Wednesday’s 109-107 win over the Clippers was the true season opener, but the Suns will get their first chance to shine in front of their home crowd tonight at US Airways Center.
Beating the Clippers in nail-biting fashion certainly got people excited about this team, but deeper analysis offers insight into the good and bad of this squad.
The thing that left me scratching my head more than anything was the total lack of run-n-gun. Unless I was watching the wrong game, the Suns never got the offense going full speed. They only had two fastbreak points (L.A. had 16!). Steve Nash recently said this team is a little unsure of its identity, and this is an indication of that. As the on-court chemistry improves, look for the Suns to get more comfortable running again.
The elephant in the room during the preseason was rebounding. The Suns actually outrebounded the Clippers 36-35, but part of that was Grant Hill’s 13 boards, which won’t happen every night.
The Suns were outscored in the paint 44-26 while Frye and Stoudemire combined for just nine rebounds. For a starting power forward and center, those numbers simply don’t cut it, and they will need to step up soon.
Golden State is a different monster than the Clippers were, and the Suns should walk away with a win if they are able to exploit the Warriors’ weaknesses. The Warriors come in with an eight-game losing streak at US Airways Center, and pushing that to nine is very doable.
The two teams are similar in their high-scoring styles, but the Suns are at an advantage because the Warriors are, at this point, largely unorganized. This could be attributed to a lack of veteran leadership and tension in the locker room.
The team’s most valuable veteran, Stephen Jackson, has shown that he is not a leader and had his captain status stripped from him. Demanding trades and generally acting like a spoiled toddler doesn’t do a whole lot to build team unity, but the Warriors can be fortunate he isn’t fighting in the stands.
Gentry said yesterday that Barbosa will likely start as Jason Richardson finishes up his suspension and misses out on a faceoff against his old team.
Barbosa should be able to shut down rookie Stephen Curry, who is still finding his legs in the NBA. The seventh overall pick in last year’s draft looked solid in his debut for the Warriors, tallying 14 points, seven assists and four steals. But this will be a test of his ability to keep up in the big time. The Suns will likely look to exploit his inexperience.
Monta Ellis netted 26 points in a loss to the Rockets Wednesday and will likely be overmatched against Nash, who showed his instincts for taking over a game are alive and well against the Clippers Wednesday night as he scored 15 fourth quarter points.
This is a good matchup for the home opener and it should give the Suns a chance to impress in front of the home crowd. I’m interested to see what the crowd atmosphere will be like for this game. A lot of people have lowered expectations for the Suns this year, but certainly not the diehards.
The place should be packed and there will be plenty of excitement in the air as the Suns look to prevent the first Golden State win in Phoenix since March 2005.
Suns pick up options on Dudley, Lopez; decline Tucker
The Suns officially announced they have exercised team options on Jared Dudley and Robin Lopez for the 2010-2011 season. This wasn’t anything unexpected, but it does indicate that both of these guys have a place in the future of this team. Both are young players, with Dudley 24 and Lopez just 21, and have a lot of upside.
Lopez could be the big man in Phoenix for the long run if he develops the way the team expects him to. Dudley may never be more than a sixth man, but he has already shown that he is a valuable asset off the bench.
For all we know, both these guys may have futures elsewhere. But for now, the Suns are making a statement that they like what they see and are giving these guys the opportunity to build their careers in orange.
Unfortunately for Tucker, it looks like he will be doing his thing elsewhere next season. The Suns declined the option on their 2007 first-round pick (29th overall).