The Phoenix Suns lost their fifth straight game Friday night to the Oklahoma City Thunder. It was demoralizing all the way around.
Well, that was frustrating to watch. Despite playing in their fancy new orange uniforms, the Phoenix Suns played like a demoralized team Friday night against the Oklahoma City Thunder.
In some ways, it’s hard to blame them. They lost back-to-back heart-breakers to the San Antonio Spurs and Portland Trail Blazers only to get blown out the LA Clippers in a game which Deandre Ayton, after just coming back from suspension, sprained his ankle and is now out for who knows how much longer.
More acutely, there have been a slew of individual demoralizing plays of late, whether it be questionable calls, bounces that went opponents’ way, or like Friday night, when the a spurt of energy led to multiple offensive rebounds only to see even more missed open 3’s and a Thunder fast break circus layup on the other end.
On top of that, Ty Jerome hit a half court shot at the buzzer only to have it waved off.
It’s demoralizing just writing those paragraphs out. One can only imagine how the guys going through it must feel.
The Suns thrived early in the season on their hustle, defensive tenacity, quick decision-making, cuts, movement…you get the idea. All the things in basketball that require a ton of energy and bounce. It made the team fun to watch, win or lose.
Without that level of drive, the Suns, well, just aren’t that good. To be fair, no team is great without hustle, but this team can’t skirt by games on talent alone. And now, the wind has been knocked out of their sails after four straight (now five straight) losses. The same sense of urgency they had when the season was fresh and new simply isn’t there anymore.
After a 7-4 start, the Suns have since gone 4-13 and with games against the Houston Rockets and Denver Rockets looming, there isn’t exactly an easy path to get back on track in the immediate future.
Let’s talk about the more tangible deficiencies, not to be mistaken as excuses. Ayton was out. Again. Booker likely wasn’t 100% after coming back from a 3-game absence with a forearm contusion. Cam Johnson may not fully have recovered yet either.
Despite that, it is hard not to let the a 20 point loss to a mediocre team burst open the river of doubt that had previously been dammed up by a surprising hot start to the season.
The lack of intensity and sense of urgency has really shown in their defense (or lack thereof) lately.
The back of his jersey wasn’t the only thing Shai Gilgeous-Alexander circumnavigated Friday night. He circled around defenders with ease and considering Aron Baynes, Dario Saric, and Frank Kaminsky have a combined vertical jump no higher than deck of cards, there was no rim protection to prevent him from laying it up time and time again.
That was just one player who scored a career-high, but resistance wasn’t there across the board.
Winning breeds winning, and in turn, losing breeds losing. Right now, the Suns are a bunch of rabbits multiplying losses at a ghastly rate.
It is tough to say what it will take to light a fire back under these players. Ayton and a full healthy roster might help. But you have to wonder if the damage is already done.
This team could still turn it around and contend for an 8-seed, but something will need to change to bring this losing trend to an end.
Also, in completely inconsequential news, Monty Williams wore a black dress shirt with a brown suit. It has no real bearing on the team, it just added another tally mark to an already ugly night.