What a birthday for Eric Bledsoe! With 30 points, nine assists, four rebounds, three steals and his team getting that W last night, he had plenty to celebrate.
(Photo courtesy of The Olympian)
Phoenix was able to snap their three-game losing streak last night at the Staples Center, winning 119-115 after leading by as much as 18 in the second half. They were powered by Bledsoe’s big game and a season-high 13 3-pointers as well.
Leandro Barbosa led the bench attack for the Suns, scoring 21 of the team’s 59 bench points on the night. Lou Williams led all scorers with 35 off the bench for the Lakers. Williams has needed to take on a larger role recently with injuries to guards D’Angelo Russell and Nick Young and has been exceptional for L.A. in that time.
The Suns did everything they normally don’t do Friday night. They had 26 assists, shot 43% on 3’s (season average hovers around 30%) and held on to the basketball – only turning the ball over eight times to the Lakers’ 16. And just a few days removed from blocking zero shots against the Jazz, the Suns had nine rejections last night.
Phoenix withstood a late comeback by Los Angeles, something the young team has struggled with early on this year.
More good news came for the Suns following the victory when it was announced T.J. Warren (who has missed the last ten games with an undisclosed head injury) has been cleared to start practicing with the team again. Now that’s two wins and a birthday for Phoenix. Good night for the young squad .
The Suns’ next game is Sunday at home against the New Orleans Pelicans.
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.