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The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly: The Suns’ last two games through the lens of statistics

It’s been a bad start of the week for Phoenix

NBA: Boston Celtics at Phoenix Suns Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports

Entering this week, we knew that the schedule that lay before the Phoenix Suns was a difficult one. A competitive Dallas Mavericks team. The best team in the league in the Boston Celtics. And two games against the hottest team in the NBA, the New Orleans Pelicans.

Through the first two games, the Suns have failed the test. And it’s not like they have tried hard and came up short, earning an ‘F’ in the class. It appears that they haven’t attended the class all semester and are frantically filling out their multiple choice answers at random. Maybe they’re trying to make it look like a snowman on the scan-tron?

Although the Dallas Mavericks were a .500 team entering their matchup with Phoenix, they have shown the ability to match up against the Suns well. I don’t need to go into everything that happened in the playoffs last season, for we will never forget. But you know what I mean.

True to form, the Suns put forth a subpar effort against Dallas. The Mavs fringe players became mini-Steph Curry’s from beyond the arc. The Suns couldn’t hit a shot. They lost 130-111.

And then there was Wednesday night against Boston. You could watch that game, dub Barnum and Bailey Circus music over it, and it would’ve synced up perfectly. It’s like playing Pink Floyd’s Dark Side of the Moon during the Wizard of Oz.

The team was atrocious. The effort was nonexistent. The execution was embarrassing. They were down 45 at one point. I don’t know if I’ve ever seen a team pull their starters with five minutes left in the third quarter. And the Suns, the best team in the Western Conference, did just that.

Fan the flames of those who say the Suns are frauds.

You can say it was a one off, you can say it was an aberration. The fear, however, is that this is the beginning of something dangerous for Phoenix. Their upcoming schedule is daunting. Sure, it was two games. If it is the start of a trend, while it may not merit an overreaction, it does call for a reaction.

Here is my reaction, analyzing the good, the bad, and the ugly. There is plenty of the latter.

The Good

16-9

It’s hard to see the silver lining in moments like this, but there is one.

Currently, the Phoenix Suns are 16-9 which is good for the second best record in the Western Conference. This means they do have some wiggle room. Some.

This comes as the team begins their readjustment to Chris Paul being a member of the starting lineup. There is an expected regression that will occur as the team reintegrates the Point God. ‘Tis better to regress from a 16-9 record than a 9-16 record, am I right?

Due to their record, James Jones has had the luxury of being more selective in how he navigates a Jae Crowder trade. No need to overact and pull the trigger on a deal due to panic. 73% of the league is now available via trade, so it’s time for James to pick up the phone.

The challenge here is the Suns are two games out of being in sixth place in the West. Phoenix is currently a half game behind New Orleans, while the Utah Jazz are two-and-a-half games out.

While there may be some wiggle room, it ain’t much.

The Bad

6-of-32

That’s the Suns three-point shooting in the first half over the past two games.

Phoenix, who entered their game against the Mavericks shooting 38.6% from deep on the season – third best in the NBA – have forgotten how to shoot from beyond the arc. 18.8% from deep in the first half over two games tells you one thing: they’re behind and can’t catch up.

Is this an aberration or a trend? I’ll lean on the aberration side of the argument here, as this team has shown throughout the season they have the ability to hit the super shot. It is simply unfortunate that it comes when it did.

13.3%

That is Devin Booker‘s shooting percentage in the first quarter over these last two games.

Prior to that, he was shooting 47.5% and averaging 9 points per first quarter. If there’s one thing we know about Book, numbers like that aren’t consistent. He will bounce back. It’s just unfortunate that, with some national pundits pushing for him to be mentioned amongst the league’s best in their early season MVP conversations, he goes out on national TV in two consecutive games and lays a Yoshi-sized egg in the first.

Booker is our fire starter. He sets the tone offensively for this team. When you have a shooting percentage like that in the first, it’s hard to win games. The Suns have had to dig themselves out of massive holes and haven’t had the ability to do so, and it’s primarily due to Booker’s slow start.

The Ugly

-40

Not to throw more salt in the Booker wound, but that was Booker’s plus/minus on Wednesday night against the Celtics.

Combine that with the -18 from the Dallas game, and Booker is -58 over the past two games. Ummm...yikes?

6-of-23

Mikal Bridges shooting the last two games. 26%.

The Warden gets plenty of offensive leeway due to his defensive impact. But it was rough on both ends of the floor for Mikal over these past two games. He’s had a 133.1 defensive rating since Monday.

While he does have an elite basketball IQ, he does have an issue guarding physical players. Luka Doncic. Jason Tatum. Jaylen Brown. These are all players that are bigger than Bridges and due to this fact, his impact on defense was not existent.

Devin Booker is your primary, scoring option, Deandre Ayton your secondary, and Mikal Bridges is your tertiary option on offense. He’s stepped up numerous times this season as he's averaging a career high 15.5 points per game, but shooting 26% from the field —especially when the team is down they need him — it was just ugly.

Against the Celtics, all 5 of Bridges’ three-point attempts were either open (no defender within four to six feet of him) or wide open (no defender within six feet of him. He was 0-of-5 from deep.


There are numerous other factors as to why phoenix has looked as pathetic as they have. Deandre and didn't play his best basketball, and I know he can't pass himself the ball, but he doesn't have to bring it down every time and let the opposition swat at it at will. Four turnovers last night doesn't help the cause.

Monty Williams didn't have his team up for the game. SunsGeek said it best following the Mavericks game...

Why is this team, when the light shines bright upon them, not getting up for games? You have to put that one on Coach Monty.

Does this mean that Monty is a horrible coach? Time to move on? Stop it. Don’t go to Suns Facebook. They’re calling for Monty‘s head after two games, questioning everything he’s done in his career as a Sun to this point.

Williams didn’t shoot 1-of-16 from being on the arc to start in the first half against the Celtics. Phoenix have plenty of wide-open shots, They just weren’t falling.

Again, it’s time to act and react. But not over-react. Weather the storm. Know that work needs to be done. And move on.

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