On the surface, Week 12 of the 2023-24 season for the Phoenix Suns was a positive one. The team went 2-1, beating both the Los Angeles Lakers and the Portland Trail Blazers while losing (badly) to the Los Angeles Clippers. That is what you are looking for at this point: winning weeks.
It’s like when a baseball team has a three-game series against a team. You don’t necessarily expect them to sweep their opponent, although it’d be nice. But if they can win two out of three, it was a winning series. As that equates to the NBA, if you are winning 66% of your games, you’ll end the season with a 54-28 record.
The focus should be just that: win the week. Week 12 was a winning week.
That’s a high-level view. Dig deeper and opportunities are still present for the Suns. Your Suns Stock Exchange has been monitoring it all, from minutes played to rotational opportunities. We’ve crunched the numbers, watched the film, and are here to give you our synopsis.
Q4 Suns: Stock — (it literally can’t get lower)
The Suns are so bad in the fourth quarter that the stock doesn’t even drop. It just continues to stay as low as possible, seeing as Phoenix is historically bad in the fourth. How bad? Since the NBA began tracking data in 1996, the Suns’ -16.7 net rating in the fourth quarter is the worst ever. Ever! The Suns are a -445 in Q4.
This week was no different. Phoenix was a league-worst -29 in the fourth this week with a league-worst -43.3 net rating. They had an offensive rating of 90.0 in the fourth during Week 12. That was 4.2 points worse than the 3-36 Detroit Pistons.
In their loss to the Clippers, the Suns permitted a 26-4 run to Los Angeles. Against the Lakers, Phoenix was saved by the fact that they were up 105-78. They were outscored 31-22 in the fourth but still won.
The Suns realized that to beat their fourth quarter woes they simply need to be up by enough points at the end of third quarter that they can score zero buckets in the fourth and still win— sreekar (@sreekyshooter) January 12, 2024
And the Blazers? The Suns allowed a 17-point lead to be dwindled to 4 points before closing them out on a 14-9 run.
Oh, and the Blazers were without 8 players, including Deandre Ayton, Jerami Grant, Maclom Grogdon, and Matisse Thybulle.
“I think we took a step back and I think we all know that,” Bradley Beal said after the win in Portland. “We didn’t come out with energy, we weren’t focused, we didn’t do any of our defensive assignments, we allowed them to get really comfortable and they stayed comfortable throughout the game.”
The mystery as to why the Suns morph into a G League version of the Pistons in the fourth will continue to puzzle us. And their stock will remain low until they figure the damn thing out.
Devin Booker’s Mid-Range Scoring: Stock ↑
It was a good week for Booker, especially on the scoring front.
He has dialed down his aggressiveness as of late following the reinsertion of Brad Beal into the Suns’ lineup. Booker has attempted to become more of a playmaker, setting up his fellow Big Three teammates rather than hunting his own shot. There’s only one catch to that methodically: Booker is the guy who is in his prime.
This past week, Booker reminded us that he can be a scoring force. He averaged 28.3 points, tops on the team and seventh-best in the NBA in Week 12. He did so on 56.9% shooting. If you remove his three-point shooting, where he shot 5-of-18 (27.8%), Book was 70% for two-point range.
It’s nice to see Booker’s mid-range game return, as the shot has been off for stretches during the season. Prior to Week 12, Booker was shooting 51.5% from the two-point. When this shot is working, his scoring arsenal becomes unstoppable. Just ask the Blazers.
Eric Gordon’s Three Ball: Stock ↓
Eric Gordon has been the definition of a glue guy thus far this season. His calm demeanor coupled with his three-point production has been a saving grace for a team riddled with injuries.
But injuries have slowed the 35-year-old guard down. Before Week 12, Gordon had missed some time with a sore hamstring. He returned this past week, but his production wasn’t the same. He went 4-of-19 from three-point range (26.1%) and was behind only Josh Okogie in the negative plus/minus production, being -17 while on the court over the three games in which he appeared.
Eric Gordon trying to brick his way to a Suns L.... My God! Stop shooting! pic.twitter.com/1TEDYQ8wMV— Saltiest AZ Fan (@Salty_AZ_) January 12, 2024
It’s getting to the point in which I may begin scouring the neighborhood, putting up “Have You Seen Me?” posters.
In the grand scheme of things, it’s not the end of the world. The poor shooting week dropped Gordon’s three-point shooting percentage on the year from 40.5% to 39.2%. It was simply an off week for a player who is recovering from an injury. We hope.
As for what Bradley Beal thinks of what Gordon should do? “Fire ‘em. Fire ‘em. Think he’s missed the last couple of games anyway. Get back in rhythm. Fire ‘em.”
The Suns did what they should have this week: they beat up on bad teams.
The Lakers have been in a tailspin and the Blazers had a mere 8 players suit up. You must defeat these teams and the Suns did. Slow clap. Thank you. It means I won’t lose my mind this week.
On the season, Phoenix is 13-9 against teams under .500, which puts them at 8-9 against teams over .500. There is still a hill to climb for the team as they are 21-18 and nestled into the 8th seed in the Western Conference. They are two games behind the Sacramento Kings, who they play on Tuesday, for the sixth seed. That is the goal right now: to get out of a play-in spot.
It starts with closing games out. The Suns Stock Exchange will continue to monitor those fourth quarters, hoping that one day we can put the little “↑” next to their progress.
Until next week, Bright Side!