It took nearly a month, but a tried and true 45-year franchise formula has materialized again - for the first time this season, the Phoenix Suns offense looks better than it's defense.
In what's turning out to be a continuing series on the Suns' offense and defense, today we focus on a recent trend that may continue all season long.
Both the new GM Ryan McDonough and coach Jeff Hornacek said all summer that they wanted the Suns to return to the franchise's roots of fast-paced, exciting offensive basketball with enough stops to fuel the onslaught.
Due to a new scheme and nagging injuries to top point guard starters, the Suns stumbled out of the gate on the offensive end this season with middle-of-the-pack results. A strong defense, coupled with opportunistic fast breaks (league leading 20+ point per game) helped the Suns remain respectable, but the half-court offense struggled mightily to produce points.
What fueled the team was a scrappy defense that defended the three-point line and rim with
aplomb aplum (pun intended, thankyouverymuch) that ranked in the league's top 5 for the first several games en route to a 5-2 start.
For a while there, that looked like the Suns' formula for success this season: a defense that propped up the offense. Not exactly what the coach and GM ordered, but it was working.
But when Eric Bledsoe went down with a shin bruise and Goran Dragic took over the offense full time, the tide began to turn.
NBA.com/stats has the details:
Most evident in the last two games, against the league's 20th (Portland) and 29th (Utah) ranked defenses, the half-court offense is starting to hum. They still get the fast breaks, but now can score in any situation.
It's the defense that's taking a step back. During the last five games, in which the Suns have won three of four on the road and their only home game, the Suns have given up a lot of points. They're just hidden by the improved offense and wider winning margins.
You can, and should, argue sample size. Four of those five games were on the road, and teams always have better offense on their home court. Yet Charlotte, Orlando and Utah - the three road wins - had three of the league's worst offenses, while Portland and Miami boast two of the best.
Sample size? Sure.
But still, the "eyeball" evidence was there last night against Utah. The Suns played hard, but their defense was less effective than it has been earlier in the season. The Suns still haven't given up a 50% game this season to the opponent, but Utah shot 48% last night, and Miami shot 49% earlier this week.
At the same time, the offense - one of the most efficient schemes in the league - is clicking on all cylinders and will only get more effective with Bledsoe back in the lineup. Point guard Goran Dragic is averaging 20 and 10 in his last 5 games running the offense, and Bledsoe scored 19 points in 27 minutes last night as the off guard (with Dragic) and backup point.
This might be the beginning of a season-long trend that mirrors the Suns' entire franchise history: a high-scoring offense coupled with a just-good-enough defense.
And Jeff Hornacek's goal of 103 points per game may yet come true. They have scored 105.1 per game over the last seven games.