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Suns have shown us who they are, which will never make me comfortable again

The Suns have come out flat against good teams more often than they should

Portland Trail Blazers v Phoenix Suns Photo by Barry Gossage/NBAE via Getty Images

I’ve taken a day to digest these consecutive beatdowns the Phoenix Suns made us watch this week — two losses by a combined 46 points, including 53 points in halftime deficits and 87 of 96 minutes behind on the scoreboard — and I’ve come to one certain conclusion:

I will never be comfortable watching these Suns tip off against a playoff-level team again.

Okay, okay, after a night of frustration and a day to think about it, I’m overreacting a little. These Suns are still 16-9 despite myriad injuries. They have a winning record (8-7) against good teams. They’ve put together more comebacks and big wins than they’ve suffered beat downs. In fact, the Suns have more 10+-point wins (11) than all but one other team against only four 10+-point losses this season.

They have the best regular season record in the league — by far — against teams with a 50% winning percentage or better since Chris Paul first donned a Suns uniform at the start of the 2020-21 season. Overall, they are 64-29 against such teams in that time, and no one else even comes close.

So they’re good. But they’re trending in the wrong direction.

The most important part of my declaration above is the ‘watching these Suns tip off’ part. If they don’t win the first quarter against a good team, they’re pretty much dead.

If they look bad in the first quarter, there’s almost no chance they’ll turn it around. If it’s a road game, I might even turn off the TV.

This season, the Suns are 8-7 in 15 games against teams with a 50% win percentage or better at tip off. With Chris Paul at the helm, they are 5-4 this season in such games (including the game he left in the first half to injury).

Let’s take a walk down memory lane:

  • Dec 7 vs. Celtics (20-5 record): -10 after one quarter, -27 loss
  • Dec 5 vs. Mavericks (11-11 record): -18 after one, -19 loss
  • Nov 28 vs. Kings (10-8): +5 after one, +5 win
  • Nov 26 vs. Jazz (12-9): -10 after one, +1 win
  • Nov 20 vs. Knicks (8-8): +6 after one, +21 win
  • Nov 18 vs. Jazz (11-5): -7 after one, -1 loss
  • Nov 14 vs. Heat (7-6): -4 after one, -1 loss
  • Nov 7 vs. 76ers (5-5): -13 after one, -12 loss
  • Nov 5 vs. Blazers (6-2): +9 after one, +20 win
  • Nov 4 vs. Blazers (5-2): +3 after one, -2 loss
  • Nov 1 vs. Wolves (4-3): +4 after one, +9 win
  • Oct 28 vs. Pelicans (3-1): -6 after one, +13 win
  • Oct 25 vs. Warriors (2-1): +8 after one, +29 win
  • Oct 23 vs. Clippers (2-0): +15 after one, +17 win
  • Oct 21 vs. Blazers (1-0): +3 after one, -2 loss

Against teams with a 50% win percentage or better at tipoff this season, the Suns have had the lead after one quarter in 8 of 15 games. They’ve won 75% of the time (6 of 8).

On the other side, they have trailed after one quarter in the other 7 of the 15, including 4 deficits of 10+ points. They lost 5 of those 7 games (73%).

Win the first quarter and you’re good. Lose the first quarter and you’re very likely gonna get the L.

That’s just the way it is.

Let’s go back to the 2022 playoffs, giving credit to NOLA for being a winning team. Despite coming into the play-in with a losing record overall, they’d been great the last two months since acquiring CJ McCollum and won two play-in games, so we’re calling them a winning team.

  • April 17 vs. Pelicans, G1: +12 after one, +11 win
  • April 19 vs. Pelicans, G2: -2 after one, -11 loss
  • April 22 at Pelicans, G3: -1 after one, +3 win
  • April 24 at Pelicans, G4: -3 after one, -15 loss
  • April 26 vs. Pelicans, G5: +12 after one, +15 win
  • April 28 at Pelicans, G6: +0 after one, +6 win
  • May 2 vs. Mavericks, G1: +10 after one, +7 win
  • May 4 vs. Mavericks, G2: +4 after one, +20 win
  • May 6 at Mavericks, G3: -9 after one, -9 loss
  • May 8 at Mavericks, G4: -12 after one, -10 loss
  • May 10 vs. Mavericks, G5: -3 after one, +30 win
  • May 12 at Mavericks, G6: -3 after one, -27 loss
  • May 14 vs. Mavericks, G7: -10 after one, -33 loss

The Suns were 7-6 in last year’s playoffs. They only had a tie or the lead in 5 of those 13 games after one quarter, winning all five (100%). Of the 8 times they carried a deficit after one quarter, they lost 75% of the time.

If you’re looking at trends, especially those that give you and I the queazies right now, we’ve got a trend all right.

To end last season (G3-G7 vs. Mavericks), they trailed after the first quarter in every one of the last 5 games, and lost 4 out of 5.

Most recently this season, since November 7, they’ve trailed after the first quarter 6 of the last 8 times they faced good teams (with 50% win rate or better), going 1-5 in those games.

These current Suns, in part because they’re beat up with injuries/absences, just aren’t a really good team right now. They’ll win the easy ones, but any games against good teams is just simply a toss-up right now and that makes me uncomfortable after two years of contending for a title.

Next Up

Tonight and Sunday, they play the now-West-leading New Orleans Pelicans (16-8) in the Big Easy. Based on recent trends, ‘Big Easy’ will apply to the Pelicans.

The Suns may have won 5 of the last 7 games overall against the Pels, including an opening week win this season, but these aren’t the same Pels. Brandon Ingram (toe) and Herb Jones (ankle) are OUT, while Zion Williamson is IN and will face the Suns for the first time in almost two years. They have the league’s 3rd-ranked defense and 6th-ranked offense. They are here, and they are very very good.

Watch the first quarters folks. The Suns have got to win the first quarter if they hope to win either of these games.

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