Preview: New Orleans Hornets (31-17) at Phoenix Suns (21-24)

Posted by on January 30th, 12:34 pm

Phoenix Suns 104, New Orleans Hornets 102

Hornets

Suns

PHOENIX — The Phoenix Suns will attempt to carry over their superb defensive effort from Friday against Boston when the formerly streaking New Orleans Hornets come to town.

The Hornets had won 10 in a row before stubbing their toe last night in Sacramento behind a monster performance from DeMarcus Cousins. New Orleans will be the third straight team the Suns have played on the second half of a back-to-back this homestand.

Despite the exploits of Chris Paul (16.5 and 9.7), the Hornets are just average offensively, tied for 16th in the league by scoring 103.2 points per 100 possessions. However, they are elite defensively this year, ranking behind only Chicago and Boston in that regard by giving up just 98.9 per 100.

They’re doing about what they did offensively last season when they also ranked 16th and put up 105.1 per 100, but they were much worse defensively, ranking 22nd and giving up 107.3 per 100. I’m sure the addition of Trevor Ariza has helped in that regard, and new head coach Monty Williams deserves credit as well.

Defense is also the area the Suns will focus on after holding Boston to 71.7 points per 100 possessions, their best defensive showing in years.

“We’ve just got to build on this,” Channing Frye said. “What we have to do is continue to play our style of basketball and build on this defensive game.”

Many analysts have attributed that performance more to the Celtics just having an off night after arriving in the wee hours of the morning with some key players a little banged up.

If the Suns can shut down Paul and the Hornets it will provide more evidence that they really are improving defensively. The Suns had been playing their best defense of the season on their previous road trip before letdowns against Philly and Charlotte.

“I hope everybody will bring the same energy for the next game,” Marcin Gortat said. “We’ve got to start winning some games right now. I still believe we can reach playoffs. If we’re going to play hard like that and play defensively like that, we will be good for the season.”

On the flip side, the Suns’ offense against Boston has only been worse during the Detroit loss, and even that was by percentage points. The Suns’ offensive efficiency against the Celts was 88.9, which means even a moderately below average offensive effort by the Celtics would have won them the game. Playing against another top-three defense, it figures the Suns will need to play closer to their season offensive averages to have a shot tonight.

As dire as the Suns’ situation seems to be three games under .500, they are just three games out of a playoff spot and only two out in the loss column.

Alvin Gentry has repeatedly harped on the need to play better at home, where the Suns are just 12-10, and that needs to start the rest of this homestand if they want those playoff dreams to become reality.

Every time it appears to be time to start focusing on ESPN’s Lotto Machine, the Suns do something like they did Friday night like stymying the mighty Celtics in blowout fashion.

But they have lacked consistency all season, and if the Suns want to legitimately get back in the playoff picture they need to prove that defensive effort against Boston was no fluke starting tonight against the Hornets.

And 1

Backup point guard Goran Dragic will miss tonight’s game after receiving nine stitches in his left foot after stepping on glass Sunday morning at his home. Dragic is day to day. Zabian Dowdell could be in line for some minutes tonight when Steve Nash rests.

Michael Schwartz founded ValleyoftheSuns in October 2008 and is the owner/editor emeritus of the site. He is currently working toward his MBA in sports business at San Diego State University.

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Tags: New Orleans Hornets · Phoenix Suns · Phoenix Suns Preview

6 responses so far ↓

  • 1 CC // Jan 30, 2011 at 1:19 pm

  • 2 Cam // Jan 30, 2011 at 5:35 pm

    CC I just watched the link you put up. I would be ecstatic if VC played that way. He took 10 shots driving to or within 10 ft. of the basket, and only 2 of his 7 threes were legitimately contested by a defender. If he is gonna play with that aggressiveness every game all game then so be it. The problem I see is that he isn’t being as, key word AS, aggressive when on the floor for the Suns. You see glimpses of it from him but nothing like you see in the clip you posted. Don’t get offended by this, just take it for what it is, my personal opinion. I will root for the guy as long as he is on the Suns because I’m a Suns fan, will always be a Suns fan, and I am always rooting for the Suns players no matter what.

  • 3 David // Jan 30, 2011 at 5:57 pm

    vince carter takes way too difficult shots. He is always fading away instead of creating space. He still needs to step up. His aggressiveness is not at its potential.

  • 4 Nerd Numbers // Jan 30, 2011 at 8:30 pm

    Michael,
    Are you on twitter? I wanted to give a shout out to Gortat’s great performance against New Orleans. If he can do that on a more consistent basis and Hill and Nash keep their legs you could be a scary first round opponent!

  • 5 Cam // Jan 30, 2011 at 8:47 pm

    Gortat threw down a powerful dunk and 1 in the 2nd quarter. Amazing.

  • 6 Michael Schwartz // Jan 30, 2011 at 9:18 pm

    Yes, I am @ValleyoftheSuns.

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