After two last-second losses in as many games, the 5-4 Suns realize that the NBA season won't come easy. They need to grow up fast, or run the risk of losing more close games than not.

The Phoenix Suns are only the 10th youngest team in the NBA this season if you count 31-year old Emeka Okafor. Without Okafor, they are in the top five.

But in terms of NBA experience, only one team (bonus points if you can find that one team!) has played fewer NBA minutes than the Phoenix Suns you're watching this season.

Last night's game against Brooklyn was a study in contrast. Kevin Garnett of the of the Brooklyn Nets began the game having played almost 10,000 more NBA minutes BY HIMSELF than the entire Suns 13-man roster (47,955 vs. 38,403, according to Nets PR). Let that sink in for a minute.

Going even a step further, Kevin Garnett has played starters minutes nearly his entire career, while the collective 38K Suns minutes are primarily backup minutes.

Only one Suns player, Channing Frye, has started at least half his team's games in more than two NBA seasons before this one. That's it. Channing Frye. Channing did that three times in his first seven NBA seasons, twice with the Suns.

Not one player on the team averaged as many as 30 minutes per game more than once in their career, and only Goran Dragic accomplished that feat last season, 2012-13.

No All-Star appearances. No All-NBA players. And only one, Markieff Morris the other day, has even had a good enough WEEK to be recognized as one of the best in the NBA for a few short days.

Compare that to the Nets, who boast a collective 36 All-Star seasons out of their starting five alone.

Remember that dichotomy as the Suns come up short in tight games. The Phoenix Suns are 5-4 on the young season, with every single game being within 5 points in the last 5 minutes. So far, the Suns have come out on top more than not. That's a pretty good start considering their experience level.

"It's a new team with a lot of new players," Dragic said of 9 new rotation players out of 13 on the active roster, adding yet another wrinkle to the inexperience. "So we still have to find each other to play as a team."

It's not just the players going through growing pains this season. The coaching staff is learning on the fly too.

Head Coach Jeff Hornacek is a rookie game caller. He knows what he wants to happen in the closing minutes and seconds of a game. He can visualize it and get that across to his team.

But he can't execute it himself. He can't make those on-the-fly decisions for his players as option one breaks down.

And he's not experienced enough to envision the downside of each option.

On the Suns' final possession of overtime against the Nets with the game tied, Hornacek trusted his players to make the right play. He had Channing Frye in there for shooting, with his lightning-rodfast point guards deciding the game's fate. What could go wrong?

"On the last one," Hornacek said in his own words minutes after the game ended. "We kicked it out and Channing had a good look at it. He didn't make it. Then we had the rebound. P.J. [Tucker] and Marcus [Morris, with 14 rebounds between them to that point] both got for it and I think P.J. said that Marcus looked like he was in front of him a little bit. So he let it go and somehow it popped up. They take off with it and Joe makes a shot from six feet out. So, you know, a bad break at the end that ended up losing the game."

An approved second or third option was to dump the ball to the team's best shooter who'd finally gotten hot after a long cold spell. At 6'11" with good extension, Frye's shot is such that even the tallest Nets player can't block it. With the Suns struggling against the Net's size all game long (6'7" point guard Shawn Livingston and 6'8" shooting guard Joe Johnson the shortest on the floor), giving it to a guy who can't get blocked a good backup plan.

Yet, Frye is a three-point shooter. And three-point shots tend to bounce far off the rim on a miss - often times all the way to the back court. When your team has the ball with 4 more seconds on the game clock than the shot clock, the last thing you should want is a long rebound on a miss.

And that's exactly what transpired. If Frye drains that shot - he was 2-for-3 to that point on threes from the same spot on the right angle - he's a hero and the Suns go home laughing and smiling.

But if he misses, the rebound would go long and chaos could ensue. The last four seconds of the game seemed to last an eternity as Joe Johnson loped down the court to time his game-winner with the final buzzer. Heart break.

It's games like this that Jeff Hornacek will file away into his mental databank as a learning experience. Maybe don't design a plan around hoisting a three-pointer with only a few seconds left on the game clock and a tie score. Force a closer shot that doesn't bounce away and you've got another overtime, at worst, or a foul call or made basket, at best. Yet a long rebound allows the other team plenty of time to score.

Hornacek will also remember the last possession of regulation, where Dragic tried to convert his patented dipsy-do stop-turnaround on Lopez. It was the same play Dragic scored on Gasol last year in a win over Memphis.

"You can't say anything," Hornacek said, careful with his words to avoid a league fine for complaining about officials, "but I'd like to look at Goran's [shot at the end of regulation]. They let things go at the end of the game so you really have to make a tough shot. You get the big guy, you drive by him and then you can't get the clean shot off."

Contact at the end of the game going uncalled. Long three-pointers bounding off for long rebounds, making for easy fast-break opportunities.

All learning experiences for a rookie coach and a team with the second-least NBA experience in the league.

"It happened so fast," P.J. Tucker said after the game. He was stewing over the last missed rebound in OT, the one that went to Johnson for the game-winner. "I should have grabbed [Johnson]. It would have been a foul or jump ball or something. Not a fast break. Happened so fast."

Tucker couldn't stop shaking his head.

"I wish we played tomorrow, man."

More from Bright Side Of The Sun:

PHOENIX — Oh, Joe. The Brooklyn Nets were tied in overtime with the Phoenix Suns having possession and working with a game clock just long of 24 seconds. Joe Johnson took a long rebound off a...

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PHOENIX — Oh, Joe. The Brooklyn Nets were tied in overtime with the Phoenix Suns having possession while working with a game clock just long of 24 seconds. Joe Johnson took a long rebound the...

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Somehow, the Brooklyn Nets fought to a win against the feisty Suns by executing on isolation offense throughout the second half and overtime. The Nets won on a Joe Johnson layup as time expired.

This game was closer than many of us expected, but then again it is the NBA. The Brooklyn Nets came into the game 0-4 on the road (the opponents are a collective 7-22 otherwise), while the Suns were 4-0 at home.

The Suns are young, while the Nets are getting long in the tooth. Blowout right?

Wrong. Well, it was a blowout early for the Suns (23-11), and then a blowout in the middle for the Nets (30-4) then the Suns came roaring back and it was a seesaw battle right into overtime.

P.J. Tucker made a big shot from the corner to give the Suns a brief two point lead with 39 seconds to go before iso-Joe tied it with a runner in the lane.


In overtime, Bledsoe made a nice pass to Plumlee for the dunk while the Nets went to a series of iso's for Brook Lopez, Joe Johnson and Paul Pierce.

Brook Lopez was feeling it in overtime, making shot after shot to give the Nets a solid lead. On the other end, Bledsoe was really not playing well against the length of Livingston. Where's Deron Williams when you need him?

Goran Dragic made a big shot under the rim, drawing the foul on Lopez to cut the Nets' lead to 2. After a Nets miss, the Suns tied it on a pretty FB dunk by Tucker.

But then the Suns missed a late shot and Joe Johnson drove the length of the court for a winning layup as time expired.

Second game in a row, lost in the last second.

Oh well.

The good

The Suns started the game on fire, just like a young, speedy team should look against an aging club on a road trip. The home team took leads of 23-11 and 26-14 on the back of scorching play by Rocky... er, Goran Dragic.

It helped that Deron Williams went down in the opening minutes to a bad ankle sprain and didn't return. More on that later.

Dragic had 13 points and 4 assists in the first quarter alone, personally blasting the Nets in transition for nearly all of his points. The Suns had 14 fast break points in the first quarter ALONE, accounting for almost half their 29 points.

All this while Channing Frye got into his own head and started running himself off the three point line. Soon, he was on the bench to think about it, even to the point that Slava Kravtsov took the court for a half-dozen forgettable minutes. He tallying one rebound to go with 2 fouls and a turnover.

Finally, Plumlee on Plumlee happened at the 9 minute mark of the second quarter. This game marked the 4th brother-brother matchup involving a Suns game in the last four seasons alone. Previously, the Morrii, the Zellers (Luke and Tyler) and the Lopii (Brook and Robin) shared the Suns court. Now, it's the Plumlees. Who wants to bet that, with 4 first round draft picks next year, the Suns take at least one of the highly touted Harrison twins currently playing at Kentucky. I'll put the over/under at 90% right now.

But then the Plumlee party ended before it even started, as Brook Lopez entered for Mason within 30 seconds of Miles' re-entry.

The game really slowed down in the second quarter with Dragic out. First it was Ish Smith and then Bledsoe, and the Suns only scored 9 points in almost 6 minutes.

The game picked up again later in the quarter when Bledsoe paired up with Dragic. The Nets responded by hacking the Suns hard on fast breaks. Dragic and Bledsoe were both whacked on drives to the rim as the Nets just looked older and older as the minutes went by.

Plumlee on Plumlee happened again at the 4 minutes mark with Mason trying but failing to score on Miles at the rim.

The bad

Shawn Livingston, filling in for Deron Williamns, made a couple of floaters to keep the Nets in striking distance.

Miles Plumlee definitely didn't have the touch in this game, leaving several shots short or off the rim. Miles was 2-for-8 in a first half he would like to forget - at least on the offensive end. Miles was still his usual defensive self.

Behind Shawn Livingston, the Nets got the Suns lead down to 4 points at halftime. Livingston had 12 points and 2 assists in 13 minutes, making 5 of 6 midrange shots.

At halftime, it was 60-56 Suns in a game that didn't feel as close it the score indicated.

The ugly

Then the second half began and the Suns didn't leave the locker room, while the Nets played their best basketball of the game. Who were these guys? The Suns started their regulars, with only Frye sitting in favor of Markieff Morris. Markieff was the old Markieff tonight, going 1-for-9 from the floor. To this point, he's 3-for-20 since being named WC player of the week.

The result was a 26-4 run in Brooklyn's favor, leading to a 12-point lead with 5 minutes left in the third, that seemed like it could go on for days and days. The Nets came out using their length in a zone defense on the Suns with no one shorter than 6'7". Their energy stepped up a notch, and the Suns came out tentative.

Suddenly, the Suns looked like "the worst team in the West" and you started feeling a bit sorry for them.

The good again

Hornacek made wholesale changes, leaving only Dragic and Tucker on the floor and bringing in Channing Frye, Marcus Morris and Gerald Green to counter the Nets' size. Marcus and Gerald made some necessary shots and the Suns began to climb back out of that hole.

The Suns hit four three-pointers in the next few minutes to pull within three of the Nets, including two by Marcus Morris and Frye's first made three of the millennium (or at least it felt like that).

This Suns team has heart. And before the fourth quarter ended, the Suns had pulled within six after trailing by as many as 12. Hey, it's progress.

The Nets last two point were on a clear out by Mason Plumlee to get an open dunk - one that all of press row was wondering "how is that not an offensive foul".

And then the 4th

Mason Plumlee quickly picked up his fourth and fifth fouls while the Suns tied the game behind Frye's second three pointer. The crowd was rocking!

After that, the lead went back and forth between the Suns and Nets as they delivered a steady dose of Brook Lopez, the best offensive player on their team.

Marcus Morris played a huge role in the Suns fight back into the game with 9 points and 5 rebounds during the run (13 and 8 overall).

And P.J. Tucker happened. He scored on putbacks, got ALL the rebounds for a while, and kept the Suns in the game while Eric Bledsoe was having a really tough time amongst the trees of the Nets.

The game got really tight down to the wire, like every other Suns game this season.

There was a sequence on two late Brooklyn possessions where the Suns had a great chance at a steal each time, but either they didn't react fast enough or the ball bounced right back to the Nets off the Suns backsides.

But then P.J. Tucker hit the BIG THREE from the corner! The shot he couldn't make last year. The shot holding him back from being a difference maker in the NBA.

And BOOM! He hit it. Just when the Suns needed it most. Not only is he a dirt worker, he's a clutch shooter now too! The crowd was rocking hard. Really hard. Wow.

Joe Johnson tied up the game on an iso-Joe play against the smaller Dragic, making a runner in the lane.

Tied at 92.

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Alright Suns fans. Time to advocate for your favorite Suns to be included in the 2014 NBA All-Star game hosted by Pierre the Pelican.

I'm going to start with Eric Bledsoe because he's the only player on the roster that I think has any chance of making the roster (as a reserve).

Eric Bledsoe has gone supernova so far this season and people have noticed.  The Suns have earned some notoriety for their inspired play and he deserves a lot of credit for that.  The problem is that while basketball aficionados know his name, the casual fan that makes up the majority of the voting base doesn't.  That same voting base that might vote for dead people if they were on the ballot...

Bledsoe's biggest problem is the depth at the guard spots in the Western Conference.  Kobe Bryant (if he can limp onto the court), Chris Paul, James Harden, Russell Westbrook and Tony Parker should be locks. Then you go to Stephen Curry, Damian Lillard, Ty Lawson, etc.  These are the guys that Bledsoe would have to beat out.  That's a tall task.  But if Beldsoe can continue to post numbers like 21 points, 7 assists, 4 rebounds and 2 steals a game while keeping the Suns in the playoff picture it's not completely impossible.

This leads me to one strategy that I'd prescribe and another that I'd proscribe.

Do vote for (especially) Eric Bledsoe and Goran Dragic .  Don't vote for the bubble players at the guard spots in the West.

Goran Dragic is already well behind Bledsoe in terms of statistics and buzz due to his injury-riddled start to the season.  He won't be able to overcome that, and an increased contribution from him would probably diminish Bledsoe's chances.  Markieff is off to a stupendous start. Sheridan Hoops even has him listed #1 in their sixth man rankingsand #1 in their most improved player rankings.  Bledsoe is second and Miles Plumlee is fifth (go Suns). Morris is even third in the NBA in WS/48. But Morris might end up with less votes than Pierre the Pelican.

Markieff is fine to vote for, too, but make your other frontcourt votes count (see below).

Here are the starters from last season (vote totals shown on this link):

Eastern Conference - LeBron James, Rajon Rondo, Kevin Garnett, Carmelo Anthony, Dwyane Wade

Western Conference - Chris Paul, Kobe Bryant, Kevin Durant, Blake Griffin, Dwight Howard

Chris Bosh actually started the game since Rondo was out with an injury.

James, Anthony, Wade and Derrick Rose (replacing Rondo) from the East and Bryant, Paul, Durant and Howard are all locks again this season, but that leaves two positions you can actually vote for if you want.  KG and Griffin could potentially be ousted.  Kevin Love is probably the only player that could overtake Griffin, so that means I'll be voting for Love.  At least he has more than one skill. Paul George is my vote to supplant Garnett.

After perusing the ballot it also occurred to me that they may need to pare this thing down to about 50 (at least) for each side (from the current total of 60). My favorite (on my own personal absurdity scale) inclusions on the Western Conference ballot are Wilson Chandler, Markieff Morris (sorry), Derrick Williams, Shawn Marion and Tiago Splitter.  Trust me, I can find five more.  The Eastern Conference ballot is actually kind of sad, with Andrew Bynum and Amar'e Stoudemire among the inclusions.  Past that, I think we're all pretty safe from seeing Mario Chalmers and Gerald Henderson out there with LeBron James and Kevin Durant.  Cutting it down might make it a little easier to scroll through the ballot to the players we actually want to vote for...

Also, Derrick Williams is averaging 6.3 points per game with a PER of 8.8.  Just thought I'd get that in.

Now go vote.

Here are some of the details from the Phoenix Suns' press release:

NBA All-Star Balloting 2014 presented by Sprint gives fans around the world the opportunity to vote daily for their favorite players as starters for NBA All-Star Game 2014. This year, the NBA is expanding social media voting to include Instagram. Fans can use Instagram to vote by posting an original photo, using #NBABallot and the player’s first and last name in the photo caption. Fans can vote for 10 unique players per day.

For the second year in a row, NBA fans can vote via social media networks, including Facebook and Twitter, and Sina Weibo and Tencent Microblog in China. Twitter voting allows fans to tweet a vote for 10 unique players each day throughout the All-Star balloting period. The tweet must include the player’s first and last name, along with hash tag #NBABallot. Facebook voting allows fans to comment on official league, team, or international NBA All-Star Facebook pages by commenting below the post with #NBABallot and the player’s first and last name. Voters can select 10 unique players per day.

NBA fans can also access the ballot and vote through the NBA Game Time and NBA Game Time from Sprint applications, available on Android and iOS. Fans can fill out one full ballot per day, through the NBA Game Time and NBA Game Time from Sprint application, the most comprehensive app in the marketplace for NBA fans. There are several other ways fans can cast their votes as part of this season’s all-digital program including: in 11 languages on, through SMS voting by texting the player's last name to 6-9-6-2-2 ("MYNBA") or by visiting on any wireless device.

Fans can vote for 10 different players per day, per phone number, via SMS voting by sending 10 separate SMS messages, each one with a different player's last name. Message and data rates may apply. Voters can fill out one full ballot per day on from a desktop or mobile browser. After submitting their All-Star selections, fans will have the ability to share those picks with their friends on Facebook and followers on Twitter, and encourage others to cast ballots.

Balloting concludes on Monday, Jan. 20, and starters will be announced live on TNT onThursday, Jan. 23, during a special one-hour edition of TNT NBA Tip-Off presented by at 7 p.m. ET, featuring Ernie Johnson, Charles Barkley, Shaquille O’Neal and Kenny Smith. The special will air prior to TNT’s exclusive doubleheader featuring the Los Angeles Lakers at the Miami Heat (8 p.m. ET) and the Denver Nuggets at the Portland Trail Blazers (10:30 p.m. ET).

The NBA All-Star ballot features 120 players – 60 each from the Eastern and Western conferences – with 36 frontcourt players and 24 backcourt players from each conference comprising the list. Voters select three frontcourt players and two backcourt players from each conference.

The 120 players on the ballot were selected by a panel of media who regularly cover the NBA: Greg Anthony (NBA Digital), Mary Schmitt Boyer (Cleveland Plain Dealer/PBWA), Zach Lowe (Grantland), and John Reid (New Orleans Times Picayune).

NBA All-Star Game will be exclusively televised on TNT from New Orleans Arena on Sunday, Feb. 16, 2014. The All-Star Game, also broadcast live on ESPN Radio, will collectively reach fans in 215 countries and territories in more than 40 languages. NBA All-Star 2014 in New Orleans will bring together some of the most talented and passionate players in the league’s history for a global celebration of the game. TNT will televise the All-Star Game for the 12th consecutive year, marking Turner Sports' 30th year of All-Star coverage.

State Farm All-Star Saturday Night will feature Sears Shooting Stars, Taco Bell Skills Challenge, Foot Locker Three-Point Contest, and Sprite Slam Dunk. Other events at NBA All-Star 2014 will include the BBVA Compass Rising Stars Challenge, Sprint NBA All-Star Celebrity Game, and NBA All-Star Jam Session. The 2014 game will mark the second NBA All-Star celebration in New Orleans. The city also hosted the event in 2008.

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