The struggling Phoenix Suns (13-27, 4-16 Away) will try to turn things around tomorrow when they meet the Boston Celtics (20-19, 10-10 Home) and the familiar face of Isaiah Thomas at TD Garden (7:30 PM Eastern).
For three-quarters of the 2014-15 season, the Suns were in the mix for a playoff spot in the stacked Western Conference. A three-guard set featuring Thomas, Goran Dragic, and Eric Bledsoe had Phoenix scoring at a torrid pace. But with free agency looming and the defense struggling, management saw fit to overhaul that situation, sending Dragic to the Heat and Thomas to the Celtics, and getting Brandon Knight from the Bucks in return.
The moves did not work out. Phoenix limped to a tenth-place finish in the conference and watched Thomas take Boston to a playoff spot in the East.
Thomas and the Celtics have continued their strong play this season. Though they’re currently half a game back of the final playoff spot, they’re a game over .500 and outscoring opponents by an average margin of three points per night. Things had taken a turn of late, as Boston dropped four straight. But they stemmed the flow with a 103-94 win over the Pacers on Wednesday, outscoring Indiana 12-0 in the final 1:46.
Thomas, who’s averaging 21.6 points and 6.7 assists per game (both team highs), torched the Pacers for 28 points on 9 of 18. “That was like a video game,” said Thomas to the Boston Herald.
The Suns, on the other hand, have picked up where they left off; they’re 14 games below .500 and have lost 12 of their last 13. Injuries have been part of the problem. Without Bledsoe, who had season-ending knee surgery in late December, all the offensive responsibilities are falling on Knight. The dynamic guard is averaging nearly 20 points per game and shooting over 45-percent from the floor, but he’s getting little help from the supporting cast. TJ Warren is the team’s next leading scorer at just 11.3 PPG.
Phoenix’s one-man offense has put up a woeful 89.9 points per game in their last three (all losses), a far cry from the triple-digits they were averaging when both Bledsoe and Knight were healthy.
The Suns defense was the bigger issue last time out, though. The squad fell 116-97 to the Pacers on Tuesday, getting outscored 36-21 in the fourth quarter.
“They broke us down and we couldn’t get stops,” said head coach Jeff Hornacek to the AP.
Phoenix is 1-7 ATS in its last eight games on the road and 8-20 ATS in their last 28 games, overall. Bank on them to fall against the number again.
(Photo credit: Joseph Glorioso Photography (flickr) [https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nd/2.0/legalcode].)