PHOENIX — No team has averaged more points in its past 10 games than the Suns.
No team has gotten better bench production in its past 10 games than the Suns.
And as a result of all of the above, the Suns have won eight of their last 10 games, including the past five in a row, tying a season-high.
“It’s a good team effort. They’ve got a high confidence level right now,” head coach Jeff Hornacek said ahead of Tuesday’s game against the Chicago Bulls.
The Suns’ current run of success is their second-best stretch of the season. They won 10 of 12 just prior to Eric Bledsoe getting hurt.
Immediately after losing one-half of their two point guard starting backcourt, the Suns struggled, losing five of seven.
However, as they say, the ship has been righted.
The Suns are back on course — in line for their first playoff appearance in four years, for a number of reasons.
“We’re running more,” said Goran Dragic, who as the sole starting point guard has helped the Suns average a league-high 112 points in the last 10 games, including four times surpassing the 120-point mark (done only twice in the first 37 games). “Even when they score…we get the ball quick out of bounds and we just push the ball. We’re putting a lot more pressure on their defenses.”
Taking better care of the basketball and avoiding what Hornacek calls “silly” turnovers (traveling, stepping out of bounds) has also led to the increase in scoring — better than seven points above their season average of 104.9 points per game. Maintaining possession of the ball means more shot attempts at the basket.
“That’s going to help your offensive productivity,” he said. “That and guys are shooting it well. I think they’re feeling comfortable about plays we run, lineups we have in there — when we run certain things with certain groups they tend to be OK.”
The reserve lineup has been better than OK. Those five — sometimes six players — who come off the bench have been responsible for 42.5 points in the past 10 games.
“Jeff has a lot of faith in us,” said Markieff Morris, the leader of the league’s fourth-best bench unit (37.6 points per game). “As long as he keeps the faith and as long as the guys keep competing, it’s good for us.”
Explained Hornacek, “We try to let it ride. If the guys are playing well, we leave them in there. It’s great because it rests our starters. It’s also a fact that those guys know, ‘hey, if I play well maybe they’ll leave me in longer.’ It seems to work out.”
Dragic, still sporting the sleeve on his left elbow (“I don’t like it, but it’s precaution,” he said), is the only starter who has averaged more than 30 minutes in the last 10 games. He’s logged 31.2 minutes, three fewer than his season average.
“It doesn’t matter who’s going to be on the floor,” Dragic said. “He’s bringing energy. He’s bringing dedication and playing as a team. That’s one of the biggest keys that we’re winning so many games.”
Added Morris, “We’re just having fun.”