When the season started, Phoenix Suns head coach Alvin Gentry told the media that he wanted his team to have an identity of one that plays hard from start to finish and that is a good defensive team. After a couple of very good defensive performances to start the season, it looked like perhaps this would be the case.
It wasn't, and the team has proven to be one of the worst teams in the league when it comes to defense. The result? A lot of losses because the offense is not carrying the team. On that side of the ball, the team is still trying to find itself and, in the process, is proving to be a bad shooting team devoid of a go-to scorer.
When a team is not terribly talented offensively, there is only one way to win games, and that is being very good defensively. The worst shooting team in the league will win some games by locking down opponents. The worst defensive team will lose a lot of games unless its offense is elite (see Suns, Phoenix + D'Antoni, Mike).
On Wednesday night, the Suns showed how they can beat good teams -- it isn't by running them out of the gym like they used to -- it is by stopping teams.
Against the Memphis Grizzlies, after a 27-21 first quarter deficit, Phoenix kept the Grizzlies under 20 points in each of the final three quarters. It is how the Suns won a game while shooting just over 38 percent from the floor.
Memphis shot 45 percent, but only hit 2/10 three-point shots. They were outrebounded 44-40, but the bigger story was how Phoenix grabbed 19 offensive rebounds compared to 10 for Memphis. Phoenix limited Memphis to 73 shots, while shooting 89 times on their side of the court.
Holding teams to 80 points? While it
probably certainly not something we can expect from them, while they still search for offensive answers and working to shoot better from the field, defense is the way they have to go.
The way this team is built, unless someone steps up and becomes the dominant offensive force (we are waiting for Michael Beasley to become that, or Shannon Brown, or even Goran Dragic), Phoenix will only win games because of their defense, because their offense is not going to win them many games this season.