Over the past two games, both at home, the Phoenix Suns (9-15) have given up a combined 164 points to two of the better teams in the Western Conference. Those 82 points per game average given up to Memphis and Utah give the team back-to-back wins while giving up less than 90 total points for the first time since the opening two games of the season and proof this team can grind out games in this manner.
These were the types of games the team anticipated having on a consistent basis from the beginning of the season.
Getting back on track and winning these two games is partially the master work of Head Coach Alvin Gentry pulling the strings, and also a result of the team finally coming together as a unit.
Defense is not anything new to the conversation of, "How can the Suns get back on track?" It is the conversation and it starts with a sense of urgency on the court. Typically the bench plays like it is game seven of the NBA Finals every night, but now they are getting that out of the starters.
We spent a lot of time on rotations and just understanding it and not having simple breakdowns on miscommunications in the rotations I think it paid off. Obviously in the last two games we have been really good and tonight you know they shoot 40%, we gave up 15 (offensive) rebounds, but that team is so big and strong I thought we did a good job of battling.
Getting Jared Dudley back on track has been another key as he is the glue to this team.
"It takes time," said Dudley about getting the team into a groove. "I would have loved to play better early on, but just like last year when I lost my spot and came back. I am a glue guy where I have to fit in with guys and when guys are unselfish playing the game and moving the ball, that is happening now with our starters. I think we have a good little rhythm and defensively I am just looking to be a lot more active to put everyone in the right position."
Gentry is liking what he sees out of Dudley since inserting him into the starting line-up as well, "He is in the position that he should have been in to start the year I think. He seems a lot more comfortable there."
There it is. Dudley is the glue and the defense is the key. With both of those coming together this team is playing at a high level as a unit as evident by Dudley averaging 12.6 points, 4 assists, and 4.3 rebounds in his latest stint as a starter with the team going 2-1 in those games.
"It is hard to say. A sense of urgency..." said Dudley about these wins. "Anytime you lose seven in a row you are a little embarrassed, and you should be embarrassed. For us having those two days of practice I think gave us the urgency of, hey you can't keep losing these games. We have a lot of home games coming up here and we have to take advantage of them."
The effort in practice is paying off and the subtle (and not so subtle) tweaks made by Coach Gentry over the course of the season are starting to pay dividends.