Phoenix Suns trying to maintain consistency each quarter, each game as they near .500

Steve Nash and the Phoenix Suns held Golden State, who leads the league in three-point shooting percentage, to just 11.1 percent shooting from beyond the arc on Monday. (AP Photo/Ben Margot)

PHOENIX — It’s no stretch to call the 2010-11 Phoenix Suns an enigma. From beating the NBA’s contenders to getting abused by the league’s worst, the Suns have seen it all this season.

On the heels of a five-game winning streak and an ensuing three-game losing streak, the Suns seem to have found a consistent level of play that’s keeping them in each game regardless of who’s on the opposing bench.

The Suns have won four of their last five games, including wins over good teams (Boston, New Orleans), a bad team (Milwaukee) and a near equal (Golden State). Now, as the All-Star break and trade deadline approach, the Suns are looking to maintain that consistency as they near the .500 mark.

“It’s not about who we’re playing, it’s about what we do,” Suns center Channing Frye said after practice Wednesday. “We’re just trying to get better and continue to win.”

Over the last five games, the Suns have shot better than 43 percent from the field. Outside of that, the statistics are relatively inconsistent, from rebounding to turnovers to three-point shooting.

Consistency in the stats, however, hasn’t been the key to sustaining the level of play required to beat the best and the worst. Rather, it’s been the team’s ability to play each opponent as if it were a conference leader.

“To me, you just play the schedule as it falls and try to do the very best you can,” Suns coach Alvin Gentry said.

While the Suns have been able to bring the same game to the floor each night over the recent stretch, even in a losing effort against Oklahoma City, the problem has been swoons down the stretch. In four of the past five games, the Suns have been outscored in the fourth quarter, and against Boston, both teams tallied just 13 points.

While the late-game struggles only cost the Suns the game against the Thunder, they have also prevented the Suns’ veterans from resting late in games. Despite holding a 25-point lead at one point, the Suns allowed the Bucks to climb back into the game, cutting the lead to nine and forcing Steve Nash and Grant Hill back into action to seal the game.

“When we have trouble scoring — I think we get in a little slump at the beginning of the fourth — we need to go back to posting it up,” Frye said. “We need to get those easy shots and get into the bonus.”

Gentry didn’t get into such specifics when asked about the team’s fourth-quarter struggles, but did offer his opinion as to what’s causing them.

“I don’t think it’s a matter of energy,” Gentry said. “I think sometimes we become a little bit too conservative. We’ve got to keep the flow and the pace of the game up.

“There will be timing clock situations where we’ve got to slow down, but eight-minute area all the way up into the three-minute area, we’ve got to keep the pace of the game up and I think sometimes we’ve become a little too conservative in those situations, especially when we have a lead.”

The Suns know that in order to have a shot at the playoffs, they must sustain intensity for 48 minutes on a night-to-night basis.

“Obviously we’ve got a mountain to climb to get into the playoffs,” Gentry said. “We’ve got to try to find a way to continue to win games.”

Perhaps most important to the Suns’ continued consistency is how they play on the defensive end. The team’s notoriously porous defense has accomplished a number of lofty feats of late.

The Suns held the league’s top shooting team (Boston) to 34.2 percent shooting, lowly Milwaukee to 31.1 percent and kept both Boston and Golden State, the NBA’s top three-point shooting team, to a paltry 11.1 percent from deep.

The defense’s first test of consistency comes Thursday night as the Warriors come to Phoenix looking for revenge. If the Suns can again play as they have the past five games and again limit Golden State, they will be looking at .500 for the first time since Dec. 19.

“It’s been an interesting, difficult season at times, Hill said. “But we’ve improved and we’re playing a lot better.”

Tags: Golden State Warriors Phoenix Suns

  • Steve

    I’ve been out of town and travelling a bunch lately, so I haven’t been able to watch the Suns play of late, but I’ve been keeping up with the stat lines, and the recent strides the Suns have made seem to indicate they’re going to end up on the better side of .500 by a few games. I still don’t think they’re going to make the playoffs, but a winning season AND the lottery isn’t that bad of a deal.

  • Derek

    I still wish we could make one more trade to get a pf. just move lopez childress and peitrus

  • pete

    I don’t agree on trading pietrus. he’s like a second coming of r. beLL for us. a great 1 on 1 defender & he gave strength to the team.

  • Kyle


    Pitrus seems valuable, though with him, Hill, and Dudley we’re back to 3 effective SFs.

    Anyone else watching Earl Clarke’s recent games in Orlando? He’s starting to show promise and I wonder if we just didn’t give him a chance or any faith.

  • Cam

    Isn’t Hills’ contract up this year. I think it is. Although if we draft a SF this year then once again we end up with 3 SF’s. I say trade Pietrus while he has value but only if it gets us something/someone worth it. Otherwise we should keep him. I just wish VC would play better. I would rather trade him to a team that needs salary cap relief before the deadline instead of seeing him get bought out after the season is done. It would be nice to have Marcin Gortat, Orlando’s 1st rounder and get another pick out of the Orlando trade.

  • Mike Meez

    Hill’s contract is up after this year. My guess is he re-signs for one more year to coincide with the last year on Nash’s contract, assuming Nash is still here. If Nash isn’t here, who knows. Grant will be 39 by the beginning of next season.

    Suns look like they’re playing better ball overall. I think they’ll squeek into the playoffs, they’re only 5.5 games behind the 5th seed and plenty of season left.

  • Rob

    Do you guys think Antawn Jamison could help the Suns? Chuck Hayes(more of an undersized Center than a PF)?? Carl Landry? Jason Thompson? Can Michael Beasley be a real 4?

    To the hardcore NBA guys, what names could we realistically deal for? Shelden Willams?

    Could we swing a multi-team trade to send VC to Chicago and get Taj Gibson in return?

    Every comment thread someone says we need a PF. Just doing some musing as to who would help us out that is potentially available.

    How about Troy Murphy? Is he hurt or just doesn’t get any PT?

    What do you all think??

  • Zak

    @Rob, Troy Murphy has a big a$$ expiring contract and Vince Carter has a big a$$ expiring contract. The Nets just don’t figure Murphy into their game plan and have essentially written him off. I don’t see Murphy figuring into Phoenix’s long range plans either but I wouldn’t object to a 1 for 1 trade of Vince for Troy either. The numbers really don’t work for a 1 for 1 trade but if the Net are willing to throw in Petro (who they’ve been trying to trade) then it does work. Murphy does make us a little better at the 4 and still give us a fairly large expiring contract at the end of the season. Petro doesn’t really help but might make and half good back-up for Gortat if we eventually deal RoLo. And I doubt sending VC back to NJ would really upset anyone here and he might actually be an upgrade for NJ at the 2… and I’m sure they wouldn’t mind having his expiring contract either. Most of the other players you talked about trading for could help the Suns more but the VC/TM/JP trade is probably the most likely – yet still unlikely – trade.

  • Vince Carter

    There’s no way I’m going back to Jersey. There’s a standing kill order on me because of my prior shenanigans.

  • Kyle

    I know many fans don’t want to hear this – probably b/c people who blog often want to talk about trades. But I don’t think the Suns need a major roster overhaul. They’re playing better defense than I’ve seen them play in the last 5 years and the offense seems to be clicking. Though they won’t have the same offensive production as other years, it doesn’t seem to be needed if they’re playing better defense. Kudos to Frye and Gortat who are stepping up big on the rebounding side. Though Lopez is loosing minutes, he seems to also have good production for the limited time he’s playing. I think the suns can make a strong push for a 6-7 seed. That’s right 6-7 seed.

  • Zak

    Kyle, I actually agree with you. The roster needs some “tinkering” but not a major overhaul… not this season anyway.

    Am I mistaken in thinking that the Suns will have 2 first round picks in this year’s draft? There own and Orlando’s? Perhaps the best deal they could make during the off-season would be to use those to “trade up” and get a top 10 pick in the draft. Getting Jared Sullinger out of Ohio St or Perry Jones out of Baylor should solve the PF problem for years to come. There are several other solid PF prospects that will be available in this years’ draft and I think that’s where the Suns should look to build for the future instead of trying to come up with some sort of blockbuster trade.

  • Rob

    I agree with the need for tinkering rather than a major overhaul trade. I think a lot of people assumed that Vince Carter is only starting in an attempt to get teams interested in trading for him, so if the Suns aren’t trying to trade him, I say bench him! Give some harder working guys the PT they deserve!