I know that NBA preseason games are not the most accurate indicator of future success, but the Suns showed that they are in fact the team that Suns fans expect them to be this season. To steal one from former Arizona Cardinals coach Denny Green: “They are who we thought they were.”
The Suns’ 110-104 victory over the Portland Trail Blazers, their first against an NBA team in preseason play, reaffirmed almost every assumption I and most Suns fans had about this team.
Steve Nash is not as over the hill as most people think. Nash was MVSteve tonight, posting 23 points and 15 assists on 10-for-16 shooting in a team-high 33 minutes. He showed that he can still fill it up and dish it out with the best of them, and do it as efficiently as any point guard in the NBA. Just look at his numbers post All-Star break last season: 19.2 ppg and 9.7 apg on 55 percent from the field and 47 percent behind the arc. Nash still has it.
The Suns are going to get killed on the boards. With no more Shaq and Robin Lopez out until late November, the Suns’ flaws were clear. They were out-rebounded 49-35 tonight and 14-5 on the offensive glass. No matter how hard people want to believe Channing Frye can rebound the ball well, he can’t. If he plans on making 100 threes this season like Kerr said he will, there is no way he can rebound like they need him to.
Amare still has no idea how to rebound the basketball. I understand that he is still not exactly in game shape, but two rebounds in 31 minutes? You are 6-foot-10 and you can’t bring down more than two boards? I know it’s preseason but come on, you should get at least two rebounds by simply standing in the paint.
No Suns starter had more than four rebounds tonight. But on the bright side, the Suns won the game. Maybe Kerr’s gang rebounding is the answer. It was the usual dirt workers who cleaned the glass for the Suns tonight, as Amundson and Dudley each had seven rebounds.
The Suns will have absolutely no trouble scoring the ball. Just like every year, the Suns will have no trouble tossing the orange through the cylinder this season. Even without Grant Hill in the lineup the Suns managed to hit triple digits. Jason Richardson only scored nine points and Frye only three, but the Suns still pasted 110 on a Trail Blazers team that prides itself on defense. The Suns shot 50.0 percent from the field, and a ridiculous 52.2 percent from beyond the arc. Get ready because Seven Seconds or Less is back, Alvin Gentry style.
The Suns’ bench will be a pleasant surprise. To the untrained eye depth is a glaring weakness for the Suns. The Suns’ bench went for 48 points tonight, not including the 12 points from Carlos Powell in the absence of Grant Hill. The Suns’ bench has nearly everything a good bench needs, aside from some veterans.
Leandro Barbosa showed that he will continue to put up huge numbers off of the bench for the Suns after going for 25 points, including five three-pointers. Earl Clark gives them that size, versatility and defense that they need. Dragic has been productive thus far through the preseason, including nine points and five assists in 14 minutes tonight. The dirt workers, Amundson and Dudley, will defend and rebound as they did in their combined 46 minutes tonight.
Once Lopez returns, the Suns have scoring off the bench, defense off the bench and solid rebounding off the bench. Like I said, this unit will surprise some people.
The Suns can win a ton of regular season games with sub-par defense and rebounding. Yes, this is the preseason, but the Trail Blazers treated it like a regular season game, at least judging by the minutes: Brandon Roy 36, Andre Miller 34, LaMarcus Aldridge 34. The Trail Blazers are a team that analysts think will finish amongst the top four in the west, and the Suns came in and got a win while getting killed defensively and on the boards.
Nash was torched by Andre Miller for 25 points. I don’t think he’s scored that many points in a game since his days at Utah. The Blazers’ bigs killed the Suns, as Aldridge went for 20 and Oden 17 and 13. But the Run-n-Gun, offensive-minded style got the Suns a win, as I expect it to repeatedly throughout the course of the season.
Like I said, the preseason is not the best indicator of future success, but the Suns proved myself and most Suns fans right tonight.
They are who we thought they were.