The new look bench is playing just as good, if not better than before the line-up switch-a-roo that has sparked a season best two game winning streak before Sundays loss to begin the massive road trip.
A belated Center of the Sun today as the team played a midday Sunday game against the 76ers, but nonetheless here is the best, worst, and everything in-between for the Phoenix Suns this week.
The week has been very eventful for the team as they played three games, celebrated Thanksgiving at home, and went through two days of practice that shook the foundation of the team. The bench had been the bedrock of the team, but something had to be done with the starters to try and prevent the double-digit leads that were becoming a trend.
A 2-1 week was about as good as the team could hope for after losing four of five. They took care of business at home against the youthful Blazers and the struggling Hornets before hitting the road, losing to the emerging 76ers.
The team played their most well rounded basketball of the season during these three games holding the Blazers to a team low for points defensively on the season. Overall the offense was clicking for the team with three different leading scorers and seemingly a new player stepping up every game to make key plays. It is becoming the identity of this team. Strong bench play, comeback tendencies, and invertable parts all coming together building a team that is neither great nor terrible, but finding their way somewhere in the middle.
Key Stat: 37.0 Points Per Game
That is what the bench is scoring this season which is good for third in the NBA in total points for a second unit. No matter who is starting, the Suns reserves are capable of nights with 51, 50, and 47 points, lifting the team when needed.
The 39-9 run the team went on against the Hornets to bounce back from a 19 point deficit was as impressive a stretch as the team has had in years. Those twelve minutes were sparked by great shooting from Dragic and as hard it is to believe, P.J. Tucker as well as incredible defense.
Defending point guards has been a nightmare for the team this week as they faced three different styles in rookie Damian Lillard (24 points and 3 assists), young veteran Greivis Vasquez (25 and 14), and emerging All-Star Jrue Holiday (33 and 13). All three torched the Suns including a career high in points from Holiday.
As a team the Suns generally defend point guards well forcing turnovers and putting pressure on them full-court, but that style proved to hurt more than help against these three using their aggressiveness against them getting into the paint at will scoring and distributing.
When Alvin Gentry gave the starting line-up the 'ol shake, rattle, and roll that appeared to be a band-aid on the surface, but has proven to be the right call. The team needed a jolt as they were coming out of the gates slow getting behind by double-digits early in games nearly every night out.
Through 11 games the team was being outscored in the first quarter by 3.9 points and coming out with very little energy.
Inserting Markieff Morris and Shannon Brown balanced out the scoring on both units giving some life to the starters. The change was not overly shocking and increased the teams production in the first quarter production by 1.6 points per game.
Outside of the roster shake-up the story of the week was Marcin Gortat speaking about about his role on the team. Since his little outburst Gortat is averaging 15.3 points per game a far cry from his previous six games where he was putting up only 7.6 points per game.
A look at three different players on the Suns for the week forming a good, bad, and a surprise either way each week.
- A for Markieff Morris: He has shot the ball lights out as a starter (64.7%) in three games while stepping his game up as a scorer, rebounder, and defender. This is the type of play is needed from Morris for this team to contend for a playoff spot.
- D+ for Michael Beasley: Before leading the team down the stretch in the Philadelphia loss, Beasley was a combined 4-11 from the field for the week and was really struggling to find his place in the offense.
- C+ for Shannon Brown: It has been an adjustment for Brown in the starting line-up as a scorer. On the bench it was easier to get his shot, but with the starters the shots are not as frequent so his role has become more of a floor spacer and occasional slasher at the basket.
Player of the Week:
Jermaine O'Neal - 13.6 PPG 6.3 RPG 2.0 BPG 47.2 FG% 23.3 Minutes
It has been a turn back the clock week for the reserve center as he has taken full advantage of his time on the court on both ends of the floor. He has anchored the paint as a defensive force allowing the rest of the team to be as aggressive as possible on the perimeter creating turnovers.
O'Neal cannot play on this level with consistency throughout the entire season, but if he can harness 20+ minute games like this the team will have a formidable paint duo for the season.
Previewing the Week Ahead:
Tuesday, November 27th @ Cleveland Cavaliers (3-10)
Wednesday, November 28th @ Detroit Pistons (3-10)
Friday, November 30th @ Toronto Raptors (3-10)