The 2016-17 season has not been good to Phoenix. Despite having Eric Bledsoe and Brandon Knight healthy again, the team only has a record of 5-16 after their 112-105 loss in Utah on Tuesday night.
Gordon Hayward led the way for Utah, filling up the stat sheet with 28 points, five rebounds, four assists, and three steals. Rudy Gobert also played a big role in the Jazz victory by putting up a career-high 22 points to go with 11 boards and four blocks.
The Suns just didn’t seem to have an answer for the Jazz and never held a lead in the game. Utah got off to a hot start, leading Phoenix 33-19 after the first quarter and eventually increasing their lead to 20 at halftime. The Suns scored 60 points in the second half to give the loss the appearance of a close game, but the Jazz had control every step of the way.
While Phoenix did manage to out-rebound Utah, they shot an abysmal 33% on three pointers and only managed 14 assists with 17 turnovers. The Suns went without blocking a shot and allowed the Jazz to shoot 49% from the field.
Devin Booker led the Suns in scoring with 21 points on 9-13 shooting, but also turned the ball over a team-high 4 times. Phoenix had six players in double figures in the game, but that’s about as far as the bright spots go for the Suns.
Tomorrow night the Suns will look to bounce back at home against the Pacers, meanwhile the Jazz will hope to carry momentum into Thursday when the Warriors come to Salt Lake City.
Phoenix was clicking on all cylinders as they grinded out 109-107 victory against Atlanta on Wednesday night.
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A balanced attack was the key on a night when Eric Bledsoe and Devin Booker went a combined 10-30 from the field (1-5 on threes) to earn the W against the Hawks. The Suns forced more turnovers, shot a higher percentage from beyond the arc, and went to the free throw line 15 more times than Atlanta.
So far this season Phoenix has struggled with their three-point field goal percentage, turnovers, and fouls; but Wednesday night they showed what can happen when these areas are leaning in their favor. Brandon Knight came off the bench and scored a team-high 23 points, making eight of his nine free throw attempts and all three of his shots from deep. Knight led the Suns’ bench attack that put up 54 points.
P.J. Tucker and Jared Dudley each scored 17 points for Phoenix.
Phoenix was 1-4 in their last five games before besting Atlanta. T.J. Warren missed his 6th straight game while dealing with an undisclosed head injury while the Hawks were missing Paul Millsap due to a hip injury and Tiago Splitter due to a calf strain.
The Suns will look to keep the momentum from this win with them as they travel to play the powerhouse Warriors on Saturday.
The Suns led heading 75-67 after the 3rd quarter last night against the Timberwolves before being outscored 31-10 in the 4th.
Although the win was within Phoenix’s reach throughout most of the game, turnovers eventually led to their demise – committing seven crucial turnovers in the 4th quarter. Turnovers have been one of the prominent problems plaguing the young Suns team early in this season. Two of the other problems the team has struggled with, fouling and lackluster three-point shooting, were in full display again on Friday night.
While Minnesota committed one more foul than Phoenix, they were sent to the line 25 times compared to Phoenix only going to the line 21 times. These numbers don’t look bad alone, but the Timberwolves made 23 of their 25 free throws and the Suns only managed to sink 15 of their 21. Andrew Wiggins, in particular, did the most damage from the charity stripe making 10 of his 11 free throws in the game on his way to a 25 point game.
On a night when the Suns only shot a hair above 71% from the free throw line, they also shot an abysmal 23% from beyond the arc. They were only able to connect on six of their 26 tries from outside. The Suns rank second to last in the league in three-point shooting with the Mavericks being the only team currently shooting a lower percentage. Part of their struggles can be blamed on Eric Bledsoe, Devin Booker, and Brandon Knight’s three-point percentages. Bledsoe is shooting below 30% from beyond the arc while Booker and Knight are each hovering near the 30% mark. Bledsoe had a good showing last night going 8 for 15 overall, 2 for 5 on three-pointers, and putting up 23 points, 10 assists, and 6 rebounds. His most troubling stat of the night were his seven turnovers.
The Suns did manage to win the rebounding battle against Minnesota 48-39, though this is becoming something of the norm for the 3rd best rebounding team in the NBA.
T.J. Warren looks to still be out for a couple weeks to deal with a head injury that has cost him the past 4 games after getting off to a hot start as an early leading candidate for the NBA’s Most Improved Player award.
Phoenix will look to make adjustments in their next game at home against the Denver Nuggets.
The Suns have been struggling on their first long road trip of the 2016-17 season. They’re currently 1-4 since the trip started, and all but one of those (at Golden State) should have been winnable. The trip started in Golden State and continued to Denver, Indianapolis, Philadelphia, and yesterday, Washington D.C. Surprisingly enough, that one win came against the Pacers (granted, Paul George didn’t play in that game). Most of this trip has been surrounded by players missing games. For Phoenix, Tyson Chandler has only played in one game of this road trip and hasn’t played in consecutive games since Nov. 4th and 6th following the death of his mother and T.J. Warren left the Suns’ win against the Pacers after only 9 minutes and missed the next two contests against the Sixers and Wizards while dealing with an illness. The absence of these two has clearly affected the team, with Warren being third on the team in scoring and seventh in the NBA in steals per game and Chandler averaging 12.3 rebounds per game. Chandler’s absence was felt most perhaps when Joel Embiid established a new career-high 26 points on Saturday night.
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The hole left in the paint by Chandler’s absence and missing the defensive presence of Warren allowed Philadelphia to shoot over 52% from the field and nearly 50% from beyond the arc. The Sixers were able to take advantage of various defensive lapses by the Suns that allowed Embiid to sink three wide open 3-pointers. Having Warren and Chandler back in the lineup will be helpful not just in the short term.
Establishing continuity is key in helping a team succeed, just look at the Spurs (and up until this past offseason, the Thunder). When players get used to playing with one another and develop chemistry together a team can become dangerous. It seems all but a foregone conclusion that the Suns will look to keep Eric Bledsoe, Devin Booker, Brandon Knight, and Warren together moving forward – and the more games this group gets together, the better. General manager Ryan McDonough has denounced rumors that Knight is on the trading block, despite how deep the team’s bench may be. While many around the league would expect Knight to be available, the security of having a quality point guard coming off the bench to lead the second unit appears to be more valuable than any assets Phoenix could obtain in a deal. Keep in mind, the Suns bench contributed an NBA-best 78 bench points in a 20 point win against the Pacers last Friday.
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Looking ahead to Wednesday’s game in Orlando, Phoenix looks to end this road trip on a high note. Having Chandler and Warren each return or sit out could tell the tale of how the game ultimately turns out. Chandler’s presence inside will be helpful against a Magic frontcourt that knows how to get to the paint and get rebounds. Fortunately, wing defender Victor Oladipo has been relocated to Oklahoma City, which could make for more easy offensive opportunities for the guard-heavy Suns. Phoenix could still manage a win if Chandler or Warren still require more time off as long as they can hold onto the basketball and stay out of foul trouble. Their loss Monday night to the Wizards was due in part to Bradley Beal’s career-high 42 points, but that stat would look less daunting if he hadn’t been sent to the free throw line 11 times, nine times converting from the charity stripe. Phoenix let Washington get to the line 34 times while only getting there 15 times themselves. The teams had identical field goal percentages, and Bledsoe and Booker made up for Warren’s absence by combining for 51 points. Aside from foul trouble, the Suns’ 21 turnovers left the game out of their reach. Despite these glaring flaws, the Suns only lost by five.
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As long as Phoenix can protect the ball and foul less, they can easily come out on top against Orlando Wednesday night. Potentially having Warren and Chandler back in the lineup will be helpful too, but the Suns have to avoid making easy mistakes with or without them.
With an average age of 24.6 years old, the Phoenix Suns are among the youngest rosters in the NBA and that youth is showing in some statistics. One of those statistics is that as of November 17th the Suns are last in the league in personal fouls this season. They’re fouling their opponents an average of 26.6 times per game. While this isn’t the worst category to be last in, it can end up making seemingly winnable games anything but. Like the other night in Denver. The Nuggets are a team that the Suns can beat – not when they go to the free throw line 24 times and make 22 of those attempts. It’s worth noting that Phoenix went to the line 29 times and only capitalized on 18 of those opportunities, turned the ball over more than Denver, were out-rebounded by 14, and let Denver shoot nearly 50% from three point land. The Suns are also among the 10 worst free throw shooting teams in the league, which certainly doesn’t help. The good thing is that with time a lot of their younger players will become better with discipline and hopefully begin fouling less. As far as their shooting percentage from the charity stripe is concerned, that will just take a lot of dedication in practice.
Another category the Suns are currently near the basement of the NBA in is three point field goal percentage. They are second to last and shooting only 30.5% from beyond the arc. Brandon Knight has not been able to successfully find his footing coming off the bench early on here and is shooting well below his career average of about 40% on threes. As the season goes on I would expect that to change and for his shooting to improve. Adding Dudley and Barbosa in the offseason should have had the opposite effect on the team’s three point shooting, but as everybody gets used to their new roles in this offense I anticipate the shooting percentages to go up. Along with their absentee three point shooting, Phoenix is currently last in the league in blocks per game – they’re averaging just over 3 blocks per contest. This is something the team should look to change moving forward that is completely possible with Tyson Chandler in their front court. Chandler’s veteran presence has already begun to rub off on fellow center Alex Len, the 23 year old former lottery pick is getting one of those 3 blocks each game for Phoenix. With the energy that rookie Marquese Chriss plays with, and fellow rookie Dragan Bender standing a staggering 7 foot 1 inch tall, there’s room for growth in that blocks per game category.
A couple good signs moving forward is that the Suns are 4th in rebounds per game and 6th in points per game through their first 12 games. As long as they can keep their pieces healthy moving forward, there’s still enough time for this young squad to turn it around and surprise the league again like they did in 2013-14 when they won 48 in a highly competitive Western Conference. With some of their foes in the West ailing from injuries (think New Orleans Pelicans, Utah Jazz) and other teams with rosters much older and more fragile than theirs, the Suns may look to make a climb and fight for a playoff spot by the time spring rolls around. This year probably won’t be the year for that; but with the young talent Phoenix has accumulated, that time may be coming sooner than many expect.