The Phoenix Suns’ defense MUST improve for them to win

Phoenix Suns Denver Nuggets (Photo by Bart Young/NBAE via Getty Images)
Phoenix Suns Denver Nuggets (Photo by Bart Young/NBAE via Getty Images) /

The Phoenix Suns are 1-1 after two games. But their defense looked absolutely awful against the first good team they played.

I know I said that the Phoenix Suns can win by scoring. I believe I said “they only have to score one more point than their opponent.” But if they aren’t going to play any  defense, then they are going to struggle to win on those nights that they aren’t shooting 55.3% from beyond the arc on 34+ attempts – which is going to probably be every game the rest of the season.

Only once in the franchise’s history have the Phoenix Suns been known as a defense team – for two seasons in the late 90’s under head coach Scott Skiles (although the entire league was down so even the term “defense team” could be debatable.)

Other than that blimp on the historical screen, the Suns have been known primarily as an offensive team first, even leading the entire history of the NBA in scoring per game for a franchise.

So after an opening night blowout victory over the Dallas Mavericks in which the Suns played poor defense at times but shot the lights out of the ball, we knew they had found their formula for victory – out shoot and out score their opponents.

After all, it’s the Houston Rockets’ way, and it seems to be working just fine for them.

But then came game two at the Denver Nuggets.

Excuses abound, the Suns were blown out in the Mile High City; blown out in a way that even I thought wasn’t going to be possible for this team this season.

The Suns attempted 39 3’s (I love it), but only made 11, a 28.2% clip (there is nothing to love about that).

What’s worse is that they also only shot 62.9% from the charity stripe, with plenty of opportunities to keep them in the game, 22-35.

There we have it. A game in which the shots weren’t falling for Phoenix. This is going to happen, and it’s going to be especially hurtful when they attempt so many 3’s.

On those nights when the shots aren’t falling, the Suns are going to have to focus on the defensive side of the ball, keeping themselves in the game in case their shots eventually do fall, and keeping the score close so that at least mentally they don’t ever feel like they’re 100% out of it.

None of that happened against the Denver Nuggets. They looked absolutely disinterested on defense, and time and again allowed their opponents to slide through the lane for open layups without any friction whatsoever, an issue that happened a number of times against the Mavericks – only Denver wasn’t missing their open shots.

Although it’s only a small sample size, after two games, their willingness to ignore the defensive side of the ball is painfully obvious. Unless there are some significant and serious changes, they are poised to be a terrible defensive team again, lessening their chances of being competitive enough to make some waves in the Western Conference.

Through two games, the Suns are directly on par with the past two seasons in defensive rating with a DRtg of 112.3. Last season they were 112.8 and the year before 112.2, the two worst ratings in franchise history.

On Twitter, I teased that the Suns were acting like the 1991 Denver Nuggets, how little did I realize at the time how true that was: the 1990-91 Nuggets had a DRtg of 114.7, their franchise’s worst.

The Suns’ offense is going to come, and it’s going to go. They are going to be a high-scoring team all season, especially while shooting between 30-40 3’s a game.

If their free throws fall, they’re going to be even better.

dark. Next. If the Phoenix Suns' number is 30, then why not take 40 3's?

But if they are going to win,  they need to play some  defense, and not ignore that side of the ball.

The franchise moniker for this season is that it is Time to Rise.  They’re not going to go anywhere but the basement of the Western Conference if they don’t get in the way of an opponent, put a body on players as they drive the lane, and knock a few down here and there when necessary.