Scoring shouldn’t be an issue for the Phoenix Suns with an abundance of offensive talent, leaving coach Jeff Hornacek to challenge his squad on the defensive end.
It has worked at times, but Hornacek hopes to see a more consistent effort on defense Wednesday night when the Suns host a Brooklyn Nets team which is also among the NBA leaders offensively.
Phoenix (4-3) is averaging 103.7 points to rank in the top 10 in the league – a point lower than Brooklyn – with a balanced scoring effort that features six players averaging in double figures.
The issue has been the Suns’ up-and-down performance on defense. They gave up fewer than 100 points while winning their first two, then allowed an average of 110.0 while dropping three of their next four.
Hornacek saw a better effort Sunday, as Phoenix forced a season-best 27 turnovers while defeating previously unbeaten Golden State 107-95.
"We’re just harping on that same activity," Hornacek told the team’s official website. "You’ve got to play good defense no matter what’s going on offense. We beat San Antonio (94-89 on Oct. 31) because of our defense. That’s where we have to focus."
The offense has clicked, too, as players are beginning to realize their roles with a deep roster. Isaiah Thomas had 22 points against the Warriors, and fellow reserve Gerald Green added 19.
Goran Dragic also finished with 19 points, and Marcus Morris had 17 with nine rebounds. With those players stepping up, Eric Bledsoe had his time cut in half from Friday’s overtime loss to Sacramento and finished with nine points in 21-plus minutes after scoring 23 in each of the previous two contests.
"It’s tough on guys," Hornacek said. "I think it’s the old story that everyone looks at their stats. You can’t concern yourself with your stats. You’ve just got to go out there and do whatever we can to win the games. Often times that’s on the defensive end."
Nets coach Lionel Hollins made a tough decision Sunday, sitting Brook Lopez for the entire fourth quarter of a 104-96 win over Orlando in order to go with a smaller lineup so his squad was quicker on defense.
The move paid off, as the Magic finished with 19 points in the quarter.
"Brook understood," Hollins said. "The team understood. I explained it to them afterwards and they all understood."
Despite being one of the tallest players on the court at any given time, Lopez is averaging just 6.3 rebounds. Hollins has admitted to sometimes being tough on Lopez, who has played four games since undergoing foot surgery.
"I think in order for us to be all we can be, if Brook’s 7-1, why wouldn’t I want him to be a better rebounder?" Hollins asked. "Why wouldn’t I want him to be a better rim protector?"
Brooklyn (4-2) has played well overall of late, winning four of five, and leads the Eastern Conference in field-goal shooting at 48.8 percent.
Rookie Bojan Bogdanovic scored a season-high 22 against the Magic. A first-round pick in 2011 who played overseas before signing a three-year, $10 million contract in the offseason, Bogdanovic has started each contest in the backcourt alongside Deron Williams.
"He’s played at a high level for so long," Williams said. "He’s 25 years old and he knows how to play the game. He doesn’t have much of a weakness. He’s very versatile. He means a lot to this team."
Williams had 28 points in a 108-95 win March 17 to help extend the Nets’ winning streak over the Suns to five.