The Phoenix Suns are in the midst of a four-game losing streak, making the first couple weeks of the season seem like a dream; one that you don’t want to wake up from.
However inexperience, ill-timed injuries and some plain bad luck have resulted in a 5-6 record. Phoenix was taking the league by storm early on, including twice beating the New Orleans Pelicans, who were hyped as a playoff team in the competitive Western Conference. The Suns were surprising people with their intensity and defense, coming in at top ten in the league, something you haven’t been able to say in Phoenix recently.
The individual and team efforts, performances and heart have not diminished at all, though the results have changed.
They were a top-3 team in the West, and it was far enough into the season, everyone had to wonder whether Phoenix could extend their season into May. Apparently, the small sample size was disguising the flaws in the squad. It was good while it lasted. The Suns were in the headlines, but we probably won’t see them there again until July and the draft. They may get back over .500 for a while, but failing to execute in crunch-time is disastrous for a team’s win-loss record.
The team is so young with an average age just more than 25 years old (which would be lower if not skewed by 31-year-old Emeka Okafor who is injured) it is difficult to execute well at the end of games against teams farther along in the rebuilding process.
It didn’t help that Goran Dragic has been banged up, missing key games and portions of games where it was quite easy to visualize a Suns victory in those spots, since he has been playing so well. The Dragon is averaging 15.9 points, 5.4 assists and 2.3 rebounds per game. He fearlessly attacks the basket, as well as distributing the ball to his teammates as a playmaker. Those stats are decent, but are depressed by coming off the bench a bit and leaving some games early due to injury. Additionally Eric Bledsoe, the Suns leading scorer this year, missed the last two games with a shin injury. Both games were losses to the Sacramento Kings in a home-and-home set, that they probably would have won if Bledsoe had played. He seems to stabilize the squad when things get tough.
It also doesn’t help your record when Nicholas Batum goaltends a potential game-winning shot or when former Sun Joe Johnson rips out the collective hearts of Arizona sports fans with a couple of floaters at the buzzer.
Fortunately, Hornacek and the Suns are staying on course with what matters. They are in every game, they play hard, which is extremely important mindset for a young team to have.
The 2013-14 Phoenix Suns are going to continue to be exciting and will even win some games, but they’ll probability end up with the fifth pick in the draft or somewhere in that range.