By: Kayla Mortellaro
Another heart-breaking loss for the Phoenix Suns last night against the Milwaukee Bucks.
The Suns have experienced that hollow, empty, gut-wrenching feeling time and time again this season. The team is struggling to close-out games and are allowing teams to hang around to take the lead late in the fourth quarter. This perpetual problem has caused the Suns to lose seven games by five or fewer points.
And now, the Suns are 12-14 on the season and on a six-game losing streak.
At this point in the season, most teams have established the basics of who they are as a team and shown their capability for the remainder of the season.
So, what have we learned about the Suns so far?
The Suns lack defensive toughness. In order to progress, the team has to force tougher shots from opponents and close the lane. Against a 3-17 Detroit Pistons team, the Suns gave up 60 points in the paint and against a 12-12 Milwaukee Bucks team, they gave up 50 points.
“We are slow to react and gave them those easy shots,” head coach Jeff Hornacek said about the Suns defense against the Bucks. “But, you know, it’s a 48 minute game, can’t have any lulls.”
Often times, Suns players are late on rotating defense and give-up a lot of cutting, easy baskets. On average, the Suns are allowing opponents to score 103.9 points per game.
On the offensive side of the ball, the Suns aren’t much better at scoring points in the paint. In that same Milwaukee game, the Suns only mustered 24 points in the paint. The Suns have relied heavily on the jump shot and three-point ball all- season long. As a team, the Suns are averaging 27.7 shots a game from behind the arc but only shooting 37 percent.
Contributing to the Suns offensive woes, the team is averaging 15 turnovers a game. When the Suns turn the ball over 15 or more times, they are only 4-9. The team has also had a deplorable four games with 20 plus turnovers.
“Again, just careless,” Hornacek said. “We’ve got to value the ball more.”
Possessions are integral to the game of basketball. Positive possessions are even more important. Setting up a play and getting a good shot off early in the shot-clock are keys to success that will translate in the win column.
For the good or the bad, higher expectations seemed to have been placed on the Suns this season after their unexpected 48-34, 2013-2014 season. But with the make-up of the Suns current roster, it will take a lot of work to overcome the slow rotation and lack of size on the defensive side. The games will continue to come down to the fourth quarter.