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Defense MP, that's what this team needs from you. (AP Photo/Matt York)

Forget last night's blowout loss to the Denver Nuggets, the real problem was illustrated on a white board that's been hanging in the Suns locker room since early in the season. The board lists 16 NBA teams with their 10-game average for defensive field goal percentage.

The number one team on the board is the team that's held its opponents to the lowest average shooting percentage over the past ten games. The teams are listed in order from 1 to 15 with a spot available for the Suns. When the board first went up early in the season there were 15 teams and then the Suns with the rank number of about 29 next to their name.

Then the Suns got serious about playing defense. There was the famous three-hour practice on December 30 after getting stomped at home by the 76ers. The defense improved and the Suns moved up on that board until at one point they were hanging around second or third. Think about that, for a portion of the season the Suns were in the top five of all NBA teams in defensive field goal percentage. 

Last night that board showed the Suns back in the high-20's (27 I believe) and that was before the game. That means over their last ten games, the Suns have slipped all the way from the top of the NBA back to the bottom in defense. 

Here's the numbers in more detail and a look at three distinct portions to the season so far:

Season 1 - Defense Optional

  • In their first 30 games the Suns had a 13-17 record (.433 win %)
  • During that time they allowed opponents to shoot .491 from the field
  • League average is .457 so .491 is really, really bad. It's only happened one time over a full season since 1995 (2005-06 Raptors)
  • In their wins the Suns held teams to .476 shooting 
  • In their losses .502. So even in the games won, the defense was still below league average

Season 2 - Defensive Juggernaut

  • In the next 23 games, the Suns really turned up the defensive pressure with teams shooting just 44.2% 
  • The Suns went 14-9 (.609 win %) during this stretch
  • In wins the Suns held teams to just .412 which is better than the NBA-best Bulls season average of .429
  • Even in losses opponents shot .478 which you will note is almost exactly what they gave up in wins during the first 30 games
  • The defense had not only improved, it improve to a near-elite level
Season 3 - ???
  • Starting with the loss to the Mavericks before the All-Star break, the Suns are on a troubling trend
  • Over the past 10 games the Suns are 6-4 but have allowed the defensive FG% to jump up to .485
  • In the four losses, the Suns gave up .516 
  • In the six wins the Suns gave up .464 which is once again, worse than the league average and much worse than the .412 allowed in wins during the previous 23-game stretch
  • The schedule in these ten games plays an important role as well. The four losses came to the Mavericks, Celtics, Thunder and Nuggets who are all playoff teams
  • The wins came against five sub-.500 teams with the only "good" win coming against the Hawks and in that game they gave up 48.1 percent shooting to a team that had played the night before
To recap....Opponents' FG%
  • .491 in the first 30 games
  • .442 in the next 23 games
  • .485 in the last 10 games
With Nash banged up and Channing Frye on the shelf for a couple of weeks, the Suns have no choice but to play defense over their final 19 games like they did during that stretch from December 31 to February 15. 

The question is, how good were the Suns during that strong defensive stretch?

There were a lot of games against teams that had played the night before and/or had significant injuries. When you look through the list of games won during that stretch you can make excuses for the other team in a lot of them.

We will know in just a few more weeks, but right now it sure does look like this Suns team is good enough to beat the bad teams but not good enough to compete with the better teams in the league unless they catch some lucky breaks.

And now, the breaks are going against the Suns with the injury bug predictably hitting Nash who has carried this team for so long.

PHOENIX — Praising Grant Hill’s defense has become an almost routine part of Alvin Gentry’s postgame press conferences. Gentry was at it again Tuesday night after Hill put the...

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PHOENIX — Before every game Phoenix Suns head coach Alvin Gentry fills the locker room whiteboard with a few offensive keys to the game and defensive keys to the game. They’re often times...

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Well, that sucked. This game gave me deja vu while the Nuggets gave the Suns a good old fashion butt-kicking. They came out strong, set the tone and played great defense. They defended the PnR very well, trapping Nash and Brooks out on the perimeter which forced many turnovers. They played with hunger and focus that led to good anticipation on their rotations which led to a lot of steals. Got to give them their props. Yet as good as their defense was the Suns just made a lot of sloppy plays. For a team like the Nuggets who are young, versatile and athletic; you don't want to turn the ball over against them. It didn't help either that the Suns couldn't buy a shot the entire night. 

Key words for the game: Flat, Sloppy. That's how the Suns looked and played.

Player of the Game

Marcin Gortat- 14, 18, 4, 3 steals and 2 blocks. He's becoming one of my favorites. I love this guy! He plays with so much passion, hunger and aggressiveness. That's what you call "heart". No offense Lopez, but I don't care how much potential you have because Heart>Potential. If there was one bright spot this entire game it was the "Polish Hammer". It's like he was the only guy out there.

Unfortunately you can't win games 1 vs 5( unless your Jordan, Kobe...) I don't know what to take from this game. The Nuggets obviously wanted it more. We all knew it would be difficult without Channing Frye and Steve Nash playing through injury. These games will happen from time to time, but this team needs to wake up and just grind it out no matter how tired or worn down they are. For a while it even looked like Gentry had given up. I don't know what to say about this. I thought they wanted to make the playoffs?

Well, good game. The Nuggets are clearly the better team.

Comments of the Night

VC is good in NBA 2k11 because as the user you can control his shot selection unfortionatly in real life, there is no cure.- Berecki

This game is seriously worse than the day I got fired, went to jail, and found out my girlfriend cheated on me with 3rd string quarterback from Texas Tech.- TheRza82


Nuggets vs Suns coverage

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Denver Stiffs





Game Notes

1st Qtr

  • Nice defense by Robin on Nene makes up for him blowing a point blank post opportunity
  • K-Mart is going to destroy Hak in the post
  • Nash misses point-blank layup...groin issue raising it's head (yes, I went there)
  • Nene and Martin are going to be a real handful
  • And no, I am no longer talking about groins
  • 22-12, 5:04. Kind of ugly out there. Nugs 10-13 shooting
  • Gortat in, Robin relegated to Iowa
  • Average height of the Suns dancer is about 5'3.
  • 25-30...nice little come back

2nd Qtr

  • AB time...bring it, little one
  • K-Mart vs. Warrick is as Gortat vs. Harrington
  • Josh time...come on, Chill. People are rooting for ya. Do something good.
  • Suns keep trying to pretend Gortat has a post game, but he doesn't. He doesn't however, rebound the hell out of the ball
  • Bench not scoring, but they are at least defending
  • Brooks bails out an ugly possession where Suns couldn't get Dudley the ball against Lawson in the post
  • Lawson and Felton on the floor vs. MP and AB. Every off poss needs to go to MP in the post
  • Nice hustle play by MP on that rebound. Gentry said he felt bad after getting kicked out of the Houston game
  • Nash back in, 43-36, Denver. Bench was -2 w/ Brooks and Nash got no additional rest.
  • Nuggets look so much more athletic than the Suns
  • Yes, if you leave JR Smith wide open for a three he will shoot it...and usually make it
  • Vince just gave himself a hand after hitting that shot
  • Not sure why, but Suns in a zone. Could be b/c they gave up 24 points in the paint in the 1st qtr
  • Dueling defensive three second violations...NBA, where exciting happens
  • Got to give it to Denver for being very active on defense. They double the post and rotate quickly. But Suns aren't exactly crisp either
  • There you go...defensive intensity has picked up which leads to a turnover and Warrick and 1. 49-53
  • Hill tackled Nene to prevent a layup but they didn't call the foul...lol
  • And the Suns waste their effort with several really dumb turnovers. 14 so far on the game for 24 Nuggets points.
  • 59-49

3rd Qtr

  • Gortat starting the half
  • So Nugs now up 65-50. Remember when I said the Nuggets w/o Melo and Billups were done? Me either
  • Grant Hill trying to go into 1999 mode here....b/c Vince certainly isn't
  • Nash hits a wide open three after a dumb Nuggets turnover. That's his first three attempted
  • Good effort there by Warrick to fly in for the OReb attempt and draw a foul on K-Mart
  • Carter to the bench, not his night. As if there were a chance of him having three good games in a row
  • Brooks in early here. Time to shine AB
  • 81-61, 2:00
  • Game Over
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