The Suns are entering a stretch of games they need to win after dropping seven of their last 10. The team is hoping a three-game road swing, starting Friday at Boston, will help cure their recent struggles.
“Now we get to go on the road, try to band together as a team, go on the road and see what we can do,” said Suns Head Coach Jeff Hornacek.
They’ll get a chance against a Celtics team that has also lost seven of their last 10, including a 24-point setback against the Knicks. Here’s five things to watch.
The Suns have not started games well in recent weeks, giving up an average of 31.5 points per first quarter over the last 10 games, worst in the league.
“The first quarters are big trouble for us,” Hornacek said. “You look at the last 10 games, we’ve given up almost 32 points on average, which lets teams get off to confident starts. You’re battling uphill from there.”
Helping the Suns’ cause: Boston is fourth-worst in the league in fourth-quarter scoring over that same 10-game span.
The fourth-year guard had an encouraging return on Wednesday, turning in 15 points, nine assists, three rebounds and two steals in 32 minutes off the bench.
Combined with the Suns’ recent trend of falling behind early, the coaching staff decided Bledsoe would make his return to the starting lineup Friday night.
Hornacek had hinted before Bledsoe's return that the move could come at some point, but that the team's play would determine how soon. Now, it looks like Phoenix is ready to start the same backcourt that began the season 19-11.
The last time these two teams played, Phoenix spread the wealth on offense as not one players scored more than 18 points on the way to a six-point win marked by 23 assists.
With Bledsoe back in the fold, the Suns’ rotations and lineups figure to go through an adjustment period. Having a team-first mentality would go a long way toward easing that process.
Hornacek didn’t need to think long when asked about the biggest reason for the team’s recent slide.
”It’s still a defensive issue,” he said.
After starting the season as a top-10 defense, Phoenix has fallen to 15th in defensive rating overall and bottom-10 since February.
Boston, which sports the third-worst offensive rating in the league, offers a promising remedy.
Celtics forward Kris Humphries has been on a hot streak of late, averaging 16.7 points on 65.6 percent shooting over the last three games.
As previously stated, the Suns are hoping to rediscover their defense on this road trip. Locking up Humphries before he has a chance to get going would be a good place to start.