To get a better look at how much the Suns rolled out these line-ups and to gauge their effectiveness, I turned to popcornmachine.net, which tracks the performance of each line-up used in a game and charts them in handy-dandy color-coded charts, like the one you see below.
Let's start right away by taking a look at the all-bench units used by both teams.
The Suns chose to send out all reserve line-ups twice: at the beginning of the second and fourth quarters. Between those two stints, the second unit was out there for a total of 10:33 and was outscored by four.
In comparison, the Pistons only used an all-bench line-up once: for the first 1:30 of the second quarter, during which they out-scored the Suns' second unit by two points.
So it certainly was true that Gentry made use of an all-reserve line-up much more than his Detroit counterpart did. And while the Suns weren't totally crushed over the course of the game, they were definitely out-played during this time. As you can expect if you watched the game, the bench unit did worse in its second quarter stint (-3) than it did in the 4th quarter (-1) after the players settled down a bit.
The starting five is clearly the strength of this team, but exactly how strong is it?
The Suns sent out the entire starting five on three separate occasions.
The first is obviously the beginning of the game, and the whole group played for the first 6:57 before Scola took a seat. During that time, the Suns were +1.
The starting five was reunited at the 2:53 mark of the second quarter, an in essence played the duration of the period (Morris and Johnson came in for the final five seconds or so), and during that time the Suns reasserted control and outscored the Pistons by 10.
The starters opened the third quarter together, and played until the 3:32 mark, a total of 8:28 and their longest stretch together. During that time, the Suns were outscored by 1.
In total, the starting five played 18:13 together and were +10, although basically all 10 of those came during the nearly 3 minute stretch late in the first half. For the rest of their 15 minutes together, the Suns played the Pistons to a draw.
As for the Pistons, they also played their starting five three times. They played the first 5:43 and were +3, returned in the second at the 4:35 mark for 1:42 and played even basketball and finally they played the first 7:31 of the second half and were +1. They played together a few minutes less than the Suns at 14:56, but were +4 in that time.
If you look at those times, all of the Pistons' starting five minutes minus the short stretch in the second quarter (where they were even anyway) came head-to-head against the Suns' starting five, and the Pistons came out on top outscoring the Suns by four.
Where the Suns starters really did their damage is when at least one of the Pistons' starters took a seat and a bench player came in. Against Detroit line-ups including at least one reserve, the Suns' starting five was +14 in 4:59. The Suns +10 stretch at the end of the half came against four pistons starters plus rookie shooting guard Kim English.
So as far as starting fives go, the Suns aren't all that dominant. Where their advantage came, at least in this game, was playing their starters together longer and taking advantage when the other team put in a bench player or two. PHX 1-5 > DET 1-2+4-6
There were a couple different significant runs made during this game: a few smaller ones by Detroit and one big one by the Suns.
Detroit went on a 7-4 run early against the Suns' starting five, then went on a 10-4 run later in the period when Markieff Morris stepped into the line-up in place of Luis Scola. Thanks to these runs, the Pistons held a 28-24 lead at the end of the first quarter. The Piston went on another min-run to start the second quarter, out-scoring the Suns second unit 11-4. The Piston also went on a 6-0 run in the closing moments, but the Suns were able to hold on for the victory.
A big reason why the Suns were able to hold on came later in the quarter as Phoenix responded with a huge 24-7 run, starting with the last 30 or so seconds of the bench five, continuing with a line-up consisting of Scola and four bench players and finishing up with the starting five.
Alvin Gentry has a difficult dilemma on his hands. The first unit is mostly good, while the second unit is mostly bad. The first five versus second five disparity isn't quite as bad as most think, but it is there. So what should Gentry do? At least in this game, the Suns had an advantage by keeping their starting five in longer and allowing them to play a couple minutes against a line-up including Detroit reserves. Should Gentry sacrifice that advantage to sit a starter or two early in order to bring them back earlier to bolster the bench? Or would that make the starting five worse just as much as doing so would make the bench better? Would that plan be a net positive, negative or no change?
**Note - For whatever reason, popcornmachine.net doesn't have the numbers from the game with GSW up on their site, so I don't know how much changed from game one to game two. However, they do have the numbers up from the ORL game, and a quick glance tells me there was some change. This particular post was getting a little long, so to spare you from a wall of text I'm publishing it as is. I will examine the ORL game soon, and maybe the MIA game as well, to see what changes Gentry has made. But this game against Detroit can be considered the starting point of Gentry's experimentation.
The Suns have started the season 1-2 despite leading in all 3 of their games in the second half. This week, they play four games, with three of those on the road. The only home game this week (through Sunday) is hosting a young, upstart Cleveland team.
Here's a couple of links on the Suns. Don't be surprised by the tenor.
One person's weekly NBA power rankings have the Suns in the bottom five of the NBA, where they belong after last night's debacle.
Hoopsworld points out how the Suns are struggling with their new pieces.
The first few weeks of the NBA season are crazy and not always predictable or sustainable. Let's use this thread to talk about random Suns stuff as well as random stuff throughout the rest of the league.
Have at it...
Remember that time the Suns said they would play hard every night and they would compete and fight and play good defense? Good times at the podium.
On the court, however, it's been a complete embarrassment through three games.
Shots might not be falling in a not-so-unusual early season kind of way, but despite all the talk about focus and effort this team has yet to put together a 48-minute stretch where they've demonstrated consistent effort and focus.
Why is that? Do they not actually realize how little top flight talent they have and how the only way they are going to stay in games (let alone beat teams like Orlando) is to follow the lead and words of Luis Scola and play hard for the full 48?
Here's some choice quotes from the Suns coach and players:
"We played really well in the first half and then we went through the motions and started exchanging baskets. We let them get it going. They are playing at home and had the momentum and then they started making big shot after big shot." - Scola
"You’ve got to believe in the players and they’ve got to believe in what you’re doing and continue to work," Gentry said. "At some stage, it comes together. It’s not anything that’s easy to do, but this is what we have. This is our team. I think that we’re going to be a very good basketball team at some stage."
And some other recaps of this shit show.
NBA scores: Knicks beat Sixers, Lakers finally win - SBNation.com
The Suns are horribly awfully bad, but Glen Davis had a second straight good game, Arron Afflalo was a beast and J.J. Redick did work off the bench. The Magic: not nearly as bad as we thought they'd be! (Also, the Suns: exactly as bad as we thought they'd be.)
Phoenix Suns Implode In Orlando! Suns 94 - Magic 115 - Sun-N-Gun - A Phoenix Suns Fan Site - News, Blogs, Opinion and More
This was an awful loss for the Suns as they had control of the game throughout the first 30 minutes, and to watch them just collapse in that fashion is just nothing short of an ugly scene.
Magic 115, Suns 94: Big third quarter propels Orlando to win - Orlando Pinstriped Post
All told, Afflalo scored 10 of his 22 points in the crucial third period, with Davis contributing 14 of his 22. Foul trouble kept Davis off his game in the first half; though he logged 15 minutes, he missed seven of his nine shots.
Orlando Magic 115, Phoenix Suns 94 -- Snowball beatdown
Jared Dudley, Markieff Morris and Sebastian Telfair are on the list of players that still haven’t looked comfortable on the floor.
I don't have high expectations for this team this season (35 wins) and I'm not surprised they are struggling early in the season. But lack of consistent effort is not acceptable. Period.
Bad teams in Phoenix always struggle holding on to fans. But bad teams that don't put up a fight don't deserve any (fans).
Some other useful links:
The Suns put on an embarrassing display in Orlando, giving up 40 points to the Magic and blowing a 14-point lead. The Suns fall to 1-2 on the season and earn their first road loss of the year. No rest for the horrendous, as the Suns face the Heat on Monday.
When: November 4th, 4:00 p.m. MST
Where: Amway Center, Orlando FL
Watch: Locally: FSNAZ; Outside AZ: NBA League Pass
After squeaking past the Pistons on Friday night, the Suns face a Magic team that is without Dwight Howard and a team that could end up being the worst team in the Eastern Conference. Although the game against Detroit didn't look necessarily clean, Phoenix still managed to hold on to their lead and get the win. The positive: Suns had five players in double figures, which is exactly the kind of effort they will have to produce in Orlando. The negative: Jared Dudley only had two points and besides Shannon Brown, the bench was almost nonexistent.
This game marks the beginning of three-game road trip on the East Coast against Orlando, Miami, and Charlotte. The Magic are coming into Sunday's game with some momentum after an impressive 102-89 win against the Denver Nuggets. The Suns can not take the Magic lightly and definitely need to take care of business against a team that has less talent on paper.
Goran Dragic vs. Jameer Nelson - This matchup is clearly in favor of the Suns. Dragic has looked as good as advertised so far as the floor general in Phoenix and has put up good numbers in his first two games of the season. Nelson, on the other hand, has always seemed to be one of those third-tier point guard talents. Dragic should get the better of Nelson in this matchup on both sides of the court.
Luis Scola and Marcin Gortat vs. Glen Davis and Nikola Vucevic - For the sake of Orlando, who doesn't really own a Center, I'll just say the match-up is the Bigs of the Suns against the Bigs of the Magic. Anyway you want to say it, the Suns should be favored in the size department for this game. Gortat has looked like the double-double machine he can be so far and Scola has been the efficient post presence the Suns need him to be. Glen Davis had an impressive season opener, putting up 29 points and 10 rebounds against Denver, so Phoenix will have to keep Davis from controlling the paint.
Michael Beasley vs. Hedo Turkoglu - Can I call this one a push? Maybe a slight edge for Beasley? I think it's still too early to say that Beasley be that consistant scorer that the Suns need him to be. Now if you would have asked me who had the edge four years ago, it would have been Turkey-Glue, mainly because Beasley was a rookie then. If I had to call it, I'd say Beasley gets the better of Hedo and contributes significantly.
The Suns Bench vs. The Magic's Bench - This match-up will ultimately decide the outcome of this game. If J.J. Redick and the rest of Orlando's bench heat up and knock down their shots, the Magic will be tough to beat. If Shannon Brown and Wesley Johnson are on point, the Suns will win the game. I think it's obvious that bench production in crucial for both teams if they want the win.
The Bottom Line: The Suns should win this game. They hold advantages in almost every match-up and are clearly the more talented team on paper. We know in the NBA that any team can be beaten on any given night, but I would be of the surprised majority if Orlando came out on top in this one.