Game Thread: Suns (3-0) at Heat (3-0)

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Suns 104, Heat 96

Suns

Suns

Heat

Heat

The Phoenix Suns are one of only five NBA teams yet to lose a basketball game a week into the 2009-10 season.

However, that hot start could change in a hurry considering the three wins have comes against squads that are a combined 2-9 whereas Phoenix’s next three games will come on the road against three of those remaining undefeated teams, starting tonight in Miami.

The road trip continues on to undefeated Orlando and Boston before the Suns finish up in Washington and Philly. It would surprise nobody if all five of those teams grab an Eastern Conference playoff spot, and when you consider those five games will be played in a span of seven days it’s no wonder the Suns needed to get off to that fast start to avoid getting buried.

A reasonable goal for the Suns would be 2-3 on this 6,849-mile trip, and really I wouldn’t be surprised by 1-4; they just can’t get buried during an early stretch that continues with 15 of their next 20 away from US Airways Center like they did last year during a stretch that started in Miami and Orlando and continued on Houston and San Antonio. After dropping those four, the Suns proceeded to lose their next two at home against Dallas and Cleveland, and the season was essentially over.

“It’s a huge, huge test for us,” said Suns head coach Alvin Gentry. “We go out now for five really tough games on the road, so we’ve just got to hang in there, see where our team is, keep fighting and try to get better. I’m not going to judge anything by these five road games. If we come back 5-0 I’m not going to think that we’re great, and if we come back 0-5 I’m not going to think that our season’s over.”

It’s right for Gentry to say that with a young team that very well might put up a goose egg in the win column this trip as saying such a thing alleviates a bit of pressure, but if this team plays as well offensively as it has in the past three, it should be able to pull out at least a game or two.

The Suns’ offense ranks fourth in the NBA in offensive efficiency (113.5 per 100), and they lead the league in scoring at 117.3 per game. Miami boasts the second-most efficient D yielding 91.6 per 100 whereas the Heat give up a total of 87.7 per game, fourth best in the league.

Last year in Miami it was the Suns’ porous defense that led to a 135-129 defeat. Sure, Dwyane Wade could not be stopped on his way to 35, but more importantly his 16 assists set the table for career days for Michael Beasley and Daequan Cook. The Suns scored at will but could never get that stop they needed most, so it will be interesting to see the improvement in the Suns’ D that Gentry said has made “baby steps” in the early going.

In all, the Suns really have not been tested much yet in terms of competition. That changes tonight and will change in a big way over the course of the road trip.

Expect some lumps as the Suns continue to figure themselves out and improve on D, but it will be fun to see how Phoenix matches up with the beasts in the East.

“I don’t think anyone really knows how good we can be,” Nash said, “so I think it’s going to be interesting to find out.”

Barbosa doubtful

The Arizona Republic reported that LB is doubtful tonight with a sore right wrist that he aggravated on Sunday after originally hurting it in September during the FIBA Americas. If he doesn’t play I would assume that would mean a couple more minutes for J-Rich and possibly more time for Goran Dragic.

LB only played 14 minutes against Minnesota after J-Rich was suspended for the first two games, so we might have to wait a bit to see the Suns unleash their vaunted three-guard lineup.

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