It wasn’t like we were just handed the Pentagon Papers or the original copy of the Mitchell Report, but when Suns Head Coach Alvin Gentry gave fellow members of the media and I a printout that breaks down the recent epidemic of blown leads, it caught our attention.
The printout (see above) illustrated how the Suns have been starting off the last few games extremely hot, before rapidly cooling off in the second period. It’s a trend that has Gentry baffled, especially considering that the reserves, which usually come in during the second period and play well, have not been entirely to blame for the trend.
Although the bench’s +/- hasn’t been as strong as it has usually been, many of them aren’t playing as many minutes as they did earlier in the season; therefore not affecting the game as much. Gentry believes that it’s a combination of the bench coming in and losing the lead as well as the starters coming back in with the lead and not performing well.
“There’s going to be nights where we play hard, grind it out and compete like crazy that we’re not going to be able to win games because of extenuating circumstances or something comes up,” Gentry said. “Those games you can accept better than the games where you start off great and then you end up struggling to come away with a win. (Last night) should have been a game where our starters were able to rest in the fourth quarter.”
After surrendering leads of 20, 18 and 13 points in the three games prior to Monday’s, the Suns allowed the Bucks to rally from 24 points to pull ahead by one in the fourth quarter. This trend irks Gentry because he knows that the blown games are the ones the team will undoubtedly regret losing come playoff time.
A few games here and there can have a dramatic affect on the playoff matchups and seedings; especially in the West.
“I told the guys that we can’t ever be content,” Gentry said. “We’re 2 ½ games out of second place but if you look at it realistically, we’re also 3 ½ games out of 12th place. That’s not a big margin of error.”
The question on everyone’s mind today was, “What’s the reason for the lost leads?” Gentry said that he went home and watched video after the game last night, including the second quarter where they lost the lead twice.
However, he wasn’t able to find a pattern or isolate a particularly variable that is responsible for the leads slipping. He believes it is just a loss of focus, but can’t explain what causes that.
“I really am lost,” Gentry admitted. “Maybe we’ll change the rotation a little bit or maybe we’ll change the personnel in the rotation a little bit. If you look at this paper you can see that this is not just an occurrence; it’s a pattern.”