Suns Hope to Improve Offense, Dragic's Luck
The Suns’ defense has been strong out of the gate this season.
Now it’s the offense that is getting some attention.
Phoenix held Damian Lillard and LaMarcus Aldridge to roughly half of their average scoring output on Wednesday. They limited the Blazers to 90 points overall, well below their previous pace of 104 points per game.
But it wasn’t enough, not with the Suns mustering 89 points themselves.
Phoenix gets kudos for constantly being in games because of its defense, yet that doesn’t mean they prefer being in tight, late-game situations all the time. They have won some of those, including a win over Utah thanks to Bledsoe buzzer-beater.
Yet such heroics are never guaranteed when needed so often, a fact the Suns readily acknowledge.
“You can’ t guarantee every night that you’re going to knock down those late-second shots,” Miles Plumlee said. “We’ve got to do a better job of getting one another open, running our stuff sharply and I think that will alleviate some of the problems.”
Phoenix has been more than efficient in fast break situations. They are first in the league in transition points (23.3 per game), which account for 23.5 percent of their scoring.
The problem, the Suns say, is keeping up that pace and energy even when the offense is confined to half-court situations. The onus falls on Bledsoe and Goran Dragic to start plays sooner, ideally preventing desperation one-on-one scenarios late in the shot clock.
“We talked with the coach and we had a meeting that sometimes we’re playing too slow,” Dragic said. “We get to the half-court and the shot clock is at 14 seconds and we’re still not into our offense. That’s a big problem for us now. If we fix that then it’s going to be much easier. Coach wants us to push the ball, try to run faster, try to find open guys as soon as possible.”
The quicker offense is easier to initiate when both the Suns’ playmakers are healthy. Dragic, however, has suffered a string of hard-luck injuries. He collided with P.J. Tucker in the second game of the season and took the brunt of the impact to his face. The very next game at Oklahoma City, he rolled his ankle while performing his patented euro step layup.
After sitting out three games to heal, Dragic’s hustle against earned physical punishment instead of a reward. Racing toward a loose ball on Wednesday at Portland, the Suns point guard suffered a face-to-face collision with Mo Williams, causing a nasty gash that lanced across his left eyebrow.
Thirteen stitches and a night’s worth of swelling later, Dragic drove to Thursday morning’s practice with one good eye.
“I don’t know what’s going on, but it feels like somebody cursed me or something like that. Stuff happens,” he said. “That’s part of basketball, part of the sport. I was healthy for the first five years. The only thing I wish is that this is the last injury of the season.”
The swelling had alleviated somewhat by the end of practice, thanks to some heavy ice treatment. While Phoenix will take a wait-and-see approach heading into Friday night’s game, Dragic has convinced himself of playing thanks to a combination of competitiveness and guilt.
“I already used all my sick days,” he said. “Hopefully this is the end of those days.”