For the first time in ever Mike D'Antoni was upset at the lack of defense his team played at U.S. Airways Center...
Who doesn't like a win over the Los Angeles Lakers? the Phoenix Suns improve to 17-10 on the season with a 117-90 victory over the rival Lakers (13-15) to inch closer to the top of the Pacific Division standings.
Miles Plumlee led the way with 17 points and 20 rebounds. The 20 rebounds are a career-high for Plumlee and the points were just one off. The bench chipped in with 61 points led by Gerald Green's 22 points and Markieff Morris' 19 points. The bench was raining threes and so was the team as they went 14-32 from deep to run the Lakers off the court before the holiday break.
The first quarter was soooo Swaggy P I do not know how to put it into words. Instead of trying to artfully describe the play of Nick Young, here is a simple list of his accomplishments in the first quarter:
I think that about does it. It was magic.
The Suns rained threes here with Gerald Green going 4-6 and Marcus Morris going 2-2 in the quarter leading to the Suns ballooning the lead up to 64-51 at the half. The line-up of Goran Dragic, Gerald Green, Marcus Morris, Markieff Morris, and Channing Frye has been a game-changer for the team all year with their energy and shooting. This game was no exception.
All of the momentum swung in the favor of the Suns this quarter with the shooting and energy that the team played with. At the half Miles Plumlee had a double-double with 11 points and 11 rebounds bringing the energy on the glass on both ends.
As bad as the Lakers defense was in the second quarter, the offense was that much worse in the third quarter scoring 17 points on 3-16 shooting as a team. The Suns had some highlights with Bledsoe connecting with Miles Plumlee on a dunk and the lead just kept growing. By the end of the quarter the Suns were up by 20+ points and Plumlee was working on a 20-20 night with points and rebounds.
Two things worth note here:
1. Kendall Marshall played the final two minutes and looked like Kendall Marshall.
2. Dionte Christmas checked in and nailed a cold-blooded three in the face of the defense. It is definitely feeling a lot more like Christmas now. Happy Holidays folks.
If Gene Hackman does not coach this game I am going to be one disappointed basketball fan thanks to this metaphor land I am about to create...
The Mash Unit as they are becoming in LA will be without Kobe Bryant, Steve Nash, Steve Blake, Jordan Farmar are all out and Pau Gasol will be playing, but not at 100% as he is dealing with a health ailment. These are not the Lakers that anyone is used to seeing, you father, you, or your little brother. They are a Mash Unit filled with replacement players worthy of a Hollywood Movie.
I am surprised that Orlando Jones is not suiting up for this one or Keanu Reeves taking the helm as starting point guard. Maybe in Los Angeles. Maybe.
With all of the injuries the Lakers look a lot like the Suns did last year. A parade of players playing 15-25 minutes a game, nobody taking control as "the guy," and a coaching staff trying to be creative with what they have. To his credit, despite refusing to do so here in Phoenix, Mike D'Antoni has done a good job with the next man up strategy going deep into his bench to find players to produce. He has turned Nick Young and Xavier Henry into viable wing options that are playing pretty well on the season as a whole.
If anything has come from the injury to Bryant it is the play of Henry, a career resurgence. Henry is on pace to match or exceed his career numbers from the first three years of his career in the D'Antoni system.
Playing without a true point guard will make this a tough match-up for the Lakers.
They brought in Kendall Marshall as a body to play minutes, but as Suns fans know he is not the answer. Jodie Meeks ran the point last game and with that the team shot 32.5% from the field with 11 total assists. It will only get worse against the Suns with the two-headed monster on the perimeter of Dragic and Bledsoe.
Over the past eight games the duo are averaging 39.8 points, 10.4 assists, and 3.4 steals per game on 49.1% shooting, 42.0% from three.
Good luck, Lakers.
Preview Video Chat With Lakers Nation
Projected Starting Line-Ups
PG - Eric Bledsoe v. Jodie Meeks
SG - Goran Dragic v. Xavier Henry
SF - P.J. Tucker v. Wesley Johnson
PF - Channing Frye v. Shawne Williams
C - Miles Plumlee v. Pau Gasol
Potential Lakers Inactives: Kobe Bryant (Broken Leg, Out), Steve Nash (Back/Hamstring, Out), Pau Gasol (Respiratory Illness, Game Time Decision), Steve Blake (Right Elbow, Out), and Jordan Farmar (Left Hamstring, Out)
A review of the week that was featuring recaps, stats, quotes, notes, NBA Draft Updates, and a preview of the upcoming week in Phoenix Suns basketball...
The last four games for the Phoenix Suns (16-10) were arguably the most important of the season going head-to-head with perceived playoff teams in the Western Conference. They went 3-1 in this stretch making the playoff teams their peers and stepping into a new tier this season in the eyes of the NBA as a whole.
In the NBA this season there are five tiers in the Western Conference when sorting the teams. At this stage, where the Suns are my surprise you.
Tier Four: Memphis Grizzlies, New Orleans Pelicans, Minnesota Timberwolves, and the Los Angeles Lakers
Tier Three: Golden State Warriors, Denver Nuggets, Dallas Mavericks, and the Phoenix Suns
Tier Two: Houston Rockets, Los Angeles Clippers, and Portland Trail Blazers
Tier One: San Antonio Spurs and Oklahoma City Thunder
In their past four games the Suns have knocked off every team in their tier pushing them to the head of the class. They are starting to make waves as a tough team that is not going to roll over simply because the name on the jersey of the other team. On the season they have gone toe-to-toe with the three best teams in the conference.
These tiers are subjective based on my takes on the teams and their ceilings. When I grade a team and rank them it is based on how close they are to winning an NBA Championship.
Right now, a little over a quarter into the season, the Suns are the sixth closest team to a Western Conference Finals and a shot at the NBA Championship. That does not mean that they are contenders. Looking at each team there are only two legitimate contenders in the conference, maybe three, but point being the Suns are further along than most would have ever dreamed and if they keep pacing themselves this way knocking on the doors of Tier Two is not out of the question.
That is what happens when you begin to knock off who are considered your peers with regularity...
The Suns have scored 100+ points in seven straight games including four out of the five games during the season high winning streak and in the only loss in the past two weeks. This is a season-high for the Suns in terms of getting over the century mark and the longest run since February/March of 2011. With the Lakers, Warriors, and 76ers on the horizon this streak could easily reach double-digits.
Quote of the Week
2013 is my year. -- Goran Dragic in an interview with USA Today
(Hopefully he meant the 2013-2014 season, 2013 has only eight more days and most would like this Dragic to stick around)
2014 NBA Draft Update
Surrogate Watch continues and the Suns have two first round picks with the current projections, none of which are in the lottery. A slight change of pace from pre-season projections. Here is the update on how the three picks look right now:
Minnesota Timberwolves (13-14) -- No. 12 Overall (Pick stays in Minnesota based on Protections) The Wolves solve their woes at shooting guard, perimeter scoring, and shooting with Kansas freshman Wayne Selden here.
Washington Wizards (12-13) -- No. 19 Overall (Pick goes to Phoenix based on Protections) This season Wisconsin sophomore wing Sam Dekkerr has shown flashes to be a quality five tool wing or a knock down three-point shooter. Really good athlete that would fit right in to the uptempo style.
Phoenix Suns (16-10) -- No. 23 Overall (Pick stays in Phoenix based on Protections) The power forward position has been a hole that needs filling for a while. This year Michigan State senior Adreian Payne is showing that there is very little he cannot do on the basketball court.
Indiana Pacers (22-5) -- No. 30 Overall (Pick goes to Phoenix based on Protections) Much like Archie Goodwin last year this pick is the best athlete available. Indiana freshman wing Troy Williams might be a reach, but he has the physical tools to be a very productive wing at the NBA level.
Keep following along here to get updates and information on the 2014 NBA Draft Class and more.
News & Notes
Suns History Lesson
This week in Suns History: December 1992, The Phoenix Suns finish the month 14-0 for the third best month by a team in NBA History.
This week in Suns History: The Phoenix Suns are 12-6 on Christmas Day (11-5 at home and 1-1 on the road) in franchise history.
Previewing the Week Ahead:
Monday, December 23rd vs. Los Angeles Lakers (13-14)
Friday, December 27th @ Golden State Warriors (15-13)
Saturday, December 28th vs. Philadelphia 76ers (8-20)
It has always been said that it is tougher to stay at the top than it is to get there. For the Suns they are at a version of the top that seemed unattainable just a few months ago and now are in a position to prove they belong. Last week they arrived on the scene going 3-1 against quality opponents and this week they have three games against average to bad teams.
The Kobe Bryant-less Lakers will be a challenge with their roster pieced together with unfamiliar faces. No Bryant, No Steve Nash, and potentially no Pau Gasol.
The Warriors have been up-and-down this season following every winning streak with an equal or close to equal losing streak. They are fun and look great on occasion, but have been one of the more inconsistent teams in the league this year. Lastly, the 76ers come in with a healthy Michael Carter-Williams. On the season they are 7-10 with him and 1-10 without him in the line-up. Enough said.
Big Question Going Forward: Are the Suns another good team in the middle of the conference standings or can they compete with the likes of the Houston Rockets (18-10) and Los Angeles Clippers (19-9) on the next tier?