After an easy schedule to start the season, the Phoenix Suns face a daunting slate of games through early January. By January 11, the Suns will have played 24 road games versus only 16 home games. That kind of scheduling makes you think the Grinch himself made the Suns schedule.
The good news is that the Suns can get those roadies out of the way earlier in the year, leaving the second half of the season's slate full of home games when the pressure ratchets up a few notches.
But for now, the road is the Suns' path to contention. Or, at least, the relevancy.
Coach Hornacek explained last week that the Suns have split their schedule into 4-game sets - home vs. away. If the Suns can win 3 out of each 4 home games and split each 4-game set of roadies, they would have 50 wins at the end of the year and would likely make the playoffs.
So far, the Suns are behind the bar at home (6-4) and slightly ahead of the bar on the road (6-5). Unfortunately, the team failed to capitalize on an opening schedule that put 7 of the first 9 games at home. But two of their early games were back-to-back sets, with the Suns dropping both of them in ignominious fashion.
After that, the Suns have spent a lot of time on the road, with 10 of 14 away from Phoenix including four back-to-back sets culminating in Tuesday's home game against scrappy Miami. The Miami game looks winnable, except that it will be the Suns' fourth game in five days, a night after trying not to be embarrassed by the Clippers in LA.
So while the schedule has looked quite manageable so far in terms of opponent winning percentage, the devil is in the road games. Those are notoriously difficult to win, no matter how easy the opponent.
And the Suns aren't done on the road yet. Including Monday's Clipper game (above), the Suns still have 9 road games coming (versus 4 home games) between now and January 11. These upcoming games including four more back-to-backs where the Suns are 1-4 already in second game of those sets.
Making matters worse, there's only a couple of winnable games based on how well these teams are playing. The Suns face a daunting task of staying afloat between now and January 11.
Let's hope Isaiah Thomas comes back soon to add a little more firepower to the offense, which has sputtered in three of the past six games without him.