PHOENIX — Less than a week ago the Phoenix Suns were surging. Consecutive wins against the Lakers and Celtics had Phoenix thinking elite status rather than mediocrity.
Then the Grizzlies came into US Airways Center three days later and broke the spirit of the Suns, dismantling Steve Nash and company, 128-103.
Such is life for an inconsistent team in the NBA, but as Nash said after the Grizzlies loss, “We play so many games in this league, by the end of the week we could be heroes again.”
Tonight’s meeting with the Kings in Sac-Town is the first step toward beginning a new winning streak and regaining that heroic status. But righting the ship won’t be as easy as it sounds.
The Kings have dropped five of their last six games, but take a look at who they have come against and the fashion in which they’ve lost. It started with an overtime loss to Cleveland, followed by another overtime loss to the Lakers. The Kings then took down the Denver Nuggets by five, but dropped three straight to the Sixers, Lakers and Mavericks.
Although the 1-5 record during that stretch is ugly, it is deceiving, as all but one of the teams figures to be a top-three seed in their respective conference.
The Suns will have their hands full with rookie phenom Tyreke Evans. Evans is a legitimate Rookie of the Year candidate, averaging 20.1 points per game, 5.1 rebounds and 4.9 assists. He loves to get to the hoop, and the Suns don’t really have an answer for his 6-foot-6, 220-pound frame and surprising quickness.
In fact, Evans played very well against the Suns during their first matchup at USAC, finishing with 21 points, seven assists and six rebounds. But Nash and Stoudemire were too much for the Kings, leading the Suns past Sacramento in sloppy fashion, 115-107. Nash went for 32 and 6, while STAT dominated the paint, posting 18 points and a season-high 21 rebounds.
The Suns need to make a conscious effort of keeping the Kings off the boards tonight. Sacramento ranks tied for fifth in offensive rebounding, averaging 12.2 offensive boards per game. Coincidentally enough, the Suns allow the most offensive rebounds in the NBA, giving up 13.5 per contest.
It is imperative that the Suns keep Sacramento big men Jason Thompson and Spencer Hawes off the glass if they want to take care of business against the Kings. And the Suns certainly need to take care of business.
This is somewhat of a must-win game for Phoenix. The Suns have been awful on the road (8-10 after losing seven in a row), and they are coming off a concerning and embarrassing loss at home to the Grizzlies. Now is the time to turn the Memphis loss into nothing but a hiccup, shake the Jekyll and Hyde syndrome and take care of business against a team they should beat.
Nash downplays Phoenix’s talent
Apparently Nash doesn’t think the Suns are more talented than many NBA teams. After the Memphis loss, he was adamant about the fact that the Suns can’t win on talent alone, instead insisting they need to work hard, too.
“I think we’ve got to realize we’re not really more talented than the Grizzlies or Oklahoma City,” Nash said. “We’re not. We’ve got to beat them because we want it more.”
Nash clearly knows the Suns are more talented than the Grizzlies and the Thunder, but he’s sending a message to his teammates that they need to play much harder. Effort has been an issue, and that can’t happen.
“I don’t think we let down, I just don’t think we brought any effort,” Amare Stoudemire said after the loss to Memphis. “We could play a lot harder out there. … In order to be successful in this league and a great team, you have to play every night.”
If you haven’t already noticed, Amare Stoudemire is playing like a man possessed. He is averaging 25.8 points and 9.8 rebounds per game during the last 11 contests. STAT has scored 23 points or more in eight of the last 10 games.
Now he just needs to stay out of foul trouble.
The Suns in the Playbook
TrueHoop Network blogger Sebastian Pruiti started up a new site focused on analyzing play calling in the NBA. In one of his first posts, he takes a stab at previewing tonight’s Suns game.