attention, Markieff was quietly having one of the best, and most efficient weeks of his career.  Averaging around 25 minutes per game off the bench, Keef is getting starter minutes and playing like one.  He is taking better shots, and re-defining himself as a versatile forward who can score from anywhere on the floor.

Not only was he very efficient from the post and mid-range this week, Keef was also  very selective with his three-point attempts.  This week he shot only four total and made three of them...He's slowly turning into a very different player than the Suns were used to seeing over the past couple of seasons.  Keef still has work to do, especially in regards to his consistency.  However, he is stringing together more good games than bad ones this season, and that's a big improvement.

Honorable Mention

Gerald Green "Gr33n Machine"

Weekly Stat Averages:

Points: 13.3   FG%: .445   3PT%: .366  Rebounds: 3.0   Steals: 1.0

The Player of the Week

Goran Dragic

What else can be said at this point? Goran Dragic is doing everything he can to win, and is finally starting to get some national recognition for his tremendous skill, aggression, hustle, and speed. The game against the Pacers was probably an eye opener for many basketball fans around the world, but that's the same Dragic that Suns fans have been trying to get into the All-Star game all season long.

Although the Suns have been struggling without Eric Bledsoe in the line-up to help balance out what could be the best back-court in the NBA, Dragic continues to put the team in his back, and lead the charge to keep the Suns relevant and in the playoff hunt.  Dragic still doesn't have that consistent second player to help him every night, and until Bledsoe returns it may not happen.  Still, with Dragic leading the team, and plenty of talented players around him, the Suns have shown they can beat anyone in the league when they play their best.


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Who do you think deserves to be named the "Reign On Suns Player of the Week"?

  211 votes | Results

The Suns have their best first half record since 2010 and project to make the playoffs with a 46-36 record. But can a woefully inexperienced team withstand the pressure of a playoff run?

At (just over) the halfway point of the season, it is time to asses where the 24-18 Suns stand and ways in which they can reasonably improve, given the roster at hand.

Defensive improvements

If the Suns are going to make the playoffs, it will be on the back of their defense.

For the first time since the mid-2000s, the Phoenix Suns boast an above-average defense (12th in points-allowed-per-possession) at the halfway point with an aggressive style that denies the clean shot at the expense of positioning for rebounds. In contrast, Minnesota would rather give you an open shot so they can position for the rebound. Both philosophies work, as long as you have the players to execute it.

The Timberwolves are allowing the highest field goal percentage in the league (47.1%) over the first half of the season, while the Suns are 13th in that area (45%). Yet Minnesota is 8th in rebound rate while the Suns are 18th. Overall, Minnesota and Phoenix's defensive efficiency is virtually the same (102.5 vs. 102.6) despite the disparity in style.

Let's play a Mad Lib...

The Suns defense is allowing ______ over the season's first half since the first half of ________

  • lowest defensive field goal % (45.0%) allowed since 2004-05 when they blasted the competition, making teams on a nightly basis look as helpless as the Pacers did on Wednesday night.
  • lowest 3-pt % (33.5%) allowed since 2002-03
  • lowest FG% at the rim (56.4%) allowed since 1999-00
  • lowest opponent rebound rate (50.9% of all available rebounds, offensive and defensive) since 2009-10
  • fewest points allowed per possession (102.6) since 2003-04*

*Many of you fondly recall the Suns great defensive start in 2005-06 with Kurt Thomas anchoring it before going down in late January with a foot injury, but this D is slightly more effective.

Overall, the Suns boast their best defense at the halfway mark since before Steve Nash led the resurgence. That defense is helping the Suns to a winning record for the first time since 2010, and their best 42-game mark since 2007-08.

Projecting the rest of the season

But it's not how you start, it's how you finish. Under head coach Alvin Gentry, the Phoenix Suns generally played better in the second half than they did in the first half. But he did that with offensive improvements more than defensive. In fact, only in 2009-10 did the Suns defense improve in the second half of the season.

I'm not sure you can look at past Suns teams to make a projection. The coach is different. The players are different. The scheme is different. But it's pretty clear that, despite the onslaught against Indiana, this team is going to have to play strong defense to make the playoffs.

Assuming their stats hold true for the rest of the reason (8th in offense, 12th in defense), with the only variable being the schedule, two major outlets predict the Suns to make the playoffs using advanced statistical magic. projects the Suns to go 22-18 despite playing a much tougher second-half schedule, for an overall 46-36 record based on 5,000 simulations. The Suns % chance to make the playoffs is 74.2%. does a similar projection with slightly different inputs, and also sees the Suns with a 46-36 record when it's all said and done. They give the Suns a 63.1% chance of making the playoffs.

These projections change on a daily basis depending on unexpected outcomes. When the Suns beat Indiana on Wednesday, both models bumped the Suns to a 47-win projection with higher playoff odds. And then when the Suns lost to Washington the projections "righted" themselves. The Suns had been expected to go 1-1 in those two games, and that's just what happened.

Will the Suns improve or regress?

Those models assume status quo for each team for the rest of the season, with the only differences being toughness of schedule. The Suns second-half schedule is a bit tougher than the first half, so their overall winning percentage goes down slightly.

All else is projected equal though. Dragic must continue to play like an All-Star. Eric Bledsoe must play about half the games (or equivalent production from someone else). The Suns D must be above average. The Suns O must be pretty good.

But how do we know that?

Short answer: we don't. We don't know anything. The coach is a rookie. The players are inexperienced. The team's second-best player is a question mark for the rest of the season.

Individually, the Suns lack experience. Very few players on the roster have experience at all, let alone in the midst of a playoff run.

Only four players on the roster have more than three years of NBA experience. Let's review their playing history to get a gauge on their likelihood to stand up to the pressure.

  • Gerald Green, in 6 NBA seasons, has played big second-half minutes only three times in his career, all for losers (Boston pre-Garnett, Nets pre-Deron). He has never played a big role on a playoff contender. Ever.
  • Channing Frye, in 7 NBA seasons, starts for the Suns but has never been a starter on a playoff team. When he did start for a good team (2010-11, 2011-12), he got injured and the Suns came up short. On the good side, Channing has been quite consistent before/after the all-star break. He likely won't drop off in production.
  • Leandro Barbosa, in 9 NBA seasons, most recently played a significant bench role for Indiana in 2011-12 and he's been a key contributor off the bench for seven playoff runs (6 with Phoenix, 1 with Indiana). His before/after stats for his career have shown consistent production no matter the time of year.
  • Goran Dragic, in 5 NBA seasons, is one player who has always improved in the season's second half, but other than last year it's because his minutes have increased. 2012-13 is the only season in which he played starters minutes before AND after the break. He improved dramatically in the second half, but that was for a losing team. Dragic has never been a starter on a playoff team, but he's led late-season charges twice in a starting role (2010-11 and 2011-12 in Houston) as the best player on the 9th-place team.

That's four players on the entire 13-man roster with any significant NBA experience.

Only three of them have experience on an NBA playoff team.

And not one of them has started an NBA playoff game.

Silver linings

While the Suns are short of NBA playoff experience, they do have players with international success under pressure.

  • Goran Dragic led Slovenia in Eurobasket the last several years, and was named to the All-Tournament team in Euroboasket 2013 as one of the two best guards in the entire tourney (along with Tony Parker).
  • P.J. Tucker had several successful Euro campaigns, including 2007-08 where he led Halpoel to the league championship and won the MVP, and in 2012 when he led Bramburg to the BBL championship and won the MVP.

The great unknown

The Suns are venturing into uncharted waters as a team. Good teams get better as the season wears on, while bad teams get worse. Intensity picks up. Every game matters more. The standings change every night.

While P.J. Tucker and Goran Dragic have proven themselves on the world stage, neither has done it under the NBA playoff lights. Every player on the Suns is playing a bigger role than they've ever played.

Whatever happens in the second half, folks, will be a surprise. To all of us, including the team itself.

The Phoenix Suns just couldn't grab their defensive rebounds, and that's a death knell for this team. The Wizards cleaned up the glass then made big shots to win at the end.

The big question of the night was whether the Suns could follow up a dominant performance against the league's elite with a strong effort against a middle-of-the-road team.

"It's easier to say," coach Hornacek said before the game, "than it is to actually do that."

The Suns came out scoring well, but didn't bring their big-boy pants for defense by giving up 30 in the first quarter (a 120-point rate) to a normally plodding team (18th in pace) that scores only 98.8 points per game.

Scoring slowed down but so did the Suns heart rate, to the point where they gave up the ball way too many times (18 by the end of the third) and gave up too many offensive boards (15 to the Wiz by early 4th vs. on 19 of their own defensive boards).

Somehow though, the Suns found themselves within inches (a Dragic fast break miss) of tying the game with 6 minutes left.

And then within a couple feet of taking a lead (Tucker fouled on FB, but missed free throws).

And then the Wizards hit big shots.


First quarter

The game started off as a contest of the centers. Washington ran a lot of offense through Marcin Gortat while the Suns seemed to want to find Miles Plumlee. On the defensive end, both centers were tested early on drives.

In the first six minutes, Gortat had 2 points, 1 rebound, 2 blocks and a turnover. Plumlee had 4 points, 1 rebound and a block. But they touched the ball on nearly every possession.

Channing Frye and Nene had a contrast of styles, with Frye hitting four 3s in the opening minutes off pick and pops while Nene had several scores in the paint. Nene had no interest coming out on Frye to the three-point line.

The game started to become a seesaw battle of threes, with Washington making their first three 3s while the Suns made 5 of 8 overall.

The Wizards stayed hot from the perimeter all quarter, leading 30-29 at the end of one. Game seems familiar... when have I seen this before... Suns giving up lots of points at home... oh yeah, the LAST time the Suns wore those orange shirzees (gave up 110 to Dallas in a loss a week ago).

Suns down 29-30 after one

Second quarter

Markieff Morris started out hot, getting the Suns first 7 points of the second Q, but then he had a couple of bad possessions trying to post up from too far out.

Nene enjoyed himself more in the second quarter, as Markieff was much more willing to post up than Frye. Still, the Suns took a lead on overall better play than the Wizards ragtag second unit. If you want to know why the Wizards are just 20-21, look no further than this Wiz second unit (even with a couple starters in there).

When the Wizards starters came back in though, they went on a run to take the lead back. The Suns couldn't keep a handle on the ball while the Wiz got all the shots they wanted in a nice run (including 6 straight points by Gortat) to take a 48-47 lead with 2:46 left.

The Wizards were able to stay close with the Suns in this half with very active transition D along with good offensive rebounding. But the transition D failed the Wiz in the final seconds of the half as the Suns scored on three consecutive fast breaks to take a 6 point lead into halftime.

Suns lead 57-51 at half despite shooting 59% vs. the Wizards 48%. Suns will have to buckle down on D to win this game.

Third Quarter

The Suns started out the second half as if the game had already ended. Lazy cross-court passes and poor defense led to the Wizards taking a lead by mid-quarter, opening on a 17-6 run.

The Wizards took the Suns out of their easy offense by switching a small forward, like Ariza, onto Frye to protect Nene and Gortat in the pick-and-pop. The Suns didn't make them pay though by getting the ball to a faster guy on the wing against a center. Green and Tucker just weren't providing the necessary juice.

Trevor Ariza was really making his presence felt in the second half deflecting and denying passes to disrupt the Suns passing game. John Wall was doing the same with his length, while Nene and Gortat manned the paint.

Again I say, this game reminds me of last Friday in these orange shirseys. How many more Friday home games this season? Sheesh.

After only committing 11.5 turnovers per game this month, the Suns had 11 at halftime and 7 more in the third quarter alone. Holy Schnykees!

The third quarter couldn't end fast enough, yet there was a Suns foul just before the buzzer to give Gortat two more free throws before the clock turned zero.

Suns down 76-82 after a 31-19 Wizards quarter. The Wiz' Trevor Ariza has 21 points, 4 rebounds, 2 assists and 4 steals. After three.

Fourth Quarter

The fourth started okay, with a Markieff Morris three point play. But that was it, really.

The Suns just could not pull down rebounds. At the nine minute mark, the Suns had only pulled down 19 of 34 available defensive boards. They had 19, while the Wizards grabbed 15 of their own misses. That's barely more than half, folks. League average is 75%.

No wonder it was an 8 point Wizards lead with 9 minutes left. If the Suns could just stop turning the ball over and start getting defensive boards - ie. wake up - maybe this could be a game.

Sure enough, the Wizards let off the gas a bit and the Suns went on a 6-0 run to pull within 2 while Wall and Ariza rested.

The Suns almost tied the game on a Dragic one-man fast break, but he missed a contested layup and no other Suns ran down the court to clean the glass. Nene put the lead back at 4 on the next possession.

Later, the Suns had a chance to take the lead on an open three by Green, but he missed. The Wizards got two more offensive rebounds on the next possession, drew a foul and pulled back to a 4-point lead.

Then the Suns tied it and had a chance to take the lead on fast break, but Tucker (who got the steal) didn't pass to an open Dragic, instead drawing the foul. He missed the free throws, of course. That's karma calling you out for not passing to an open guy. Beal made a three on the other end.


Dragic got the Suns to two on a pretty between-the-legs pass to Plumlee, but then Beal hit a short jumper on the other end. Four points again.

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