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Suns Week 14 Stock Exchange: Booker is an All-Star, a differing bench unit, and ughhh-ly fourths

Week 14 started off hot and ended as bad as the Suns’ fourth quarters.

NBA: Phoenix Suns at Orlando Magic Nathan Ray Seebeck-USA TODAY Sports

On the road again! Like a band of gypsies, we go down the highway, we’re the best of friends!

The Phoenix Suns began Week 14 with a game at home against the Bulls, and then they hit the road, Jack. They’re amidst a seven-city tour playing against six Eastern Conference teams. Road trips like these make or break some teams. Away from home for over half a month, the chemistry that is built off the court can make its way on the court. This is an important trip in galvanizing the team.

Week 14 was a good one for the Suns as they continued to put W’s in the column, raising their price on the Suns Stock Exchange, and displaying their chemistry. If only the bench had some effect on the outcomes of games, right?

Here is how the stats stacked up in Week 14:

  • Week 14 Record: 2-2
  • Week 14 OFFRTG: 126.4 (3rd)
  • Week 14 DEFRTG: 117.9 (14th)
  • Week 14 NETRTG: +8.5 (6th)

The week started with another come-from-behind victory, this one occurring at some against the Chicago Bulls. The Suns got down early, trailing by as many as 23 points, before fighting back behind Kevin Durant’s 43 points. KD’s double-clutch jumper to seal the game was the icing on the cake, the cherry on the sundae, the chef’s kiss.

It was beautiful.

Then the Suns loaded up the bus, hit the tarmac, and began their seven-game road trip. First stop? Dallas, Texas y’all. Yee haw n’ such.

The Mavericks had their way with the Suns on Christmas Day, and with the Big Three now healthy, they were able to respond. No come-from-behind victory here, as Devin Booker made sure of that. Book had 46 points, 22 of which came in the third quarter, as the Suns cruised to a 132-109 win.

Friday against the Indiana Pacers was one of the most enjoyable games you’ll see all season, as long as you only watch the first 47 minutes. A track meet in every sense of the word, it was an offensive showdown. The Suns and Pacers combined to shoot 109-of-198 (55%) from the field.

And Book? He set another arena record, scoring 62 points.

He scored 29 points in the first quarter, breaking a Suns record he already possessed for most points in a single quarter. It is the first time in his career in which his point total landed in the 60’s. He’s hit 70. He’s scored 50+ points five times.

The Suns lost 133-131, however, as they could not find rhythm in the fourth and scored just 17 points. Tell me if you’ve heard that tale before. Oh, you haven’t? Well, the Suns did the same on Sunday’s loss to the Orlando Magic, scoring just 13 points in the fourth.

We’ll reflect on the week that was in this week’s SSE.

Booker Goes Boom: Stock ↑

Devin Booker was a man on a mission this week. He already has a reputation for playing better on the road. In his career, he averages 23.2 points at home. Away from Phoenix? 25.3. That’s right. He’s played 22 more home games in his career but scored 309 more points on the road. He just loves to silent arenas.

Book did plenty of that this week.

46 points in Dallas. 62 points in Indiana, the site of this year’s All-Star Game. He added 44 points in Orlando. He has been on an absolute tear, and in Week 14 he averaged 42 points on 63.9/50/82.9 splits.

He is making quite the case to be included in the All-Star Game festivities this February as he is now averaging 28.6 points, good for fifth-best in the NBA. That is more the Kevin Durant now, who is sixth with 28.5 points.

The Suns’ Bench: Stock —

This was a point of contention last week, and Week 14 didn’t see much of an uptick. Their secondary unit remains troublesome. 23.5 points this past week for the backups (27th), with 28.6% from three-point range (22nd).

The Suns’ roster as a whole is fragile. When healthy, it is carefully constructed to be an offensive machine, but that is primarily driven by the first-team unit. When injuries occur — and they will occur — that balance is disrupted. With the bench being such a non-factor, it vastly affects their ability to be a potent offense. Or defense for that matter.

This far into the season — we are now 56% of the way through the marathon — there needs to be growth with the second-teamers. There needs to be cohesion. There needs to be confidence.

When entering the game, whether or not a member of the Big Three is present or not, they need to play with an edge. They need to get into a rhythm and not constantly defer. When the deferment happens, the offense breaks down, turnovers occur, and the machine falls apart.

These Damn Fourth Quarters: Stock ↓↓↓

I don’t know how it continues to get worse, but it does. The Suns turn into the Skyline Coyotes when the fourth quarter hits. Isolation basketball ensues, and (as noted above) the role players defer. No congruity exists, no focus occurs, and they forget how to play basketball.

Their first two fourth quarters in Week 14? They looked good. They scored 32 points in each and outscored both the Bulls and Mavs in those games. But against the Pacers and Heat? Yikes. 30 total points. 29.5 FG%. 15.4 3PT%. Plus/minus of -29. It’s just unfathomable that a team with this level of talent suck this bad in the fourth.

Package up those last two games and simply throw them in the crapper. In pursuit of single-player high scoring games, the team is costing themselves a chance at fluidity and confidence from all shooters. Do we love seeing Book go bonkers? Yes. But when you’re doing it in L’s, it hits differently.

Week 15 will prove to be an interesting one, as there is plenty of opportunity to run the slate. So again, flush Week 14, be thankful for 2-2, and carry on.

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