The good, the bad and the ugly Phoenix Suns edition

Posted by on February 28th, 11:53 pm

Jared Dudley torched the Lakers for 25 in the Suns' best victory of the season.

The Phoenix Suns have seen it all through 34 games.

From fourth-quarter meltdowns to gutsy victories to Alvin Gentry rants, the Suns went through the spin cycle in a chaotic first half of the season.

We already took a look at how the Suns’ individual players fared during those 34 games of mayhem, so here’s a team-wide view at the good, the bad and the ugly from Phoenix’s first 34 games of the 2011-12 campaign.

The Good

Good Game: Suns defeat Lakers 102-90 in US Airways Center on Feb. 19.

On this particular evening the Suns looked like the Phoenix teams of the mid-2000s that constantly frustrated Kobe Bryant to playoff loss after playoff loss.

They went off for 35 points in the first quarter alone in what was clearly the best 12 minutes of basketball the Suns have played all season.

During that first quarter the Suns shot 56.0 percent, committed just two turnovers and limited the Lakers to one offensive board while Marcin Gortat racked up nine points and nine rebounds. Phoenix went on to score a season-high 63 first-half points, lead by as much as 27 and never allow the Lakers to get closer than 10 in the second half.

Kobe Bryant still went for 32, Pau Gasol for 17 and 12, and Andrew Bynum for 16 and 10 yet the Suns turned the ball over only 11 times, shot an uncharacteristic 32 free throws and rode 25 Jared Dudley points to victory lane.

“I think we’ve shown we can be good, we just have to kind of remind ourselves of the formula,” Grant Hill said after the game. “It’s coming out with energy, playing hard and competing. When we do that — we did it tonight — we’re really good, and when we don’t we’re really bad.”

Against the Lakers that Feb. 19 night, the Suns were really good and showed a glimpse of how dangerous they can be when they’re clicking on all cylinders.

Good Stretch: Three-game win streak against Charlotte at home, and ATL and Milwaukee on the road, spanning from Feb. 4 to Feb. 7.

This is a “good stretch” almsot by default as it’s Phoenix’s only three-game winning streak of the season. Defeating the Hawks on the road by nine is something to be proud of, but no NBA team will pound its chest over beating the lowly Bobcats and mediocre Bucks on the road.

While the win streak wasn’t all that impressive, it came at a crucial time. The Suns had just dropped five of their last seven games to drop to 8-14 and were in danger of drifting further into oblivion.

Steve Nash put on his Superman cape and went for 17.6 points and 10.7 assists, and there was even a Robin Lopez sighting as he went for 11 points and four rebounds in the fourth quarter against Charlotte. Although it was a crucial three-game swing, the lack of successful stretches shows the type of season the Suns are having.

Good Stat: The Suns rank 2nd in the NBA in pick and roll man production at 1.16 points per possession.

While the Suns may have lost the explosive offense that characterized the franchise for nearly a decade, they still own the pick and roll game, mostly thanks to Mr. Nash. Suns roll men are shooting 56.8 out of the pick and roll, which seems to be the only aspect of the game keeping Phoenix’s offense afloat.

The Suns aren’t in the top five in any other mySynergySports offensive category, but it’s safe to say as long as Nash is at the helm, they’ll be among the NBA leaders in pick-and-roll production.

Chase Budinger and the Rockets held the Suns to 13 fourth-quarter points in a bad Phoenix loss.

The Bad

Bad Game: Suns fall to the Rockets 96-89 on Feb. 9 to snap a three-game win streak.

Phoenix has had plenty of bad losses, but this one leads the pack in the “bad” category. Yes, the Rockets are a borderline playoff team and home losses to teams like the Nets and Cavaliers are more embarrassing, but this late-game meltdown held far more importance.

Coming into the home contest the Suns were rolling on a three-game win streak and winners of four of their last five. Phoenix had a chance to move to 12-14 with the victory and eventually take advantage of a favorable upcoming schedule.

But despite leading 70-63 late in the third and putting together a 32-point quarter, the Suns’ offense fell apart. Phoenix scored a season-low 13 fourth-quarter points, made one bucket in the final six minutes and allowed the Rockets to make US Airways their own. The Suns have had worse losses, but the timing and nature of the loss hurt badly for Phoenix.

Bad Stretch: Four-game losing streak to Golden State and Denver on the road, Atlanta at home, and then the Lakers on the road, spanning from Feb. 13 to Feb. 17.

This four-game losing streak set the Suns back big time heading into the All-Star break. The Suns weren’t expected to win on the road in Denver and Los Angeles, or even at home against Atlanta for that matter. But the Suns needed to at least split this four-game set to remain relevant in the West.

Instead, the Suns fell short in Golden State, gave up by benching Nash and Hill in Denver, surrendered a 15-point second-half lead against the Hawks and were dominated by Kobe and the Lakers. These four games were by far Phoenix’s second-worst stretch of the first half of the season.

Bad Stat: 25th in rebound differential and 25th in rebound rate.

No matter how much Gortat improves or how little Lopez plays, the Suns still can’t shake their rebounding woes. Aside from Gortat, no player averages more than 5.8 rebounds per game and it’s not like the Suns are getting it done collectively.

Opponents on average are grabbing 2.8 more boards than the Suns, who can’t keep opponents off of the offensive glass, as Phoenix ranks 23rd in the NBA in offensive rebounds allowed. That inability to protect the glass is hurting their defensive field goal percentage, slowing their pace and killing a Suns team in search of some saving grace.

Ellis' game-winner lifted the Warriors and sent Alvin Gentry into a frenzy.

The Ugly

Ugly Game: Suns fall to Golden State 106-104 at home.

As Alvin Gentry so colorfully explained, the Suns had a chance to head into the break on a three-game win streak and stand only 3 1/2 games out of the playoff hunt. But instead the Suns came out with zero energy as they allowed the Warriors to paste 39 first-quarter points on a lethargic Suns team on Phoenix’s home court.

Although it was Monta Ellis who drilled the game-winner, it was that first quarter that sent Gentry into a rage and signified the Suns’ lowest point of the first half of the season. When the season comes to a close, this contest and Gentry’s rant will characterize the frustration and inconsistency that haunted the Suns all year long.

Ugly Stretch: Five-game losing streak to the Lakers on the road, New Jersey and Cleveland at home, and the Bulls and Spurs on the road, spanning from Jan. 10 to Jan. 17.

Phoenix actually impressed going 2-3 on a road trip that featured San Antonio, Boston, New York, Chicago and Dallas. But it was the two inexcusable losses before the trip that set the table for a first half full of losses to bad teams.

The Suns fell at home to the lowly Cavaliers and Nets, giving them almost zero chance to feel good about any wins that came on their five-game road trip. Those two losses opened the eyes of Suns fans to what kind of team they were working with and how Phoenix has no problem playing down to its opponents.

Ugly Stat: Scored 100-plus points in only nine of 34 games for a 26.5 percent clip.

It’s no secret that the Suns’ offense has declined in a big way this season. They no longer walk to 100 points a night and light up the scoreboard. But even with that said, the fact that the Suns have reached the century mark in only nine of their 34 games is alarming to say the least.

Last season at the All-Star break, Phoenix had hit 100 in 35 of its 54 games for a 64.8 percent clip. The pace of the game has been slower overall this season, but it’s amazing to see how much the Suns’ once-electric offense has fallen off from last year to this year. Сайт знакомств

Mike Schmitz

Mike Schmitz is a former ValleyoftheSuns writer who now works as an assistant video coordinator for the D-League\\’s Bakersfield Jam. He specialized in video breakdowns for VotS.

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Tags: Phoenix Suns · Phoenix Suns Analysis

3 responses so far ↓

  • 1 steve // Feb 29, 2012 at 9:53 am

    Noticed a little typo in the last paragraph. I believe it should be *35* of 54, not 25.

    I think “The Ugly” is just too hard to choose. It seems like every single time the Suns give any sort of hope to the fans, they promptly rip out our collective hearts and mash them to bits. Monta’s game-winner was certainly bad, but the lowest moment in my book was getting completely annihilated by Portland. That wasn’t a basketball game. That was pure bullying. That was the ugliest moment I can remember in the past 10 years or so as a Suns fan.

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