Basketball is a lot more fun to watch when the ball doesn't stop moving, and the Suns are buying into that flow more this season with a bend-but-don't-break defense oriented to keep the game going.

The Phoenix Suns are playing with a defensive spirit this season that's unusual for the franchise, and the results are already showing with a top-10 defensive rating (per Players are buying into the scheme, and the mindset of the team seems tougher than ever.

But are the Suns really playing better defense this season? Or does it just look like it?

In fact, the Suns are giving up the same number of scores per game (38.6 vs. 38.4) on the same number of field goal attempts. Even broken down, the Suns are surrendering the same number of threes (8.0 vs. 7.7) and twos as a year ago.

But their defensive rating is better (9th vs. 17th per and their points allowed per game is down by two points (101.0 vs. 103.3).

What gives?

Maybe the league has regressed on defense?

No, the league scoring average this year is the same as a year ago (100.5 vs. 100.8), so it's not like offenses have improved across the board. Teams are taking more threes than ever, but not scoring any more than they did a year ago. That's the butterfly effect. You change one thing (three point attempts) and it naturally affects other areas.

The Suns are just giving up fewer freebies.

Last year, the Suns were 4th-worst in the league, allowing 24.8 free throws per night. This year, the Suns are allowing only 22.9 attempts (13th best). You might think that's not much different, but when the league average point differential is 0, giving yourself a +2 in that area makes a huge difference.

Add in that opponents are shooting a low % on FTs (69%) against the Suns, and there's your difference.

But what about the rest of it? What about the improved rim protection they were supposed to get with Tyson Chandler? What about being one of the league's best rebounding teams (4th overall)? What about Eric Bledsoe and Ronnie Price dogging opposing points guards, and the Suns being 8th in steals this season?

It's all about a change in style.

A year ago, the Suns were ultimately effective on defense by being highly aggressive on opponent shots. They blocked more shots last season, but as a result committed more fouls and gave up more second chance points.

Remember watching the Suns successfully defend the shot, but pulling your hair out over giving up the offensive rebound?

This year, the Suns are grabbing those defensive rebounds because they are less interested in blocking the initial shot. Maybe that's the Tyson Chandler effect. Chandler used to be one of the better shot blockers in the league while also being a great rebounder and defender. These days though, at 33, he appears more interested in deterring shots and grabbing rebounds than going for the highlight reel block.

As a result, the Suns are allowing teams to take the shot - 22nd in field goal percent allowed - but ferocious in grabbing that rebound if they miss - 4th in defensive rebound rate.

It's a bend-but-don't-break defensive style that's pretty effective so far.

I expect the coaches will ramp up their efforts to increase the Suns' aggressiveness on the initial shot without going so far as to regress in other areas. It's a tough balance, though. Being more aggressive on the shot gets you going away from the basket, which takes you that much more out of rebound position.

Still, you'd think that a rotation containing Tyson Chandler, Alex Len, P.J. Tucker, Ronnie Price and Eric Bledsoe could be more effective on opponent shot attempts than 22nd in the league (FG% allowed) without giving up ground in other areas. That's just effort to get into their legs more on the shot attempt. Jimmy Butler made some great shots in the 4th other night, but he also got to rise up to take those shots.

"When a guy is rolling," Hornacek said of the Suns defense on Butler. "You got to be up into his legs. You can't give him a little space and let him think about going up for the shot and waiting for your hands to go down and then he just rises up and shoots it."

This style - allowing the shot in order to grab the miss and run - was a staple of the mid-2000s Suns. No one called the SSOL Suns a defensive juggernaut, but they always allowed one of the lowest free-throw attempt rates in the league and ranked mid-pack (partially) as a result.

The Suns are more fun to watch this season than last. Part of that is fewer stoppages in play to watch the opponent shoot free throws. Instead, they are grabbing the rebound or taking the ball out quickly to get back down the court. The Suns are third in pace this season, much faster than a year ago and that has helped their offense. It's easier to score in early transition offense, before the defense gets set.

Enjoy the flow of the game, folks. That's by design.

The Jam capped off this week with their first win of the season!

The Jam played three games this week, and their struggles continued for the most party. The team lost to both the Reno BigHorns and the LA D-Fenders before finally pulling out their first win last night against the Idaho Stampede.

The team will play again on Tuesday, against the Santa Cruz Warriors.

Jam 119 - BigHorns 123

Much like last year, the BigHorns bring one of the fastest-paced offenses on the planet to the court every game, which leads to monumental scoring outbursts from time to time. This game, maybe a little bit disappointingly, was just slightly higher scoring than most.

The teams appeared fairly evenly matched in the first half, but Reno came out of the break and dropped 41 in the third quarter, essentially sealing the game. In the loss, however, there were signs of improvement from the Jam, who won the rebounding and turnover battles.

Reno was led by Ricky Ledo (30 pts, 9 rbds), Reggie Hearn (30 pts, 5 rbds), and NBA veteran Sundiata Gaines (23 pts, 8 rbds, 5 assts). The team shot 44.4% from beyond the arc, a troubling number for the Jam, who have struggled so far this season defending the 3 point line.

The Jam were led by Xavier Munford (35 pts, 4 assts) and CJ Wilcox (26 pts, 5 rbds, 6 assts). Worryingly, Derek Cooke Jr. managed to score zero points in nearly 30 minutes of play. It will be important for the Jam that this ultra-athletic player becomes more comfortable in attempting shots if he is going to play this much, which at this point is a near requirement given the team's lack of size.

Jam 105 - D-Fender 114

This was the first matchup between the Jam and the D-Fenders this season. The D-Fenders are widely seen as a top competitor in the West to knock-off the Santa Cruz Warriors, and as such this was an important test for this new Jam squad.

The Jam continued their trend of better rebounding, going even with Los Angeles, but continued the sloppy ball-handling, allowing 12 steals, many of which led to fast-break opportunities. The Jam had the lead going into the 4th quarter after a strong start, but crumbled down the stretch, giving up a 17 point swing in the final quarter.

The D-Fenders were led by Manny Harris (31 pts, 5 rbds, 4 assts), Vander Blue (24 pts, 5 rbds, 5 assts) and Lakers assignee Anthony Brown (22 pts, 3 rbds, 3 assts). The Jam were able to hold the D-Fenders to under 40% from beyond the arc, which is an improvement over earlier games.

The Jam were led by Earl Clark (22 pts, 5 rbds, 4 assts), CJ Wilcox (22 pts, 5 rbds, 4 assts) and Xavier Munford (20 pts, 6 rbds, 9 assts). The lack of three point shooting from non-assignment players is becoming a glaring issue. Without counting Wilcox, the Jam attempted just 11 3FG, and made just 2. The Jam players will need to work on this going forward.

Stampede 79 - Jam 98

The Stampede appear to be an improved team this year, with the addition of NBA veteran (and ASU alum) Jeff Ayres, along with rookies Treveon Graham (VCU) and JJ O'Brien (SDSU). In this game, however, the result was rarely in doubt, as the Jam jumped out to a big lead in the 2nd quarter and held it throughout the rest of the game.

Derek Cooke Jr. continued his struggles, and was benched early in favor of Javier Carter, which proved a good move from coach Chris Jent. Carter ended up with 6 points and 7 rebounds in 18 minutes. The Jam strongly out-rebounded the Stampede (+17), continuing their strong improvement in that area. Also improved was the ball-handling - the Jam gave up just 6 steals, and 14 total turnovers.

The Jam were led by Earl Clark (23 pts, 10 rbds), CJ Wilcox (18 pts, 8 rbds), Terrico White (15 pts, 6 rbds, 3 assts) and Branden Dawson (14 pts, 7 rbds). The team shot poorly from beyond the arc, but there was more involvement from players that are not CJ Wilcox, which has to be seen as an improvement.

The Stampede were led by Treveon Graham (18 pts, 9 rbds), Jeremy Williams (16 pts, 5 rbds), and Jack Cooley (9 pts, 10 rbds). The Stampede shot terribly, just 33.3%, and seemed to struggle all night with just about every facet of the game.

Suns power forward Mirza Teletovic found his shooting touch and then some to hit his "basketball groove" with the Suns.


Even the pronunciation proved difficult.

Brandon Knight leads the Suns in many categories, including spelling.

.@Suns players try to spell @Teletovic33's name. Spoiler alert: It doesn't go well WATCH:

— (@NBAcom) November 13, 2015

Suns notebook: point guard Ronnie Price applies full-court pressure that irritates opponents and shifts momentum.


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