our Phoenix Suns are 3-2 after the first nine days of the 2013-14 NBA season, with the only losses coming in down-to-the-wire bouts against Western Conference powerhouses Oklahoma City and San Antonio. It's hard not to love this team. The Suns entered the season expected by most to stumble and struggle (a particular "expert" even predicted that Phoenix would lose every single game against conference opponents) and have thus far shown that no matter what, they will play with hustle and heart. For most Suns fans this year, that is a very welcome development after the travesty that was the 2012-13 Suns team.

If the playoffs started today, the Suns would be the 6th seed matched up with the Houston Rockets. For some reason, the NBA playoffs don't begin after five regular season games so we'll have to keep tracking the team's lottery playoff status as this young season progresses. Meanwhile, let's take a look at what's been written about the Suns elsewhere on the interwebs.

Power Rankings

CBS Sports (Nov. 5) - #8:

Seriously guys, you're going the wrong way! 21(29)

Sports Illustrated (Nov. 4) - #10:

The Eric Bledsoe Show is even better than imagined in Phoenix. Three games into his first opportunity as a full-fledged starter, Bledsoe is averaging 22 points, 8.7 assists and 6.3 rebounds. He's excelling as a No. 1 option and giving opponents fits with his energy on both ends. Bledsoe and Co. are showing that Phoenix -- which was widely predicted to be the worst team in the Western Conference -- has no plans to roll over for a lottery pick.

ESPN (Nov 4.) - #16:

Presented without conclusions: The committee (of one) wrote THIS when Eric Bledsoe was not signed to a contract extension before the Halloween buzzer. In the two games since, Bledsoe spectacularly carried Phoenix late to clinch a win in Utah and then dazzled in a narrow defeat at OKC.

USA Today (Nov. 2) - #11:

Coach Jeff Hornacek gave the 76ers two good years as a player. Now his overachieving team is toiling in their shadow.

Play of the Week

There's really no other choice:

Tweets of the Week

As much as I hate the nickname "Plumdog" ("Frequent Flyer Miles" is so much better), my favorite Suns-related tweet of the week was this gem:

Plumdog Millionaire (cc @seth_slabs) and thanks to @bochurney pic.twitter.com/VGwz3meu4d

— Jordan White (@JordanSWhite) November 6, 2013

In other Suns-related Twitter news, former Sun Jared Dudley argued with Amin Elhassan that he believed Phoenix should have given Eric Bledsoe an extension last week:

@JonesOnTheNBA @AminESPN don't listen to Amin! Bledsoe is 21 or 22.. Way different situation then Amare and Gordon. Should of payed him

— Jared Dudley (@JaredDudley619) November 5, 2013

@AminESPN @JonesOnTheNBA It is when your that young, shown signs of star potential, traded away a fan fav and took on salary to get him..

— Jared Dudley (@JaredDudley619) November 5, 2013

Never mind that Jared got Bledsoe's age wrong. We can add him to the long list of NBA players who have expressed belief in Eric Bledsoe's star power.

Bright Sider of the Week

We will have a weekly "Bright Sider of the Week" segment where I will pick one commenter based on totally arbitrary and meaningless criteria. This week, brawadis earns the prestigious award for his extremely evident fandom. Congrats (I think), brawadis:


NOTE: Bright Side of the Sun does not advocate quitting your job.

Creepiest Mascot of the Week All Time

Phoenix defeated New Orleans on Tuesday and will once again play them on Sunday, this time in Phoenix. This means that Pierre the Pelican will be in town, which is good news for no one. Be wary, Suns fans:


(via @Nick_Pants)


Any other news you'd like to share? Any suggestions for weekly segments I should include in Solar Flares other than the ones above (these segments will change week-to-week because I'm just making things up as I go along)? Feel free to discuss below!

Ultimately, the Suns are disappointed to come away from their first road trip of the year with only one win. Their defeat in OKC could be chalked up to Russell Westbrook’s unexpected return. They...

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Boris Diaw and Tim Duncan went to work inside early, scoring 10 of the Spurs first 14 points to get things going for the evil empire.  The Suns countered by playing their usual role of rebarbative pests.  P.J. drew a charge on Kawhi Leonard that epitomizes why he succeeds as a player. He draped himself on Leonard all the way down the court as Kawhi brought the ball up, making just enough contact to avoid the foul.  Instead, Leonard lost his cool and dropped his shoulder.  Turnover San Antonio.  Not all went this well.  After being down just one (12-11) halfway through the quarter the Suns relaxed on D and the Spurs rattled off a 15-4 run.  The Spurs look to push the pace and the Suns allowed them to do so unabated.  Markieff Morris helped the Suns close the gap, however, as he built off a strong performance from Tuesday's game by scoring all the Suns points in a 6-2 run to cap the period.  Score: SA 29, Suns 21

The reserves cut into San Antonio's lead at the beginning of the second quarter.  While the Spurs decided to pound the ball down low with Tiago Splitter, Phoenix kept riding Markieff Morris.  He hit a jumper with 8:32 left in the period that pulled the Suns within one (32-31) and gave him 12 points in just eight minutes of play.  The whole unit proved to be pesky, though, including Ish Smith - who reminds me of a wasp out there.  In the midst of the run Archie Goodwin crept up behind Tim Duncan and pilfered the ball, running down the court for a savage dunk followed by a vociferous, primal scream.  The tally was 23-6 to start the quarter before the Spurs finally regained their footing.  It was another impressive stretch by a Suns team that has been showing a propensity to enter beast mode at the drop of a hat.  Duncan scored six quick points to provide some cessation from the Suns barrage, but too much Markieff (18 points on 9-10 shooting and seven boards) helped the Suns head back to the locker room with a two point lead.  Score: Suns 53, SA 51

The Suns and Spurs traded blows in the third quarter in what slowed to a more methodical pace.  Bledsoe (6) and Plumlee (4) shouldered the scoring load, with the latter showing that he was in no way backing down from the challenge of going against an all-time great.  The mixing and matching of lineups with players who haven't realized they aren't supposed to be playing like this continued.  One play after being subbed in Dionte Christmas came up with a steal that led to a fast break layup by Bledsoe.  That's just how it's been working.  The wrong Green (Danny for the Spurs) provided the scoring punch for the bad guys with seven in the quarter.  A very tightly contested quarter ended up with the score being tied dead nuts.  Score: Suns 73, SA 73

The fourth quarter continued to be gripping theater.  The teams traded blows and buckets.  Danny Green continued to flirt with flamethrower status and help the Spurs maintain a scant lead.  Plumlee converted an unusual three point play (missed the second of two free throws then scored a basket) to cut the lead to 83-82, but Marcus Morris committed an offensive foul on the ensuing offensive possession and the Spurs went back up by five (87-82).  Back came the Suns.  Gerald Green followed a three pointer with a two-handed throwdown and it was back to even (87-87).  Neither team led by more than three points the rest of the way.  Phoenix actually regained the lead 96-95 after Plumlee scored on an acrobatic roll across the lane assisted by P.J. Tucker.  Ultimately, though, Tony Parker was just too much.  Parker scored 15 of the Spurs final 16 points, reminding us that he's still one of the elite point guards in the game.  The Suns had absolutely no answer for him as Parker didn't even miss a shot during the stretch (7-7).  Still, the Suns had two chances to tie the game in the closing seconds.  Bledsoe missed a three pointer, but the rebound went off the Spurs.  After the next inbounds pass the ball ended up in Gerald Green's hands, but the play wasn't executed well and he didn't get a clean look.  His awkward launch from well behind the line was off the mark, allowing the Spurs to escape with  a harrowing victory.

Final Score: SA 99, Suns 96


Player of the Game:

Tony Parker (begrudgingly).  After being stifled for the first 41 minutes of the game Parker managed to score 15 points on 7-7 shooting in the final seven, damn near single-handedly carrying the Spurs to the victory.


Comments of the Game:

I feel like Green is gonna be hot this game.

No, not Danny Green.


"Plumlee: don't let his looks fool you, he's a terrific atlete."

Translation: he's white!


Dear Bright Side of the Sun Doubters,

Get Bent.


Markieff Morris


How come the refs at Spurs games never take us and give the points when they bet?

We're a 15-point underdog tonight.


I have absolutely no idea what to make of what I'm seeing from Markieff Morris.


Popovich is seriously yelling about the Suns travelling???

Talk about the pot calling the kettle black........


I've been straight impressed by our fringe NBA players.

They've looked like they aren't fringe NBA players.  Ish and Dionte in particular.  Plumlee too if that's what he was categorized as.


Seriously - this is like a playoff game!

And who would have thought we'd have THIS atmosphere against the Spurs on the 5th game of the season?


Professor Plum

In the air, with the orange roundie


This loss.  I can accept.  Good game.


The Good:

The Bench.  The reserves for Phoenix outscored their counterparts 46-24.  The Morrii, through some diablerie, have looked like real NBA basketball players for two straight games.  Ish Smith darts around the court like a whirling dervish.  Dionte was only on the court for 28 seconds before he started a fast break with a steal.  Archie Goodwin threw one down with fervor.  The box score may not love these guys, but it's easy to be enamored if you watch them play.

Markieff Morris.  He followed an impressive performance last night with 23 points (on 11-13 shooting) and 12 rebounds.  Let's hope this is the beginning of him evolving into a legitimate NBA caliber player instead of a two game anomaly.  We've seen a couple of flashes like this before, which just makes the ensuing regression more frustrating.

Miles Plumlee.  He just keeps stepping up to the challenge.  The Spurs aptly called "bigs" didn't deter Miles from mixing it up.  He finished with 15 points, six rebounds and two blocks while continuing his attack mode mentality.  Plumlee also continues to impress by showing some nice touch and footwork.  Just please... for the love of all that is holy... stop calling him Plumd**.  Anything but Plumd**.  It's like keying a Lamborghini.  Don't ruin the greatness that is Miles Plumlee by besmirching his good name with that putrescence.

The Bad:

Channing Frye and P.J. Tucker were largely ineffective.  Tucker still made his normal presence felt on the defensive end, but a combined 6 points on 2-11 shooting just isn't getting it done.

18 turnovers are still too much.  The most grievous offender, Bledsoe, reeled himself in tonight and pitched a shutout, but his partner in crime (Gerald Green) picked up the slack.  Or maybe in this case dropped the slack...  In any case, Green had a serious mental lapse and committed an offensive foul, charging recklessly into the lane, with just 40 seconds left when he should have been holding the ball to kill time off the clock.


The Ugly:

I'm still having a hard time getting over Pierre the Pelican.  The only thing I can think of even close to as terrifying is Albert and EJ saying Plumdog... Stop the madness.


Final Thoughts:

The Suns can come home with their heads held high.  They just gave the two best teams in the Western Conference from last season every single bit they could handle.  Winning on the road in the NBA is tough, even for the best teams.  A 3-2 start, especially with the way they've played, is nothing to be ashamed of.

And what a great game.  I'm really enjoying watching this team play.

The disappointment was all over Jeff Hornacek’s face as the final horn sounded. In a game that would have forced the NBA to take the Suns’ winning record seriously, Phoenix fell just short succumbing...

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Both the Phoenix Suns and the San Antonio Spurs are trying to go 4-1 with a a win on Wednesday night. Both just came off a big second-half comeback to win on Tuesday. And both are trying for that 4th win on the second night of a back to back.

But that's where the similarities end.

The opponent

The San Antonio Spurs came only a few seconds short of winning yet another title a few months ago, as opposed to the Suns who came only a few losses short of winning the lottery.

That title would have effectively bookended Tim Duncan's stellar career with 5 titles in 14 years as a Spur. But alas, Ray Allen made that miracle three-pointer to tie and send the game to overtime. Everything went downhill for the Spurs from there. We all saw it happen, and predicted it would go exactly as it did - with a Game 7 loss that was rarely in doubt. Now, the Spurs are still without a title since 2007.

This year, the Spurs enter the season yet another year older. At some point, they have to slow down right? At some point, Manu Ginobili and Tim Duncan will fracture a hip trying to run down the court on a fast break.

But that time is not now. And it may never come. The Spurs are just as strong as ever, playing exactly the way you'd think they play: hard, smart and just good enough to kick your butt before 48 minutes have passed.

The Suns

The Phoenix Suns, on the other hand, are decidedly NOT playing the way many thought they would play.

They come into the Spurs game having sported a top-6 ranked defense along with an offense buoyed by making 26 of their last 60 three-point attempts which further helps the dribble-drive efforts of young star Eric Bledsoe.

A year ago at this time, the Suns were 1-3 with a terrible offense and shaky defense. Clearly, this team is playing better than last year. That question is how much better, and for how long.

The stats


As you can see, the Suns are playing well. But their pace is just as confounding as the quality defense they play. Over the summer, the prevailing thought was that the Suns would try to run teams out of the gym while surrendering more points than they scored. Yet, their defense is better than average and their offense appears to be stuck in mud. 18th in pace? Really?

The Spurs, meanwhile, have built up similar stats to the Suns by beating the Memphis Grizzlies, LA Lakers and Denver Nuggets while losing to the Portland team the Suns beat.

The lineups


The takeaway

I love this, from nba.com's recap of last night's game.

NOT: One game removed from arguably his best all-around performance, Anthony Davis struggled from the field for much of the night against a scrappy Suns' frontcourt which kept him out of the paint and forced the athletic 6-foot-10 to settle for jumpers and contested everything at the rim. Davis made just 4-of-15 from the field and didn't even attempt a shot in his seven fourth-quarter minutes.

BAD MOVE: Davis was also neutralized defensively late in the game, by defending the perimeter for a handful of Phoenix's final possessions when the game was still within five points. Without the prolific shot blocker underneath the basket and a small Pelicans' lineup on the floor, Bledsoe had clear paths to the basket once he dribbled past the first layer of the defense.

Reminds me so much of the Suns of old - taking the bigs out of the paint with spacing, and opening up the lane for drives. A really, really great sign of the scheme that Jeff Hornacek brings to the table. Love it!

The nickname

We're spending a lot of time coming up with nicknames for each of the players in this exciting Suns lineup. How about this one to bring in a whole bunch of scrappy players together:

Icy Cold Flying Green Christmas Ish

Rolls off the tongue, don't it?

The key matchup

Since the Miles Plumlee vs. Tiago Splitter debate would rage on too long, let's settle for young Eric Bledsoe against Tony Parker.

On the season, Parker is putting up 19.5 points, 7.5 assists and 3.3 rebounds and 1 steal per game.

Bledsoe has produced 22.8 points (10.2 of those in the 4th quarter, on average), 7.8 assists, 5.8 rebounds and 2.3 steals per game.

Both players put up their stats in the context of a winning environment. Whoever wins Wednesday's matchup between these two will go a long way to deciding the game winner on the night.

The prediction

Suns win this game, or alternately: the Suns lose this game. Who the hell knows, right? The Suns certainly aren't following any preseason script, so whatever happens tonight will be what happens. But there's very little certainty with this team at this time.

More from Bright Side Of The Sun:

Will the Suns beat the Spurs to go 4-1

  209 votes | Results

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