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Preview: Bobcats (21-22) at Suns (26-20)

Bobcats 114, Suns 109 OT



For almost two months now the Suns have been the most frustrating of teams.

They have shown the ability to make big runs against good teams on the road as well as the propensity to yield even bigger runs to bad teams even faster.

Their latest mishap in Utah saw them blow a 17-point lead with alarming speed. It took less than five minutes of game time for that 17-point advantage to be trimmed to one. As great as the Suns looked in building up that lead by racing out to easy buckets and open threes, they looked terrible in providing no resistance on defense and jacking up contested shots to lose it.

The Suns will take their latest shot at consistency when the Charlotte Bobcats come to town tonight as Phoenix plays its fourth game in five days. When the Suns faced off against the Bobcats back on Jan. 12 in Charlotte, they were playing the second of a back-to-back and their third in four days, and it showed as they delivered their worst performance of the season bar none in a 26-point blowout that at the time I thought was rock bottom for this team.

With a brutal schedule coming up before the All-Star break, I may have underestimated the depths of what “rock bottom” might mean for this Suns team, but at the very least they will get a chance to enact revenge on a Charlotte team that led 12-0 before the Suns knew what hit them before eventually putting the Suns in a season-worst 39-point deficit.

As tired as they will likely be, Phoenix can’t give a worse effort than that, and they will be facing a Charlotte squad that also played last night, having the misfortune of losing in Denver.

The Suns will most certainly benefit from playing the Bobcats in Arizona rather than North Carolina. The Bobcats are a putrid 3-17 on the road, yet they are a stellar 18-5 at home. I don’t get how playing on the road could affect a team thaaaat much, but the team I saw beat the Suns in Charlotte looked to be definitively the fifth-best team in the East, so it will be interesting to see how much they are affected by playing on the road.

Furthermore, (JINX ALERT) the Bobcats are the only NBA team never to have won a game in US Airways Center, dropping all five decisions since beginning play in 2004.

Charlotte’s offense is nothing special (which might be hard to believe after watching them tear apart the Suns last time), but the Bobcats’ defense ranks behind only the vaunted Celtics in efficiency (98.9 points per 100).

Stephen Jackson (20.9 ppg) and Gerald Wallace (18.5) lead the offense, and Raymond Felton (12.3) and former Sun Boris Diaw (10.2) are no slouches themselves.

It will be interesting to see if Goran Dragic can maintain his stellar play of late. After never scoring more than 18 points in an entire game, he exploded for 42 points over the course of three quarters — the fourth on Saturday and the first two quarters on Monday. It was truly a sight to behold, a hot hand that doesn’t come more than once a season for some players.

Having played a career-high 32 minutes on Monday after logging 26 on Saturday, I’m worried about his legs, which he told The Arizona Republic were “heavy” in the second half. Goran is playing the kind of minutes he never has in his career, and in doing so he’s delivering the lethal kind of performances off the bench that LB has failed to supply all season for the most part.

Considering the Bobcats’ road struggles and Phoenix’s upcoming schedule, it’s imperative for the Suns to get this win even if the whole team is sure to be fairly exhausted as well as frustrated at this point.

Hill to sit tonight

Grant Hill will miss tonight’s game against the Bobcats because of a bruised heel he suffered Saturday against Golden State that caused him to miss all but four minutes of last night’s game against Utah. Jared Dudley will start in his place against his former team.

Hill, who seemingly missed the prime of his career with injuries, had played in 128 consecutive games after playing in all 82 for the first time in his career last season.

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