Preview: Washington Wizards (6-12) at Phoenix Suns (10-9)


Phoenix Suns 125, Washington Wizards 108

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Suns

PHOENIX — After that brutal start to the season, the schedule has significantly eased up for the Phoenix Suns. Counting the last two wins over the Warriors and Pacers, the Suns are in the midst of a stretch of seven games against teams at or below .500 (five at home), including tonight’s matchup against the Washington Wizards.

The Wizards have struggled on the road to say the least, dropping all nine away from home by an average of 16.3 points per game.

They also rank just 26th in offensive efficiency, averaging exactly 100.0 points per 100 possessions, making Washington the perfect opponent for Alvin Gentry’s crusade to just look at the Suns’ last 10 games of defensive effectiveness.

That’s why Gentry has plastered the Suns’ locker room with white boards proclaiming the top 15 teams in defensive field goal percentage as well as No. 30 (the Suns by a wide margin); the coaching staff also put up a board with that same metric for the last 10 games. Gentry’s hope is that 10 games after that disaster in Denver, the last 10 games board will show the Suns significantly shooting up the rankings.

“We talked about taking the next 10 games and kind of using it as a meter of what we should be defensively and get out of the bottom of the league in field-goal percentage defense and things like that,” Gentry said. “I just think if we take away the easy baskets and we take away our turnovers, the transition baskets they get off our turnovers and we’re just solid defensively then we’re in pretty good shape.”

I like this tactic by Gentry. The Suns were at the bottom of the league in most defensive and rebounding metrics at the end of November, so why not start fresh by switching up the lineup and rotations and seeing where you are from this point forward?

Instead of the disappointment of seeing yourselves at the bottom of the league with difficulty moving up, the Suns can take pride in a quality rankings from this “last 10 game” stretch if they do ‘D’ up during this time.

The Suns will never be a great defensive team, but with the defensive field-goal percentage white boards as well as a board denoting the Suns’ leader in a handful of defensive categories, the coaching staff is doing all it can to make Phoenix aware of its need for vast improvement.

This includes a philosophical switch trying to push screen and rolls away from the lane, a philosophy that will be tested greatly by Washington’s explosive rookie John Wall. Wall, who averages 17,4 points and 8.4 assists per game, possesses the kind of blinding speed that will make it impossible for any of the Suns’ wings to keep up with him (and certainly not Nash). He’s a game-changing kind of player, and if the Suns can slow him down in the slightest bit they stand a great chance of winning this game.

The Suns’ offense ranks behind just the Lakers in offensive efficiency, and for all that talk about the Suns’ offense taking a step back this season it’s not more than a point or two every 100 possessions off what Phoenix teams have been doing the past few years.

It’s the defense and rebounding that’s been so mind numbingly bad, and if Gentry’s tactics bring the Suns up to respectability, Phoenix should move up quickly in the West.

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Defensive rebounding has been an issue for Washington as well, as the Wizards corral just 68.3 percent of the available defensive boards, worse than everyone but the Suns. They are a decent offensive rebounding team, ranking ninth in offensive rebound rate. … Sebastian Pruiti from NBA Playbook recently broke down how the Suns used a double screen to get Steve Nash mismatched on a big guy and how the Suns took advantage of Golden State fronting the post.