Celtics 113, Suns 88

Raptors 98, Suns 71

Nuggets 111, Suns 81

Are these all of the Suns bad losses this season? No. These are the bad losses in the last ten games. The Suns have made an artform of losing in spectacular fashion this season with 11 of their 43 losses coming by 20 or more points. The practice of getting thumped has actually increased since Lindsey Hunter took over. In 24 games under Hunter the Suns have lost by 20+ six times after only doing so five times in 41 games under Alvin Gentry. While the Suns have a slightly better winning percentage over the last 24 (9-15 37.5%) than under Gentry (13-28 31.7%) it appears they have become more prone to calling it a night when they face adversity.

But when the Suns don't enter meltdown mode they've actually fared pretty well. The Suns are 13-10 this season in games decided by six or less points. Comparative to their overall record (22-43) that's actually a testament to their ability to close out games (considering how bad the team is). What's even more impressive is that the team is 8-1 in games decided by six or less points under Hunter.


Only once, in Hunter's first game, have the Suns won by more than six points in their last 24 games. Compared to a 5-9 record in such games under Gentry the team has finally figured out a formula for closing out tight contests.

So the team is either battling or getting blown out.

In the Suns nine wins under Hunter the average margin of victory is +4.8 points. In the teams 15 losses, the margin of defeat is -16.9. Quite an incongruous dynamic at play. The team either competes or gets their teeth kicked in. Is this a function of young players building confidence when they stay in games? The other end of the spectrum, and more prevalent, is that once the team becomes disconcerted they tend to enter meltdown mode and have quit several times in my opinion.

Lindsey Hunter has apparently noticed this himself after the Suns latest imbroglio at Houston, "Our guys have to compete and I didn't see that. It's very disappointing, very embarrassing, unacceptable."

I agree, coach, it's all of those things. But it's nothing new.

We can parse season data to analyze this from a different angle.

The Suns are 7-25 this season when their opponent scores at least 100 points. The differential for the Suns in those games is -11.3. In their seven wins the margin is +6.4, while it is -15.6 in the losses. The Suns have won close games and gotten their asses handed to them in the losses.

In 12 of those 32 games the Suns have also topped 100 points with their opponent. The Suns are 7-5 in those games with a +.9 average margin of victory. In the games the Suns haven't topped 100 (obviously they are 0-20) they have lost by an average of 17.8 points. 20 losses by an average of 17.8 points. The Suns have had their share of savage beatings.

What about the Lindsey Hunter era?

The Suns have reached 100 points five times and are 4-1 in those games with a +2.2 margin. Suns opponents have scored 100 12 times and the Suns are 2-10 in those games with a deficit of 14 points. The new defensive philosophy of the Suns shows up half the time (12 of 24 games holding their opponent below 100 points), but just as important is an offense that only shows up one in five games.

By this train of thought a game like Houston is nearly over by the time the Rockets score 30 in the first quarter (well on their way to 100) and by a score of 58-45 at halftime you should turn the tv off if you don't want to watch the Suns lose.

The Suns may be terrible, but at least they're predictably terrible.

This conclusion has other implications for your viewership and rooting interests as well. If you're a person of the disposition of cheering for draft lottery number combinations you might not want to watch competitive games. I lamented over the fact that the Suns could lose independent of getting humiliated after the debacle in Houston, but maybe they can't. Maybe those of you wanting the Suns to climb the lottery ladder have to accept that the Suns self-respect will likely need to be pillaged in order for the team to amass enough L's to pick commensurate with your wishes.

Somewhat of a grim prospect, but something to mull over nonetheless.

This also has ramifications for those of you that still want the Suns to win at any cost. If the Suns are still in the game at the end of the third quarter there's a very good chance they will win. That should give you a confidence boost when the game is coming down to the wire.

Hopefully you've enjoyed digesting this dissertation. It has to be easier to swallow than the noxious performance by the Suns on Wednesday. The data reveals the significance of the numbers 100 and six. With 17 left the Suns also need six to avoid 27 and infamy. They still have a chance at finishing three, but on 5/21 the holy grail of numbers is one.

*Special thanks to Kris Habbas for contributing research to this article.

Time: 4:30 MST TV: FSAZ The bipolar Phoenix Suns will be back in action Friday night as they visit the Atlanta Hawks. After a manic three-game win streak two weeks ago, the Suns have fallen into...

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When: Friday, March 15, 2013, 4:30 PM local time (7:30 EST)

Where: Philips Arena, Atlanta, GA

Watch/Listen: TV: FSAZ, Radio: 620 KTAR


Last Meeting:

March 1, 2013 in Phoenix

The Suns relied on a big night from the reserves, as the four starters not named Goran Dragic combined for just 15 points on a paltry 7-25 from the field. An all-bench lineup of Kendall Marshall, Markieff Morris, Marcus Morris, Wesley Johnson and Jermaine O'Neal played the entire fourth quarter and fended off a Hawks team that was never able to make a run to cut the Suns lead to less than five in the period.

The Suns 92-87 win was their third consecutive victory, which marked their second longest winning streak of the season. Dragic led the Suns in scoring with 19 despite sitting the entire fourth quarter. Al Horford had a game high 20 points for the Hawks.


Team Bios:

Atlanta Hawks: 35-29

Points per game: 97.1 (17th) Points allowed: 96.8 (12th)

Full team statistics.

The recently floundering Hawks did the Suns a solid by virtue of defeating the Lakers 96-92 on Wednesday night. To add injury to insult, Kobe Bryant sprained his ankle when Dahntay Jones stepped under him while Kobe attempted a fall away jumper in the game's closing seconds. Bush league or not, it was an obvious foul (the league said as much after the game)... so I'd like to thank the referees involved for not paying attention to the game and/or swallowing their whistles.

You can watch the incident here, if you haven't already seen it ad nauseam.

Prior to vanquishing the soulless, opprobrious Lakers the Hawks had managed just one win in their past seven games, albeit mostly against fairly stiff competition (they did lose to the Suns, though). To add to their struggles, the Hawks are now battling injuries to Josh Smith and Jeff Teague, both of which sat out the victory over the Lakers. The Hawks will be looking to build on the momentum of that win as they sit in a three way tie for fifth in the Eastern Conference and are only 2.5 games out of fourth.


Phoenix Suns: 22-43

Points per game: 94.4 (22nd) Points allowed: 100.4 (21st)

Full team statistics.

The good news is that it will take a herculean effort from the Suns to get pulverized as badly as they did Wednesday night against the Rockets. Losses like that require a special brand of horrible. Or do they? Despite a recent stretch where the Suns matched a season high with four wins in six games, the Suns have now been brutalized by at least 20 points in six of their last 12 losses. Massacres have become mundane.

After a 13-28 start under Alvin Gentry the Suns are now 9-15 under Lindsey Hunter. While the team has responded at times, they have been hopelessly overwhelmed at others. This shouldn't be a shocking revelation, though, since bad teams are generally consistently inconsistent. The Suns fell to 7-26 on the road after their loss at Houston, which puts them just a half-game ahead of Charlotte for the second worst road record in the league and doesn't inspire much confidence in their chances tonight.


What To Watch For:

Injuries: If the Hawks are without Smith and/or Teague that will obviously improve the Suns chances. Even if one or both play it is possible that their effectiveness may be limited.

Goran Dragic: Other than a nondescript performance against the Timberwolves, Dragic has been indispensable in the Suns other recent wins. Just like the team, though, Goran's play has been lent to caprice as he's failed to provide consistent performances. If Dragic doesn't have a good game it's hard to envision a scenario where the Suns win.

Revenge: It wouldn't take a leap in logic to surmise that the Hawks might still be sore about their recent loss to the Suns. Yes, the Suns have become an embarrassing loss. Hopefully the Hawks don't go all Houston on us...


2013 Lottery Watch:

The Phoenix Suns currently stand tied for fourth in the table tennis race. With the Hornets visiting the Wizards tonight, a Suns loss would either leave them in sole possession of fourth place or in a tie for third. Unfortunately, the Cavaliers and Timberwolves, two of the Suns fiercest adversaries, play on the road in very losable games.

There is a sense of renewed hope surrounding the Lakers potential lottery pick after the aforementioned loss and injury. The Lakers visit the Pacers tonight in a game that would appear to be a very likely loss. That would drop Los Angeles back into a tie with the Jazz, which would effectively put the Lakers on the outside looking in by virtue of tiebreakers. I will be a Pacers fan tonight.


The Final Word(s):

This is a game that has loss written all over it. It would be nice if the Suns decided to play more than 19 minutes of basketball tonight, though, and bounce back from one of their most demoralizing losses of the season. I would expect Hunter to give players a very short leash after the performance in Houston since he was just as disgusted that the team quit as I was. With a pretty full slate of games this should be a good night to catch the Suns and do some scoreboard watching.

It was a nice touch that the Houston Rockets acknowledged the return of Luis Scola, and a fun storyline that Goran Dragic and Marcus Morris also returned to their old stomping grounds. But there are...

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The first quarter included runs by both teams as the Rockets used an early 10-2 run to take a 19-10 lead, before the Suns countered with their own 8-0 spurt to close within one at 22-21. Wesley Johnson continued his recently solid play with 10 first quarter points to lead all scorers. Jermaine O'Neal also contributed with four points off the bench in his return to action. Donatas Motiejunas led the Rockets with seven points. Ultimately, Houston was able to impose their style and reached 30 points in the quarter. Score: Rockets 30, Suns 25.

The Suns started the second quarter with four reserves, along with Johnson, and quickly closed the gap, taking their first lead since 2-0 at a score of 35-34. The Suns even extended this lead to 43-38 before the wheels fell off. At that point, the Suns' discomfiting strategy appeared to be to dig as deep a hole as possible and then crawl into it to die. Houston closed the half on a 20-2 run. Twenty to two. Even that may not do justice to exactly how deplorably the Suns stumbled to the buzzer. 19 minutes of competitive spirit transmuted into five minutes of ineptitude in the blink of an eye. Score: Rockets 58, Suns 45.

Houston finished the half with three players in double figures, with James Harden leading all scorers with 13 points. Smilin' Wes had 12 for the Suns, but only two in the second quarter. Jermaine O'Neal had six points and two blocked shots in his return, but also gave away four turnovers. The Suns trailed by 13 points despite shooting 50% from the field. Houston was plus ten from the line as they shot three times as many free throws (21) as the Suns (7). The Suns also failed to adequately defend the three point line as the Rockets were 5-10 from deep. Goran Dragic had a relatively quiet first half after his fourth quarter pyrotechnics Saturday night as foul trouble hindered his effectiveness and limited him to five points and four assists.

The third quarter started like the first half ended, as Houston's run ballooned to 27-5 before the Suns decided to rejoin the game for a brief interval. Oh, the brevity of consistent play by this team. That use of bold was to emphasize brief. After the Suns closed a 17 point gap to 11 at 67-56, the massacre ensued. Not just your standard annihilation, either. The Rockets began globetrotting while the Suns generaled along. The Suns appeared so pathetically overmatched that it is stupefying that the Suns actually knocked off this team just four days prior. The Suns lost the quarter 32-17, and if you were watching it probably didn't feel that close.

The fourth quarter was garbage time. Hot, fetid garbage. Congratulations if you actually made it all the way through the game because you showed more heart than the Suns did tonight. That is all.

Final Score: 111-81


Player of the Game:

The Rockets had a balanced attack (and the Suns were far too terrible to have a player in consideration), but I'll go ahead and give it to Motiejunas since he set a new career high with 19 points.


Comments of the Game:

No offense to Luis, but I hope we can trade him in the offseason.


Turnover. Turnover. Turnover. Turnover.

Suns basketball


Suns look quite relaxed

i.e. sleepwalking through the game


We played them even with Dragic in there.

Our offense just completely disappears when he takes a seat.


Houston running away with it

Uh oh


Last game it was Koufos.

Now, Asik. Both of them defensive centers scoring in our paint defense. Yikes.


Garrett cuts it to 30!


The Good:

Indomitable spirit. Well, that may be too strong an adjective, or completely inapplicable after the way this game degenerated into a savage beating, but the Suns are still coming out to play despite their obvious lack of talent. I know I'm reaching, but I hate leaving this section empty.


The Bad:

After the strong early start, the Suns' effort appeared to dissipate. As soon as the Rockets punched, the Suns cowered instead of punching back. The Suns' play in the second half was sloppy and uninspired... and downright embarrassing.

The Suns' defense is so bad that we're going to need to start thinking up some new the Suns defense is so bad jokes. Let me start. The Suns defense is so bad that they're now calling the free throw line AND the three point line the charity stripe. Feel free to insert your own in the comments. Who says I don't spread levity?


The Ugly:

20-2. Really? Way to close out a half, Suns. Definitely makes you salivate for the second half after being victimized by watching that bloodbath.


Final Thoughts:

Add this to a list of forgettable games this season. Some nights, the Suns just can't compete. This was one of them. For every glimmer of hope, there is the crepuscular morbidity of games like tonight. It sure doesn't feel like we're building something good here.

At least the Suns lost.

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