Wednesday night’s game against the Milwaukee Bucks could follow one of a few recent trends for the Phoenix Suns.
It could be another loss to a losing team, which has been the case for three straight games against sub-.500 opponents.
It could be another game where Steve Nash plays up to a top point guard in Milwaukee’s Brandon Jennings, much like he did against Boston’s Rajon Rondo and New Orleans’ Chris Paul. Jennings, however, is only recently back from injury and isn’t likely to play extended minutes.
It could also be the start of a new trend for the Suns, one where they beat the teams they should and play with confidence acquired from wins over two of the NBA’s hottest team’s last weekend. The Suns have beat the Bucks 22 straight times in Phoenix, but after some of the worst losses in recent history coming this season, such streaks have come to mean less.
The Suns will likely benefit from the Bucks’ ongoing struggle to stay healthy. Outside of Jennings’ injury, forward Drew Gooden (foot) and guard John Salmons (hip) are out, center Andrew Bogut is iffy after injuring his knee Monday and guard Keyon Dooling is reportedly sick, but could play.
Without getting continuously gnawed on by the injury bug, the Bucks would likely be much better than 19-27. But the fact is they aren’t and the Suns get a favorable matchup that they’ll need to take advantage of.
If Bogut doesn’t play, the Suns get another advantage in the post — a rarity for them. The recent play of Marcin Gortat has shown the Suns what life is like with a productive, capable center.
As discussed on Valley of the Suns’ midseason podcast, it’s hard to find a negative thing to say about Gortat right now. He’s rebounding like the Suns haven’t seen from any player in recent years (17 boards against Boston?!), scoring at a career-best level (10.2 points per game as a Sun) and providing leadership on and off the court.
The ongoing development of Gortat will certainly be something to watch as the Suns move closer and closer to a turning point in the 2010-11 season, particularly as he continues to get more and more comfortable taking feeds from Nash.
The Bucks are also the league’s lowest scoring team at 91.9 points per game, while the Suns remain one of the league’s best, third with 105.4 points per game. Extending their winning streak to three could be a simple matter of finishing on offense and playing sufficient defense.
“They don’t score a lot of points, but they make it very difficult for you to score,” Suns coach Alvin Gentry told Suns.com. “They play 48 minutes. They really play 48 minutes, and I know that’s a cliche that everyone uses, but it doesn’t matter how far they’re down or how far they’re up, they still really, really compete and play extremely hard.”
Taking on a team like Milwaukee should be another chance for the Suns to build more momentum before Friday’s game against the Oklahoma City Thunder, but as we’ve seen, there are no guarantees with this enigmatic group.
UPDATE: Bogut out
Milwaukee Bucks center Andrew Bogut was a late scratch with a right knee injury.