Unfortunately, the Suns have been scuffling lately. Not only are they missing a big scorer off the bench, but the vaunted depth has not translated to success with Thomas out.
Over the last five games (two games on road, three at home) the Suns are 2-3 and playing worse in just about every phase of the game. Meanwhile, the Rockets are winning despite missing Dwight Howard (they just beat Memphis last night by 20), the Mavericks are winning consecutive games in OT and the Clippers are suddenly one of the best teams in the NBA.
Check out the numbers:
The Suns have lately gone from decidedly average to just a smidge below average. Their 11-8 record is more a product of the opponents than anything: the Suns are 3-5 against .500+ plus team and 8-3 against losing teams.
Now the schedule gets tougher in December, starting with this killer slate of the Mavericks (Friday), Rockets (Saturday) and Clippers (Monday) before returning home next week for a couple games against Eastern foes.
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The Suns could use Isaiah Thomas, but they also could use better shotmaking, better rebounding and better defense.
With P.J. Tucker in the starting lineup now, it's possible we will see a bit more synergy in the rotations. The starting unit needs to start playing better while the second unit needs to get back to feasting on opponents.
The Suns don't have the perfect team. We all know that. They are the smallest team in the league who needs to play faster than their opponent and with more energy to win games they shouldn't win.
"It was a big talk for us all the last two days of having that enthusiasm," coach Hornacek said after beating Indiana on Tuesday. "Having that energy and not working somebody and I think these guys took to heart what we talked about, some of the things they actually talked about and this is how we think they can play."
Hornacek expounded on what they need to work on: defense, turnovers and speed.
"Some of it was defense," he said about a season-high in fast break points against the Pacers. "It was really about when we got stops and they miss, we were able to run. I thought our guys did a great job of pushing the ball and the other guys ran too. Sometimes we only have the point guard running, but everybody was running this time and our point guards were making some good decisions like kick-outs and getting in the lane, not forcing anything and just making easy passes and it just made the game easy."
The Suns will need to play reckless and with a spirited defense to win games this year against quality opponents.
Hopefully, we see that starting Friday night.