The Phoenix Suns’ latest blowout loss — 132-100 while hosting the Atlanta Hawks (on ESPN, no less) — was just as puzzling as it was concerning. I know we’re in the desert and all, but when it rains it really pours in Suns losses, almost like a monsoon or something.
As of Feb. 2, the Suns have the second-most losses by at least 25 with six, trailing only the San Antonio Spurs (14-38, 12.5 games back of Phoenix), who have nine. Here’s how the rest of the league shakes out:
Furthermore, the Suns had only one loss by 25+ a season ago, just two in 2020-21, and two in 2019-20, which was the first season of the Monty Williams era. That means of the 11 times that Williams-led Suns squads have lost a regular season game by at least 25 points, more than half of them have come this season, which is just barely past the halfway mark.
Now, it’s easy to point at the injuries as the reason for the uptick this season, and you’d be mostly right in doing so. For example, Devin Booker played in just one of the six especially bad losses (Dec. 7 vs Boston Celtics). However, I’ve noticed a bit of a trend with the way these losses start, and that begins with energy.
On the ESPN broadcast of the loss to Atlanta, sideline reporter Ros Gold-Onwude explained that Williams didn’t like the energy of the first half; the poor energy obviously continued in the second as the deficit ballooned out of control. With 10:31 left in the first half, Phoenix was within seven points, but they never came near that close again.
I’ve noticed the team has trouble finding the energy later on in instances where it’s absent to begin. That can be a problem at home, but it’s even more present on the road, where the Suns are about to find themselves.
After playing seven of their last eight games at Footprint Center, the Suns will begin a five-game road trip, the longest remaining trip of the season. No time to ramp up into it either as the trip begins at TD Garden in Boston as the Suns will seek revenge for their first 25-point loss of the season back in early December.
The third game of the trip — Tuesday night in Brooklyn — has been talked about as the new target date for Booker’s return, so maybe he can jolt the team back to life in their time of desperation.
ESPN Sources: Suns star Devin Booker – out for five weeks with a groin strain – could return as soon as Tuesday vs. Brooklyn: https://t.co/Zv71eRjHsu— Adrian Wojnarowski (@wojespn) February 2, 2023
If the “five 25-point losses over the 24 games Booker’s missed” isn’t enough to show you how dire the situation is for Phoenix, think about it from a standings perspective. Phoenix climbed back up as high as #5 during their recent 6-1 stretch, but they now find themselves tied with two other teams for #7 and are just 1.0 game away from being completely outside the play-in picture again.
The energy has to be better as Booker finishes “roundin’ 3rd” on his way back. That starts with the Friday/Saturday back-to-back coming up against the Boston Celtics and Detroit Pistons, and they need to maintain it when he is back.
The betting folks haven’t given up on the Suns yet, that’s for sure. Despite all the injuries, the losing, even the morning after this 32-point loss to the middling Hawks, the Suns still have DraftKings’ 9th-best odds to win the championship this season. They know Book is coming back, and the Suns were really good when Book was running the show.
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