In yet another comeback for the ages, the Suns used a historic third quarter rally to come back from a 20 point first half deficit and defeat the Cavaliers 99-90 in Cleveland.

I feel like I just watched two completely different games. The Phoenix Suns were completely outplayed in the first half by the Cavaliers, only to turn the tables in the second half and leave Cleveland with a 99-90 win.

To say this was a roller-coaster of a game would be quite an understatement. The Suns looked absolutely abysmal in the first half -- in fact, the game looked to be headed straight to becoming a contender for the "worst game of the season" category, as the Suns were outmuscled in the paint and outplayed in nearly every other facet of the game to find themselves down 20 points in the second quarter.

First Half

The Cavaliers, who have one of the worst offenses in the NBA this year, got out to a fast start in the first quarter as they dominated the Suns' paint defense. Kyrie Irving dished 6 quick assists in the first period (he averages just over 6 per game), the Cavs' big-man tandem of Tristan Thompson and Anderson Varejao worked Channing Frye and Miles Plumlee, and CJ Miles started the game on fire to give Cleveland a 29-22 lead heading into the second quarter.

The second quarter was far worse for the Suns, as they just could not find a way to stop the Cavs from scoring. Luol Deng had a great first half and helped build a 20 point lead for his team. Meanwhile, Markieff Morris was the only Sun to have a great first half, as he tallied 15 points and 8 rebounds by the halfway mark. The Suns went into the break trailing by 18 after one of the worst halves of their season.

Second Half

Oh, how I wish I could have been a fly on the Suns' locker room wall at halftime. After a putrid first half, one can only imagine what Jeff Hornacek must have said to his team, but our Dave King has a hunch:

I guess Hornacek at halftime said to his Suns, down 18: %€|€|%\£|%)$&)@&!!!

— Dave King (@DaveKing_BSotS) January 27, 2014

Whatever was said to the Suns at halftime, it absolutely worked. Phoenix came out with amazing effort and a noticeable fire to start the second half. What was most impressive about the third quarter was that the Suns didn't make their run with their offense, but their defense completely stifled the Cavs' offensive play and forced some difficult shots. Their offense was also much better, as they hit a flurry of threes (Frye had three in this stretch) to quickly cut into the Cavs' lead and somehow take a one point lead into the 4th quarter.

The Cavs missed more shots than I've ever seen a team miss in one quarter and managed to score just 6 points in the period. SIX POINTS IN ONE QUARTER. They made just TWO FIELD GOALS in the entire quarter and missed twenty. That's a FG% of 9%. Single Digits. I had never seen anything like it -- and even now, all that offensive ineptitude (caused in large part by a more engaged and extremely active Suns defense) doesn't even make sense. The 6 points allowed in the third quarter ties a Suns franchise record. Take a look at the Cavs' shot chart for the 3rd quarter of tonight's game:


Absolutely brutal.

The Suns carried this momentum into the 4th, and their lead ballooned all the way up to 11 points behind more stellar play from Markieff Morris. That's a 31 point swing in less than 20 minutes. The Cavs offense managed to wake up a bit later in the quarter, as they cut the deficit to three, but the Suns responded and put the game away late after Channing Frye hit a big three with just over a minute left to give the Suns a 6 point lead. Game over.

Final - 1.26.2014 1 2 3 4 Total
Phoenix Suns 22 21 25 31 99
Cleveland Cavaliers 29 32 6 23 90

Complete Coverage >

Players of the Game

  • Markieff "I'm better than Tristan Thompson" Morris: Tonight's player of the game is undoubtedly none other than Kieff. He finished with 27 points and 15 rebounds and played about as well as I've ever seen him play. He showed his entire repertoire against Cleveland's big men, scoring on midrange jumpers, hitting a three pointer, banging inside for rebounds, and getting to the free throw lines 12 times (he made 10 of them). Markieff was an absolute beast in this game and the Suns needed every bit of it.
  • Channing FRY3: Channing was huge in the Suns' second half run, as all four of his three pointers came after halftime. Without his long-range shooting, there's no way the Suns would have been able to put together this comeback.
  • PJ "mini-Luol Deng" Tucker: Tucker didn't have a great night shooting the ball, but he finished with 13 points, 10 rebounds, and 6 assists. In fact, the Suns managed to outrebound the Cavaliers 50-43, which was a significant reason they came away with the victory. Tucker struggled guarding Deng in the first half, but seemed to do a better job in the second half.

*Goran Dragic had a ho-hum game, yet still ended the night with 15 points (on 6-14 shooting from the field), 5 rebounds and 7 assists. Those numbers are right in line with his averages from last season. Kyrie Irving had 24 points and 9 assists, but also shot 23 times to get there. The fact that this performance can be considered subpar for Goran is a testament to how well he is playing this year in what deserves to be an All-Star worthy campaign.

This game was a hell of a comeback by the Suns, just a couple weeks after they rallied from a 21 point deficit against the Nuggets in Denver. They'll absolutely have to improve their first half play on the road as they can't expect to keep making these comebacks every night, but oh, how sweet it was. This team is something else.

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.

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