The Suns’ current five-game road trip was deemed the most crucial stretch of the season by some VotS personnel (yours truly). Now it’s time to see if the Suns can close out the trip with a win, and take over sole possession of first place in the Western Conference through eight games.
The 3-3 Philadelphia 76ers shouldn’t do much to stop the Suns from accomplishing that goal. The Sixers are coming off an 88-81 loss at Detroit, and haven’t looked all-to impressive this season with no point guard to run the show. Andrew Miller is in Portland and Lou Williams is far from the pass-first point guard they need to facilitate their offense.
The Suns are clearly the superior team, so it will come down to whether or not the Suns can avoid beating themselves. If Phoenix turns the ball over at the same clip as it did against the Wizards (16 in the first half), the Sixers will make the Suns pay.
This team thrives in the open court and would love to get Andre Iguodala and Thaddeus Young dunks on the break. It was clear that the Suns’ first half struggles yesterday in their 102-90 win over the Wizards had to do with the day game atmosphere and some tired legs from a hard-fought win over the Celtics.
This should be the ultimate test, as the Suns will play their third game in four days. People will get an idea of how durable Steve Nash and Grant Hill can be with consistent minutes on back to backs. So far Nash has shown no signs of inconsistency, but in the second game of the Suns’ only back to back this season, Hill put up zero points on 0-for-5 shooting.
But aside from that, Hill has been arguably the Suns’ most valuable player this season — 13.6 points and 8.7 rebounds per game. His increase in the rebounding department has helped this team tremendously, as the Suns have outrebounded their opponent in four of their seven games.
Steve Nash is coming in playing at an MVP level, averaging 17.9 points per game and 11.9 assists per game. Jason Richardson has finally found his role, averaging 28.o points in the last two games.
Amare is becoming the beast that Suns fans have become accustomed to seeing. He looks ferocious, he looks alert, and his defense and rebounding are even there. STAT is actually leading the Suns in rebounds through seven games, averaging 8.9 rips per contest. His scoring is still not at an Amare Stoudemire level, but that will come.
Channing Frye found his stroke on the road last night, and I expect that to continue tonight. Hopefully the rebounding (10 boards last night) carries over as well because when Channing is rebounding the basketball this team is hard to beat.
The bench is continuing to shock the NBA world. Dragic plays with more and more confidence every game (7.1 points per game), Barbosa brings an element of speed that remains unmatched (14.0 ppg), Jared Dudlley is the consummate winner and competitor (and adds 7.7 ppg), and Lou Amundson continues to improve his game (5.3 ppg, 5.0 rebounds per game and 1.3 blocks per game).
The offense has been as advertised. The Suns are leading the NBA in points per game at 109.7 and are second in field goal percentage by .1 percent at 49.7 percent. This team is shooting 46.5 percent from three-point land through seven games. There are only 12 NBA teams that shoot that well from INSIDE the arc. While the point totals haven’t been too crazy, the efficiency has been unreal.
The Sixers, like the Wizards yesterday, are a team that could cause the Suns’ road trip to end on a bad note. But the Suns are the better basketball team, they just have to act like it and play like it in order to walk away from this all-important road trip 4-1.