Phoenix Suns Having Trouble Finishing, Not Competing


Don’t mind the 13-28 record that the Phoenix Suns sheepishly own. Instead, look at the way they have competed against the best teams in the league.

It’s been the same story for the Phoenix Suns all season long.

They’ve been able to compete with nearly any team, whether it be the defending-champion Cleveland Cavaliers, or the ageless San Antonio Spurs. Take last night for example, when they hosted the 26-16 Utah Jazz.

The Jazz will likely make the playoffs this season, and have already beat the Suns in their two meetings this year. Phoenix had a six-point lead at the half, and continued to outplay Utah into the final few minutes of the game. But, like many other games this season, their late lead wouldn’t last.

Their 28th loss of the season came again in the form of a meltdown in the dwindling moments of the fourth quarter. The Suns had a 101-99 lead with 1:13 remaining, but then went scoreless as the Jazz stormed back for their fourth-straight win.

Look at their 13-28 record and roll your eyes. Another season of Suns basketball, is what you’re probably thinking. But instead shy away from the amount of wins and losses they have this year, and focus on how they’ve been able to compete with some of the best teams in the league.

They’ve beaten the Atlanta Hawks, the current four-seed in the Eastern Conference, and the Toronto Raptors, who are just 2.0 games behind the Cavs for the best record in the East. They just recently beat the Spurs in Mexico, 108-105. It was just their 9th loss of the season for Gregg Popovich and his Spurs.

When these young Suns lose, rarely is it by much. Over the course of a season consisting of 82-games, of course there will be games in which the offense is cold and opposition is red-hot. But lately, that hasn’t been the case for this team. Four of their last five losses have been decided by less than five points.

Those losses have come twice against the Jazz, and once against the Cavaliers. It was a 120-116 nail-biting defeat against the defending champions that really showed the Suns could play with whoever.

In their matchup against the Cavs, it was clear they weren’t on the same level as LeBron James and his crew. But a 69-53 halftime deficit didn’t cause the Suns to cave in, but instead sparked a rally. They stormed back with a third quarter that saw the Cavs lead shrink to just three points.

Going into the last twelve minutes of play, the Suns remained neck-and-neck with their Eastern Conference opponents. But again, just four points scored in the last 1:15 allowed the Cavs to solidify another win.

That’s been the story for the Suns as we near the halfway point in the 2016-17 campaign. It’s not that they have trouble competing with basketball’s best, it’s that they struggle with putting these teams away.

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They’ll need to bring that same competitive edge they’ve shown all year into Thursday’s date with the Cleveland Cavaliers, as they begin a three-game road trip.