Preview: Phoenix Suns (6-6) at Charlotte Bobcats (4-8)

Bobcats 123, Suns 105



To say it’s been an up and down week for the Phoenix Suns would be an understatement.

One game they’re drilling a franchise-record 22 triples in a win over the Lakers, then following it up with a gutsy win against the Nuggets. But when competition ramped up and legs got tired, the Suns were dominated by the Heat and Magic on back-to-back nights.

The Suns have a chance to regain some stability against a ho-hum Charlotte Bobcats team tonight, but they’ll have to do so without Steve Nash, who will miss his second consecutive game with a groin strain and is expected to be out Monday against Houston as well.

“It’s not quite right and until we get back (in Phoenix) and he can get an adjustment and stuff, I don’t feel like it’s worth the risk,” Suns coach Alvin Gentry told The Republic. “I understand that they’re important and everything but it’s also important for us to not have him out for two weeks or anything. When we get back, he can have the whole thing adjusted and work on it and I’ll feel much better than to stick him out there and have something go terribly wrong.”

The Suns looked absolutely lost without Nash against Orlando, committing seven turnovers in the first quarter and 18 in the game that turned into 24 Magic points. Goran Dragic looked flustered and scared, committing six turnovers on the game, and Hedo Turkoglu hurt the Suns more than he helped him as he finished with more turnovers (three) than points (two) on an 0-for-8 night.

Phoenix is 9-18 all time without Nash, while they’re 329-148 with him in the lineup. Dragic, Turkoglu and Jared Dudley (yes, Jared Dudley) will handle point guard duties with Nash in street clothes. Dudley’s time at point will be limited, so it’s up to Dragic and Turkoglu to create with penetration, which is the basis of the entire Suns offense.

The Magic did a tremendous job keeping the Suns from getting below the free-throw line and Phoenix looked lost. That defense along with the Suns’ miscues led to contested three-point attempts (3-of-18) and forced drives.

The silver lining is that the Magic are one of the best defensive teams in the NBA and there is nowhere to go but up for Dragic and Turkoglu. But the Bobcats aren’t a slouch defensively, as they allow 95.9 points per game on 44.5 percent shooting.

They do struggle offensively, however, with no one who can really create off of the dribble outside of D.J. Augustin (11.8 points, 7.3 assists). Stephen Jackson and Gerald Wallace are still the go-to guys for the Bobcats, averaging 19.3 and 17.5, respectively, but they aren’t unstoppable by any means.

Despite their record, the Bobcats have played some good teams tough, losing to the Magic by three, the Spurs by four, the Jazz by one and the Heat by eight. This is an extremely winnable game for the Suns, however, with or without Nash.

Losses to the Heat and Magic are expected, but it’s taking care of business against teams like the Bobcats that is a must for the Suns to stay competitive.

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