Despite a loss to the Oklahoma City Thunder on Monday morning (Australia time), one that had the element of surprise as a suddenly-healthy Russel Westbrook showed up, the Phoenix Suns find themselves in an excellent position after three games. Gone are the days of Steve Nash and Shawn Marion, and Eric Bledsoe has taken over the Suns' 2013-14 season.
Bledsoe, who has emerged as a formidable scorer and playmaker, has led the Suns in both categories in their past two games, averaging 22 points and 10 assists over that stretch. At 2-1, the Suns find themselves with the the likes of the Spurs and the Warriors for second in the West, behind the surprising Timberwolves.
The Spurs themselves are in great shape. After starting the season 2-0, including a grudge match over the Grizzlies whom they defeated in 2012-13 to qualify for the Finals, they lost a battle of attrition against the 2-1 Portland Trail Blazers. The Spurs have a lot of international flavor in their roster, including two Australians, one Argentinian, one Brazilian, and three Frenchmen led by point guard Tony Parker.
Despite the wins, the Spurs have been criticized for their slow starts. In each of their games so far, they have scored less than 20 points in the first quarter, something that has not happened much during the Duncan-Ginobili-Parker era. They do tend to heat up after halftime, but run the risk of losing steam towards endgame, as shown by their defeat to the Blazers.
A win is important for both teams to create separation between themselves and the rest of the conference. A loss will send the loser to a share of fourth to tenth place. While the season is still in the early stages, early wins make for more confident teams towards the middle of regular-season play.
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