Notes: Goran Dragic re-injures ankle, Suns defense shines

Goran Dragic told Paul Coro that his left ankle injury in the Phoenix Suns’ Sunday night loss to the Oklahoma City Thunder was worse than the one suffered in the preseason. Indeed, a re-injury is a cause for concern, but the circumstance adds to the worry.

Dragic’s second ankle sprain in less than three weeks came on a Eurostep play and without contact. Add in the fact that he surprisingly returned from the first injury — one that looked pretty bad itself — so soon, and it’d be safe to say the Suns should be extra cautious about their point guard’s health.

“It’s frustrating, but I have to be strong,” Dragic told Coro as Phoenix now looks to Tuesday’s game against the New Orleans Pelicans. “Maybe it’s because I played the whole summer (for Slovenia’s national team), but I feel good. Maybe I just don’t have luck. I’ll be strong, work on this and come back stronger.”

The Suns have done fine in the last two second halves once Dragic has left. On Friday against the Utah Jazz, Dragic left the game in the second half after colliding with P.J. Tucker in the second quarter. Then on Sunday, he left in the third quarter again after turning the ankle on a fastbreak layup.

Eric Bledsoe has seemingly stepped up with Dragic out, and it’s not a problem for him to earn more valuable playing time as the true point guard. At the same time, it could be also looked at as worrisome that Bledsoe at times struggled playing alongside Dragic. On Sunday, he recorded eight turnovers, most of which came before his teammate’s injury.

Above all, Dragic’s health will be the thing to watch. There’s no harm in sitting him as long as he needs, and the medical staff will need to find reason to convince the thick-skinned point guard that resting is the best option.

Suns’ defense, not offense, shines early on

The Suns were going to push the tempo in 2013-14 because they needed to. There aren’t enough shooters on the roster to have all that efficient of an offense, so scoring off rebounds and forced turnovers was always a big key.

Phoenix is only 19th in pace thus far, and it’s clear they’re not pushing the tempo off makes as coach Jeff Hornacek has hoped.

But there have been spurts of fastbreaking, and it’s the defense that’s really getting the Suns in the open floor and keeping them in games. Phoenix turned the ball over 25 times against Oklahoma City in a 103-96 loss, yet the Suns were in it until more turnovers and big plays by Kevin Durant put the Thunder over the top.

Need to see the numbers? According to Basketball-Reference.com, the Suns have the third-best defensive rating by giving up 98 points per 100 possessions.

Jeff Hornacek’s team is in the top-five in above-the-break three-point attempts by holding teams to 28.9 percent from that zone, according to NBA.com’s stats tool. And Phoenix is first in corner three-point defense. They are also second by allowing teams to shoot just 49.4 percent in the restricted area of the paint.

By design or not, Phoenix is defending the three and changing shots at the rim. Of course, it’s early, but it’s a much better sign of things to come. It’s also a sign that a team that was arguably one of the least athletic teams in the league last season has really benefited by becoming arguably one of the most athletic teams thanks to all of general manager Ryan McDonough’s roster moves.

Grant Hill dishes on Inside Stuff

Jared Zwerling sat down with former Phoenix forward Grant Hill, the new host of NBA’s Inside Stuff, and got a few solid bits about Hill’s time with the Suns.

Hill discusses the Suns training staff, calls Mike D’Antoni a genius and says one of his fondest memories was sweeping the San Antonio Spurs in the 2010 playoffs.

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