The Phoenix Suns' pattern of playing pathetic defense continued Wednesday night as they lost a season-high fourth straight game to the Philadelphia 76ers, 123-110. As poor as the Suns defense has been this season, against an offensively inept team like the 76ers, this was another level of bad.
Philadelphia on the season averages 101.4 points per 100 possessions and shoots .446% from the field. The Suns allowed Philly to score 123 points on 103 possessions and shoot 55% from the field.
The individual numbers for the 76ers players were even more mind-boggling:
- Andres Nocioni Season Averages: 6.8 PPG and .415 FG% ... vs. Suns: 22 points and .70 FG%
- Jrue Holiday Season Averages: 13.8 PPG and .426 FG% ... vs. Suns: 25 points and .67 FG%
- Evan Turner Season Averages: 6.3 PPG and .384 FG% ... vs. Suns: 23 points and 75 FG%
To put those numbers in perspective, it was a season-high in points and FG% (for any game he took more than one shot) for Nocioni, second-highest scoring game and tied for highest FG% for Holiday, and a career-high in points and tied for a career-high in FG% for Evan Turner.
For a team with aspirations to return to the playoffs, defensive performances like this are completely unacceptable. Coach Gentry reiterated this after game.
"We got to guard better. I keep coming in and saying that, but some kind of way, we got to get to the point where we're doing a better job defensively," said Gentry. "To give up 55% shooting and 123 points to a team averaging 95-96 is unacceptable. It doesn't matter how good we are offensively, we have to be able to do some things defensively if we are going to win games, make a run and get back into the playoff race."
Phoenix Suns Center Marcin Gortat -- who played 34 minutes, his highest with the Suns -- was frustrated with his new teammates and wasn't afraid speak his mind.
"I came from a team where everybody was competing and trying to do what the coach told you," Gortat said. "We just totally changed our rotations and what we said before the game. We were not playing hard enough and we have a lot of work in front of us."
Gortat, who only had six rebounds on the night, wasn't even close to being finished.
"I think we need to be in the gym everyday for three hours, learn the rotations and everything from the beginning. There are so many things we are doing bad and I can't find an explanation. I'm trying to get some rebounds and stops, but unfortunately there is not too many opportunities to rebound because the 76ers are scoring 120-something points. It is just frustrating; it is frustrating as hell. I'm not going to lie, it is a reality check for me going from a team who is winning to a team who is losing and we are the worst defensive team in the league."
If you thought Gortat was done, think again!
"We have to be more serious about everything we do. When you pass through that door up front over there, this is time when you pack it in and are getting ready for the game or the practice. We got to read the scouting report, which guy likes to do what and learn it. It's a lot of work. If Philly is scoring 120 points, I don't want to see teams like Boston, Orlando, San Antonio, Miami. It's gonna be bad."
Playing in Phoenix has to be a culture shock for a player like Gortat, who came from a defensive-minded system in Orlando. The Magic could find ways to win games when things were not flowing on the offensive end. That is not the type of team the Suns are.
The Suns started off a stretch of four winnable games against inferior competition on the wrong foot. They can still bounce back and grab a 2-2 record with wins over Detroit on Friday and at Sacramento on Sunday. If they lose those two games, Phoenix is going to find themselves closer to the bottom of Western Conference than the eighth seed very quickly.