Roller-Coaster Start to the Season for Phoenix Suns

After the first week of the new NBA season, it’s fair to say the Suns’ six games so far have produced plenty to chew over and many things to work on over the remaining seventy six games.

Two wins over the Lakers and a superb home win over the defending NBA champions San Antonio Spurs have been tempered by a blowout loss to the Jazz on the road, a home loss to the so far unbeaten Memphis Grizzlies and a double overtime loss to Sacramento.

From looking at the schedule last week, many would have picked wins over the Lakers in both games and a win over the Jazz, maybe picking up a sneak win in one of the other two, so overall fans can’t be concerned with dropping two games out of the five. What was concerning was the manner in which the Suns conceded those matchups.

Opening night of the Suns’ season came against division rivals L.A. Lakers, a team many expect to be abysmal mediocre (at best) this season.

Phoenix won the game comfortably, 119-99 with the backcourt trio clicking, and the Morris twins shooting the ball well. Marcus Morris started in place of the suspended PJ Tucker at small forward and shot 5-9 from 3pt land, finishing with 21 points. Isaiah Thomas had an impressive debut, scoring 23 points in only 20 minutes off the bench.

San Antonio rolled into Phoenix on Halloween off the back of beating the Dallas Mavericks in their first game, but came away with a case of the horrors as the Suns ran out 94-89 winners.

Bledsoe and Dragic both had poor shooting nights, so again, the sparkplug off the bench in Isaiah Thomas ignited the Suns offense, scoring a game high 23 points, ten coming in the fourth quarter.

Markieff Morris gave steady production with a double-double (20pts, 11 rebs) and Alex Len showed he can contribute with eleven rebounds and ten points in an impressive display that even had Tim Duncan complimenting on the performance of the Suns second year centre.

The following night, Phoenix played in Salt Lake City, squaring off against the Utah Jazz which ended up a surprising, and painful to watch, blowout.

Phoenix let the game slip in the 3rd quarter and Utah took full advantage to win this one 118-91. The Jazz exploited the Suns in the paint, and out-rebounded them 66-42.

Coupled with Dragic, Bledsoe and Thomas all having off nights it was an uphill struggle after halftime. Again, the Suns inability to defend the basket, and win the rebounds would cost them against the Grizzlies a few nights later.

After the Jazz defeat, another matchup with the Lakers was next, this time in Los Angeles.

Kobe Bryant took the team on his back and scored 39 points (on 37 shooting attempts) but a late PJ Tucker 3 in the corner sealed another win against the Lakers in the space of a week, final score 112-106.

Thomas was back to his form of the first couple of games scoring 22 points, and Gerald Green also stepped up from bench to score 26 points, the two players combining for some highlight reel plays. Markieff Morris continued to impress in the early season, with 23 points and 10 rebounds.

The Memphis Grizzlies protected their undefeated run to go 5-0 by beating Phoenix at the US Airways Centre by 102-91.

Just like the game against the Jazz, the Suns had difficulty in dealing with Marc Gasol in the paint, who bullied the defense.

Turnovers in this game cost Phoenix dear as well, Bledsoe responsible for NINE of them. He did have a good shooting night and looked more like himself but his ball handling and decision making was poor this time.

Dragic struggled again, with no one on the Suns bench stepping up the game ran away from them late in the third quarter. This was the fifth straight game the Suns have lost to Memphis, who seem to have a hoodoo over Phoenix.

Phoenix then took on the Sacramento Kings, who look much improved over last season, and fought out one of the games of the season so far, eventually missing out 114-112 in double overtime.

The most frustrating facet of this game for Phoenix fans will be the manner in which Sacramento forced overtime. A late surge triggered by DeMarcus Cousins (25 points and 18 rebounds on the night) had Sacramento go on a 15-3 run to close out regulation and force OT.

Phoenix again looked in control in the first period of overtime, building a seven point lead, only to let Sacramento back in, and after another extra period, couldn’t get by the Kings’ spirited defense.

Positives

Isaiah Thomas has showed he can play in this system straight away, and on some occasions, link up with Bledsoe and Dragic to great effect like they did against the Spurs. He provides a great scoring punch off the bench in the system Hornacek like his players to play.

Having Alex Len fit, healthy and injury free has been a big plus, and a welcome surprise. So far, he has shown he can block, rebound the ball and even made a few nice assists. The more game time he sees the better for his development.

Negatives

Goran Dragic has not looked the same player that finished last season as the NBA’s Most Improved Player. His World Cup exertions have taken its toll, but he needs to get back to his best if the Suns have any aspirations of making a dent in the playoff race. As its only five games into the season, he shouldn’t be too hard on himself yet. Bledsoe and Plumlee also need someone to give them a shake.

Second half of the Utah game was painful to watch. The lack of application by some players, and lack of fight was discouraging. The return of PJ Tucker should hopefully knock that out of them, as his presence and never quit attitude should rub off on his teammates.

The Suns also can’t let their demoralising loss to Sacramento play on their minds. They had several chances to close out the game but simply couldn’t keep Sacramento out. That’s not something they will want to make a habit of.

Isiah Thomas Phoenix Suns

Isiah Thomas has earned our player of the week award for Phoenix (Image Credit: Jennifer Stewart)

Player of the week

Isaiah Thomas has been great so far so it’s going to him, although Markieff Morris deserves a mention.

In six games off the bench, Thomas has averaged 16 points per game and four assists, and was the main spark in the three wins so far.

Games Ahead – All games at home.

Sunday 9th vs. Warriors

Wednesday 12th vs. Nets

Friday 14th vs. Hornets

How do you think Phoenix have done so far? Let us know on Twitter!

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