There are bad losses, and then there are horrible, gut-wrenching losses.
Last night's loss at home to the Milwaukee Bucks, after leading for more than three and a half quarters, going up one point with three seconds left, and losing to a well-defended, lucky, hit-every-part-of-the-rim three pointer that eventually decided to be the final nail in the coffin, rather than simply bounce off the way it was supposed to, definitely falls into the latter category.
The Phoenix Suns badly needed a win last night. Not only because they were teetering on the eighth spot in the Western Conference, but also because they had lost five straight...with all but one of them (Oklahoma City Thunder) being games that they probably could have, or should have won.
But the loss that came on a lucky three-pointer as the buzzer sounded was not only the most deflating of the season, it also marked their worst losing streak in two seasons.
But make no mistake, the Suns may have lost the game to a lucky shot, but it was their own fault for letting it get to that point, after leading for most of the game by around 10 points.
Goran Dragic had to miss his second straight game with a back strain, and the Suns looked like they couldn't find an answer offensively, save for Markieff Morris who had an outstanding first half, scoring 19 points (25 total). But even he couldn't get in going for most of the second half, scoring only two points in the third quarter, and then four points at the very end of the fourth quarter, for a total of six points...along with committing five turnovers in the second half.
Speaking of turnovers, Suns Head Coach Jeff Hornacek blamed that more than anything on last night's loss. "Just careless." He continued, "We’ve got to value the ball more. What did we have? 23 turnovers? We didn’t know where the shot clock was at."
Hornacek explained that the Bucks' defense caused a lot of those turnovers to occur with how they were playing the Suns. "They do a good job of rotating; you’ve got to move the ball, make quick decisions. I think that was the stretch [after the 83-73 lead followed by three turnovers]; that was the killer." He continued, "You have an opportunity to stretch the lead, then we have some dumb fouls and whenever you give a road team life at the end, you know, bad things can happen. That’s what happened."
Hornacek mentioned that the Suns were trying to exploit a mismatch in the post with Markieff, but were unable to get the ball to him early enough. "Markieff was doing such a good job in the post, we were trying to get him the ball in there." He continued, "Our guys couldn’t get in there, fronting them, just took us too long to get into it, so by the time we went to something else, it was too late."
The Suns one again found themselves unable to execute for one reason or another. On most nights it has been poor defensive execution, and while there were some key breakdowns on defense tonight as well, the majority of the Suns struggles in last night's loss came on the offensive end.
Right now, it's difficult to say what's going on with the Suns. Every game seems to provide a new problem that needs to be examined, and another reason for the team's struggles.
So who better to ask than the guys on the court?
Here is what the players themselves had to say after the game (And thanks again to Evan Wendt for editing the videos!):
Bledsoe once again blamed the Suns lack of intensity more than anything, saying that the Bucks just played harder, and out hustled the Suns. While that certainly happened at times, I didn't get the same impression tonight. To me it seemed more about lack of execution and sloppy play on offense all night, more than anything else. But hey, he was on the floor, so I'll take his word for it.
Thomas said that he thought they did enough to win the game, but that they lost because of that lucky shot. That may be true, but the Bucks never should have been in that position to win the game in the first place. Isaiah was also at a loss for the high turnovers, saying that they keep pushing the ball to be aggressive and they're just happening. The Suns certainly can't win by playing slow, so they're going to have to keep pushing the ball. But they definitely need to figure out a better way to execute on offense without playing so sloppily.
Keef probably gave the answer that I agreed with most. To him, it was simple. A lack of execution in the fourth quarter and allowing the Bucks to hang around all game is what caused this loss. The Suns never pulled far enough away to give the Bucks reason to quit, or feel like they couldn't come back and steal a win on the Suns' home court...and they eventually did just that.
The Suns now have a day off before playing the Charlotte Hornets on the road Wednesday night, in what will be the beginning of a three game Eastern Conference road-trip. I would say that the Suns should be able to win at least two of the three games, with the opponents being the Hornets, Knicks, and Wizards, but right now, there aren't any opponents that you can pencil in as a "W".
But if the Suns can manage to win at least two of the three, that will be a good start in getting them back to .500, and on track to turning this season back around, before coming home to play the Dallas Mavericks next Tuesday.
If not, then they might be in for a very long and disappointing season.