The Phoenix Suns had joined the Philadelphia 76ers as one of the league’s biggest surprises early last week, opening the season with two home wins against the Portland Trail Blazers and the Utah Jazz. The Blazers are expected to at least contend for a playoff spot and are picked by some to make the postseason. And although the Jazz are admittedly a bottom feeder Western team, the Suns still won in stunning fashion thanks to an Eric Bledsoe buzzer beater. Unfortunately, Phoenix’s first road game came against an Oklahoma City Thunder team that welcomed back Russell Westbrook. For Suns fans, it was a snap-back-to-reality, oh-there-goes-Westbrook’s-gravity kind of situation:
The loss marked Phoenix’s 11th consecutive loss to the Thunder. The last time the Suns played OKC and had more points on the scoreboard when the clock hit double zeroes was in December 2010. For those of you without access to a calendar or any kind of technology in general, that was almost three years ago. So yes, even though the Thunder are expected to compete in the playoffs and the Suns are expected to compete in the Riggin’ For Wiggins Sweepstakes, it was still kind of disappointing for Phoenix to fall short once again.
To make matters worse, Goran Dragic left the game in the third quarter after spraining his ankle. It’s nothing major, but according to Paul Coro of the Arizona Republic, Dragic will miss at least two games. Again, not the end of the world here (especially in a tank year), but then you have to throw in that Alex Len is day-to-day with a sore ankle. This is my surprised face. (You can’t see it, but I actually don’t have a surprised look on my face).
Miles Plumlee also came back to earth in meteor-hurtling-toward-the-ground fashion. Plumlee finished with five rebounds and put up a goose egg in the scoring column after taking just two shots in 24 minutes. Until that point Plumlee had been turning into a fantasy basketball Cinderella story, averaging 15.5 points, 14 rebounds and three blocks per game. So what if it was a small sample size against two “meh” teams? WE BELIEVED IN YOU, PLUMLEE!
In all seriousness, it was more than likely just a bad game against a superior team for Plumlee. Westbrook wasted no time in letting the world know he’s doing just fine, Kevin Durant did Kevin Durant-type things and none of Phoenix’s role players stepped up aside from Gerald Green, who dropped 21 points and eight rebounds in 31 minutes off the bench.
However if there’s one positive to take from the abrupt ending of Phoenix’s short-lived undefeated streak, it’s Eric Bledsoe. I had my doubts about Bledsoe being “the man” for any team coming into the season. After all, he didn’t exactly light it up for the Los Angeles Clippers as the starter when Chris Paul missed a stretch of games last year. But so far Bledsoe has been the Suns’ best and most consistent player, averaging an eye-popping 22 points, 8.7 assists, 6.3 rebounds and two steals per game. Those are All-Star-caliber numbers, people.
Pretty much every article written by NBA analysts during the first few weeks of the season has to be taken with a giant grain of salt. At this point in the year, analysis could later be revealed as nothing more than anomaly because of the extremely small sample size. But from what we’ve seen, Plumlee looks like a solid staring center and Suns fans already know what Goran Dragic can do. So when you throw in Bledsoe’s gamewinner against Utah, his breathtaking athleticism, his veteran-like confidence and his smart play in getting to the free throw line 11 times per game, Phoenix Suns fans have a lot to feel good about for the future. Just not so much this season.