(Courtesy of Alvin Gentry)

(Courtesy of Alvin Gentry)

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.”

  • JOHN SERPE

    Come on guys, this isn’t a UFO mystery, although I’m more sure about their exsistence than our Suns playoff hopes. Suns have no heart, it flat lined after the first dozen games. It takes one that actually beats to come up with the effort to concentrate for an entire game. Were lazy, spoiled and have no leader to call players out. Suns right now are a team adrift. We need direction before it’s to late.

  • http://dsadas dima

    when ur offence gets tired ur d fence cant back it up

  • Rory McHardy

    This is where Gentry is going to make or break his coaching career… Can he figure out how to get his team to play with consistency?

  • James White

    Here is a fix for you. 1. Insert Barbosa as a starter. 2. Have J Rich coming off the bench. Barbosa’s numbers skyrocket as a starter. We also all saw what happened to PHX record when he was out with the injury in December. J Rich would be the best 6th man in the league, and 2nd teams would have a nightmare guarding him. The only problem I see is ego’s. For the good of the team this would boost the first & second team offense and solve the blown lead problem as well.

    Go Suns!

  • Alan

    The answer seems pretty apparent to me.
    In the early season, the bench had an identity (established by Lou and Jared), tough defense, active hands, blocked shots…
    Then Gentry started trying to find minutes for other players and play the matchup game, and they lost that identity.
    Compile stats of bench differential with Lou playing meaningful minutes, with Lou playing only garbage minutes, and with Lou playing only a few meaningful minutes.
    The answer will be obvious.

  • JOHN SERPE

    What answers do we Suns fans need after the latest collapse
    against the Pacers? Do we need to be reminded that our team is crumbling before our very eyes. Maybe the answer is the fact that Amare won’t/can’t defend, that he is one dimensional, prone to just plain dumb fouls, not a team player and should be traded while he has value. Or perhaps the answer is that as good as Nash is, he gives up more than he scores, disrupts the little defense the Suns do play, can no longer grind out the required minutes in a game and is not enough of a leader to rally this team. How about the fact that the bench has become stagnant, chemistry is way off and the Suns look like their coach, lost most of the time. How’s that for an answer? The blown leads are just the beginning of the end of a team that is no longer a viable threat.

  • Jose Pierce

    I wish and don’t understand why Robin Lopez our 7 footer is not in the game more to stop other teams when they start to make a run. You can still keep Amare’ in the game Robin and Amare play well together and we will get better 2nd chances rebounding and off the glass. I notice we loose games when other teams just drive it down the lane for a lay up with not presence in the paint that is how I’m seeing other teams cut into the lead. Robin just hast to play to keep the lead stable for awhile.

  • peter

    I believe part of the problem is the time starters spend on the floor and then the long rest periods.
    I believe the coach need to get some starters off earlier in the first quarter and bring them back sooner in the second quarter

  • wes stull

    Maybe defense is the problem as it seem to me.

  • wes stull

    Maybe defense would be the problem!! I have heard phx is pretty bad at defensive rebounding actually like really bad so we need a better team effort on that end or get another big guy who will defesive rebound and block shots which would help the defense all togther. I mean second chance points are huge and phx probably gives up 10 to 15 on average a night hmmm… could that be a part of the problem, yep. then its just a matter of getting better quality shots especially at the end of the game when a team slows it down like the spurs and thats when we could again use a true big man who will do what I said earlier and and can post up and get good looks down low and will convert on three point plays. this also i belive would allow us to play on ok half court game not great or alot but only when we need to and successfuly do so. I think it would help because there has been times when teams have slowed it down on us and we cant fast break which takes away our run and gun offense. Those teams play tansition d well against us and they are also scoring while we are haveing trouble because we cant play that style so again a ok half cout game would be a good thing. But i think we the correct big guy to do so and he should be athletic so he can run and gun as well. With this improvement and the defensive side as I said earlier we would be ok I think.Remember that teams who win championships play good DEFENSE and can adapt with offense which i dont think pheonix does too well. I love my sunns but there are some cahages that need to be made I think. LETS GO SUNS.
    Wezlo18

  • angelito

    yes i agree the suns play great during every 1st quarter, and it might be possible that when we have a big lead they tend to relax they keep looking at the score untill the lead is gone, now its the coaching staff’s task to remind players to not look at the score and keep scoring or at least trade baskets with the opposing team since the suns are scoring team just forget the last play and focus on the insuing play always think of scoring in every possesion. for us fans its a bitter pill to swallow every time they blow leads and lose.

  • Charles

    Alvin, you need to submit an official complaint about these officials. I’m sick of watching the Suns getting all these terribly officiated games and listening to the announcers even just saying “How can they call that?” I’m just sick of it. It’s BLATANT! How can they call Amare for a technical for throwing his arm when they won’t call it on someone who’s yelling or jumping up and down? I’ve watched at least half a dozen close games that we’ve lost because the officials decided to let the other team do whatever they wanted. And yes, the Suns end up giving up big leads, but I see it in the players’ eyes! They’re FRUSTRATED! When you get up 24 then the officials decide to let the other team whack you in the face, arm, run five steps with the ball, or sit in the lane for ten seconds, you get frustrated and lose your focus. Make the call Alvin, these officials are screwing your team.

  • http://blogs.suns.com/ adam

    play steve nash in the thrid Quarter,and let him rest in the second quarter.and also,let earl clark play in Small forward position.I really like this kid.

  • Demond Wiltshire

    I think one of the reasons is the rotation pattern. Our starters are very good and play well together, showing pretty good chemistry. But then when coach Gentry starts to rotate, he eventually has 4 to 5 guys from the bench in the game TOGETHER. First, the talent level between our bench and our starters is pretty extreme. No disrespect to the bench, but again we have a pretty good starting five. This difference in talent becomes extremely noticeable when 4 or 5 reserves are in the game, plus add the fact that they don’t have the same chemistry or an established way to play when they are all in the game together. And when we start to rotate, we lose our rhythm, our chemitry, and ultimately these big leads…

  • JOHN SERPE

    It’s all about defense!!! Suns started the season playing some, we stopped at game (13). We can’t play our starters more minutes, two of them can’t handle the minutes they play now another has three fouls on him in the first quarter. One stops playing offense if he has to guard someone good another shoots a nice three but couldn’t handle my mother under the basket. We were at least a “fun” team to watch, you now like the globetrotters, who we pattern our defense after. Trouble is, we have transformed back into the Di’Antoni Suns without the talent of those teams. Trades and moves are this teams only hope and even then it’s not going to be pretty for awile.

  • John

    Hello all readers. Another sad night lastnight as we got bitten by the Grizzlies! I am not a Pro BBall player I tried out in 7th grade but was cut so I wrestled instead and excelled. I have no magic words for Gentry not that he’d listen to me but it seems to me our boys have lost their spirit/magic/drive what have you. What I have seen is a lot of bench guys playing together as someone already mentioned but it is true. You can’t have the entire floor covered in bench players you need a leader and a couple of them. Yes you can have more than 1 leader at a time. It is not a bad thing to be considered a bench player, you are on the team!! Baseball has relief pitchers for a reason. Dig deep boys. Find that spark play for the love of the game not the $$$. Good luck, even though I have yelled nasty things towards the T.V. at you lately I still cheer and remain a fan. Nothing worth haveing comes easy.

  • Von

    I believe the explosiveness can be found in Barbosa. He was and still can be a viable threat coming off of the bench to give us the needed boost. He was injured and came back, and I can’t figure out what happened to him. Is he still half hurt?

  • http://myspace.com/sharkparty09 PV

    Well said John. I don’t know what to say besides BORN AND RAISED PHX. BETTER YET A DIE HARD SUNS FAN. We are lost, we look terrible. However, I still believe. Like John said here last, dig deep fellas. GO SUNS!

  • ariel

    Before the season begin they say, they dont expect to have good start and good seasons… What do you expect suns fans????
    They Dont play defense, the defense player now switch to offense…