Compared to their run of putrid play in December, the Phoenix Suns showed signs of improvement in their loss Monday night against the Cleveland Cavaliers.
The ball was moving more, Brandon Knight looked comfortable with the ball in his hands and they got some much needed bench scoring from T.J. Warren.
With that in mind, the defense allowed a very pedestrian-like performance and energy output from the Cavaliers to succeed. Cleveland shot 47 percent from the field and 42 percent from three. The Suns also had six players commit at least two turnovers, an area of the floor that should improve without their No. 1 turnover man Eric Bledsoe now out for the season.
Those two problem areas were exposed in San Antonio, as the San Antonio Spurs walked all over the Suns in an elementary 112-79 win.
Much like when LeBron James never seemed to go higher than second gear in Phoenix, the Spurs were playing their normal Spurs basketball and never looking to do much more than that. Two early fouls for both Alex Len and Jon Leuer contributed to the Spurs reaching the bonus with just over three minutes played in the game.
The Spurs smelled blood after that timeout and went on to score 32 points in the first quarter. They capitalized on 10 Suns turnovers in the first 13 minutes and never looked back in a building they haven’t lost in since March. With five minutes left in the second quarter, the Spurs had attempted 15 free throws and the Suns had attempted zero.
While there’s not much good take away from a 28-point deficit at the end of the first half, the bright spot was the play of Markieff Morris on offense. Coming off the bench for Leuer after a two-game suspension, Morris had three assists in the first half, working a nice two-man game with Brandon Knight for one and seemingly becoming the only Suns player to throw a proper lob pass to Tyson Chandler for another.
If there’s anywhere the Suns can improve with Bledsoe out, it’s the underachieving likes of Morris, Chandler and Sonny Weems, who will all have more opportunities to make up for their very poor starts to the season. Chandler finished the game with 11 points 10 rebounds, his second double-double in three games.
However, with Bledsoe out for the year and a daunting schedule until March, it appears the next two months of the season will be a steep learning curve for the Suns — even if they are playing with their increased energy and activity like they have in the past two games.
Much like the teams of the past two years, the bottom line is that their isn’t much prime NBA experience in these Suns lineups. Devin Booker is the youngest player in the NBA, Len is still learning in his third year, Leuer is playing by far the biggest role of his NBA career, Knight is switching back to point guard and players like Weems, Warren and Archie Goodwin can also attest to inexperience.
That has a high chance of being the theme to the season for the Suns as fans start to come closer and closer to looking up the premiere draft prospects.
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