PHOENIX – Brett Brown insists this is the Sixers' first road trip of the season. Of course there have been road games for he and his team, their 1-12 road record validates that. But this is the first time they have been away from the Wells Fargo Center for an extended period of time.
The journey begins against the Phoenix Suns, who have been quite the surprise team this season. A year ago the Suns finished 25-57. They already have 17 wins 28 games into this season under first-time head coach Jeff Hornacek.
“We are facing a hot Phoenix Suns team,” Brett Brown said. “They have surprised a lot of people and full credit to Jeff (Hornacek) and their backcourt, which is very dynamic, and they have some bigs who are playing very well too. We appreciate how difficult the West is."
The Suns' backcourt is made up of Goran Drajic and Eric Bledsoe. They combine to score 37 points per game and 12 assists on average. The “bigs” Brown speaks of are brothers Marcus and Markieff Morris, who before playing their college basketball at Kansas hailed from the tri-state area.
Phoenix lost at Golden State Friday night by a season-worst 19 points and they scored a season low 86 points, dropping their record to 17-11.
But they are in the Western Conference and history says the West has been best for a while now, and it is not changing in the near future.
“I think we enjoyed going East not at all because we thought there were going to be wins coming, but because the East Coast was something different, playing in different arenas which is part of the NBA landscape,” Brown said of his time in San Antonio.
Still the Spurs, who currently have the third-best record in the NBA, are 10-1 against the East this season, showing their similar dominance of years past. Portland is 11-0 and Oklahoma City is 9-1.
Competition etiquette says don’t gloat, but the West has all the reason to look forward to facing an Eastern foe.
“Honestly it had nothing to do with 'we are going to go get a bunch of wins,'" Brown said. "We did though recognize over the years that the West is hard. Look at the teams that may not make the playoffs this year, just highly competitive, well-coached teams.”
Brown is hoping to coach his team defensively better in this critical “middle third” of the season. In half of the Sixers' 28 games played the team has given up double-digit made threes and thus far this season a league-high 295 treys.
“It is a problem and it is on me to make sure we get better at fixing it,” Brown said. “It is an evolution of the game. This is where the game is heading and you better jump on it. I believe that by continuing to focus on these different areas that we are going to improve.”
Brown went on to say he hopes the improvement shows up in statistics, but also there will be a gut feel if things are being done better. But better is the only option.