Archie Goodwin, Bad Losses:
Archie Goodwin had the best game of his young NBA career Tuesday night, racking up 16 points in 19 minutes on 7-of-10 shooting. He was aggressive on the fast break (a point of emphasis for Phoenix this season), he showed his touch from long range (something he’s been practicing) and he displayed some breathtaking agility attacking the basket. The best part about the signs he’s showing? He’s only 19 years old.
But that also helps explain why he looked so terrible in last night’s game. Goodwin clearly looked like he was trying to extend his momentum from Tuesday’s game, because he played out of control and forced everything. He finished 0-for-8 from the floor and had as many points (one) as turnovers (one). But again, a lot of that is youth. With experience, Goodwin will learn to let the game come to him in a bench role.
Sky Miles And The Dragon:
My attempts at getting Miles Plumlee‘s nickname changed to “Miles Above The Rim” or “Frequent Flyer Miles” have failed. To my disappointment, Twitter was crammed with people glorifying the new favorite “Sky Miles” on Tuesday night. Oh well. It was worth a shot and Sky Miles is still leagues better than “Plumdog.” On a more analytic note though, Plumlee hasn’t looked as impressive in his last few games. He’s had trouble finishing around the basket and although he shot a respectable 10-for-18 in these last two games, he was abused by DeMarcus Cousins in the paint on the defensive end.
As for Goran Dragic, he has a ton of heart. Without Bledsoe, the responsibility of scoring and distributing fell to him. Dragic only had 10 points and eight assists, committed critical turnovers late and missed a shot that would have tied the game with six seconds to play on Tuesday. But the Dragon responded Wednesday, scoring the Suns’ first 11 points and scoring or assisting on their first 17. Phoenix jumped out to an early lead but trailed entering the fourth quarter for the first time this season. The Suns went on to lose again, despite Dragic’s 31 points and five assists. You could see his disappointment, but that’s the best thing about this team: they have heart and always find a way to stay competitive.
Obligatory “OH MY GOODNESS GERALD GREEN!” Dunk Of The Night:
When the Suns acquired Gerald Green as a part of the Luis Scola trade, I knew he’d provide some highlight dunks, but I wasn’t expecting him to be averaging 14.9 points per game 11 games into the season or playing solid defense. I definitely wasn’t expecting him to play enough to give fans one or two must-see gems every time he stepped on the floor. Last night’s game didn’t really give us any dunks (he did drop 23 points and knocked down six of eight threes), but Tuesday night gave us a beauty. It started when Dragic found a cutting Green moving toward the basket. There was a bounce pass. And then the world went black. When reality came back to me, I realized I was looking down at my television because I had jumped out of my chair.
Let’s take a look at the facts:
1) Heading into Phoenix’s back-to-back tilt with the Kings, Sacramento’s record was 2-7, making them the Suns’ biggest competition in the Pacific Division in the Riggins For Wiggins/Scandal For Randle/Sorry For Jabari standings.
2) Archie Goodwin exploded for 16 points, 12 of which came in the second quarter, but somehow didn’t play the rest of the game after the 7:41 mark in the fourth quarter. The Suns were clinging to a two-point lead at that point.
3) Eric Bledsoe, who was obviously missed as the Suns committed three turnovers in the game’s closing minutes, didn’t play because of a shin bruise he sustained in practice on Tuesday. Phoenix gave up a 10-0 run to close the game after leading 104-97 with 3:33 to play.
Call me crazy, but those facts seem revealing. I’m not saying it was a blatant case of “Back the tanker truck up,” but I’m not ruling it out either. Does anyone else find it odd that Phoenix’s best player just so happened to miss back-to-back games against one of the biggest tanking competitors in the West? The Suns needed Bledsoe to close out Tuesday’s game (he’s in the top five in fourth quarter scoring). Instead, Hornacek had to rely on his one-eyed dragon and reserve Ish Smith.
Speaking of Smith, if Hornacek’s lineups didn’t give off the tank vibe on Tuesday, Wednesday night’s positively screamed “We’re tanking!” On Tuesday, Goodwin was benched for nearly the last eight minutes of a game that was clearly slipping away after injecting some energy into the game off the bench. No offense to Ish Smith, but did he really deserve to be put back in over Goodwin with two and a half minutes to play? Hadn’t Goodwin earned that right, as opposed to a guy who finished 1-for-7 from the field with two turnovers? And then Wednesday, Smith, Goodwin, Diante Christmas and the Morris twins were playing together during a critical second half stretch. Seriously.
I know that Jeff Hornacek is a first-year coach, so I can’t disagree with any argument that on Tuesday, it was just a case of a new coach freezing in the spotlight. But I could also make the argument that despite this team’s hot start, the Suns still know the goal: drafting a franchise-altering player. Making the playoffs is exciting for fans short-term. But it would be a disastrous mistake for this team to sneak into the seventh or eighth spot in the West, lose in the first round and miss out on a top three pick in the most loaded NBA draft in over a decade.
The Method Behind The Tankdom:
Nobody wants to watch a team that isn’t competitive. But that’s the beauty of the way the Suns are losing games right now: they’re staying competitive with everyone. Granted, not many people want to watch their team lose devastatingly close games either, but can anyone deny that the Suns have been one of the most exciting teams to watch this year? Can anyone say that they’ve gone belly-up like the Utah Jazz or the Boston Celtics? Absolutely not.
It’s counter-intuitive to cheer against your own team. I get that. But the fact of the matter is, these two losses could mean the difference between a top three pick and a top ten pick come June. In the event that the Suns and Kings finish with the same record, Sacramento is now in better position to hold a tiebreaker over Phoenix that would slightly lessen their odds of getting a higher pick. I don’t think anybody’s catching Utah this season, but don’t be surprised if the Suns try to catch up and we see more “bruised shins.”
Between Bledsoe, Dragic, Plumlee, Green and the 19-year-old Archie Goodwin, the Suns are built on athleticism, speed and youth. If they play their cards right and drop enough games this season, a franchise-altering player is waiting in the draft. And after that, this could be a very good, young team that could make Phoenix a playoff destination for years to come.
Topics: Archie Goodwin Phoenix Suns Highlights, Archie Goodwin Vs Sacramento Kings, Eric Bledsoe Shin Injury, Gerald Green Dunk Vs Sacramento Kings, Gerald Green Phoenix Suns Highlights, Goran Dragic Vs Sacramento Kings Highlights