Another loss and some fans are ready to call this a lost season. And now that people know I work for the Suns, I seem to discuss the team a lot more than before. But that’s ok. I like to talk about the team even if it’s to convince people we’re not at the end of the Suns’ world quite yet.
Hey, I’ll be the first one to admit that a Suns loss is frustrating. As a fan, I want the bragging rights of my team going on a 15-game winning streak. I like the ability to rub it in to my non-Suns-fan friends that my team just beat theirs by 25 points. And I like to go to bed after a win knowing my team is in first place.
But guess what? Even after 2 straight losses, the team you root for (I assume you’re rooting for them if you’re visiting Suns.com) has the 4th best record in the league. They have the 2nd best record in the Western Conference. And they are 2.5 games up on the 2nd place team in their division. All of that and they’ve also recorded the longest winning streak in the league so far this season.
In the past 10 games, the team has won 80% of their games. Over the season, they’ve won 73%. If that continues for the season, Phoenix would end with a 60-win season. Not too shabby, I’d say.
Of course, they still have 67 games to play and a lot can happen in that time. Teams aren’t going to just roll over and let Steve Nash and gang win. So let’s look at some trends in the numbers and see what we can find:
- When the Suns allow their opponent to score 100 or more points, they are 5-4.
- When Phoenix doesn’t score 100 points in a game, they are 0-3.
- The team is 0-3 when they shoot under 42% from the field
- When allowing their opponent to shoot 46% or higher from the three-point line, Phoenix is 0-3
- The Suns are 0-2 when they grab 37 rebounds or less in a game
- They are 9-2 when getting 40 or more rebounds per game. And they are 8-1 when securing 41 or more.
Looking at the percentages and numbers that are cropping up after each loss, it seems like the team doesn’t really need to make a lot of big changes to turn these losses into wins. The numbers are all correlated in some way. For instance, scoring 100 points or more and shooting more than 42% usually go hand-in-hand with the Suns. And shooting percentages are something fixable – especially with the group Phoenix has right now.
The other two numbers are more defensive-minded than offensive. Playing at such a fast pace, Phoenix isn’t going to have a lot of guys that grab 15-20 rebounds each game. But if they just grab a few more rebounds per game that may make the difference. Why do just a few rebounds seem to make a difference? Think about what the maximum point differential that can happen with just one extra rebound. If the opponent shoots and then gets an offensive rebound, the worst thing that could happen is a three-point play (either with a made basket and a foul/free throw or with a three-point shot). If an opponent shoots and Phoenix grabs the rebound, the best thing that could happen is a three-point play on the other end of the court. That’s a possible six point difference on just one rebound. Usually, it would be less – four points or even two points – but those three to four extra rebounds a game could potentially add up to an 18 or even a 24 point difference for the Suns.
Bottom line: In my opinion, the “problems” we’re seeing with the team right now are easily fixable. It just takes inching the shooting percentage up a point or two and grabbing a few more rebounds. Even if the team keeps winning at the percentage they have so far this season, I think I would be perfectly happy with that as well. The regular season is to get the team ready for the playoffs. Maybe we should stop asking “Are we there yet?” so often and try to enjoy the ride a little more.