PHOENIX — The Phoenix Suns will hit the road for the first time this season in search of their offense and their first win of the season.
They will also get a shot at revenge in New Orleans after the Hornets knocked them off in the opener on Eric Gordon’s game-winning shot.
It was presumed that the Suns might get off to a quick start with a favorable early schedule that is hardly looking advantageous anymore, especially after New Orleans took the Celtics behind the woodshed in their home opener.
Jarrett Jack, who served a one-game suspension against Phoenix, returned to score 21 points and dish nine assists in the Hornets’ 97-78 victory. It surprised many that New Orleans played so well without Gordon, who missed the Boston game with a bruised knee and is expected to sit out tonight’s game as well. Marco Belinelli is slated to start in his place.
Without Gordon to worry about drilling another game-winning shot, the Suns are focused on rediscovering their offensive rhythm in The Big Easy after it went MIA in Phoenix.
Through two games the usually prolific Suns rank 27th in offensive efficiency having scored 90.6 points per 100 possessions. Moreover they rank third to last in true shooting percentage and fourth to last in effective field goal percentage, territory this team is completely unfamiliar with.
“We’ve got to get a better rhythm,” said head coach Alvin Gentry. “We just haven’t had a very good rhythm offensively. We’ve had some good practices and we’ve done some good things, it just seems what has happened is that we’ve had some good looks early on that haven’t gone in and I think we’ve probably pressed a little bit. We’ve been a good shooting team, we’ve been a good offensive team. We’ve got to try to get that back.”
The Suns will be doing it against a New Orleans squad that has played stout defense through two games, although perhaps some of that has to do with facing the Suns in one of them. The Hornets rank third in defensive efficiency, with a 90.9 defensive rating.
The Suns have been particularly horrid from long range, shooting 7-for-36 (19.4 percent), and have been nearly as bad anywhere beyond nine feet, shooting 28.2 percent on such jumpers. It’s telling that the Suns’ leading scorers through two games are a guy who did not even enter the opener by coach’s decision (Hakim Warrick) and a player coming off a season in which he averaged 6.4 ppg in Robin Lopez.
“I honestly don’t know,” Grant Hill said when asked to explain the team’s offensive struggles. “It’s not the first time we’ve played and not been in rhythm. It’s just the first time the first two games. We have a great opportunity Friday to find our rhythm. I have confidence that we can shoot better and play better offensively.”
The Suns better find that rhythm soon because these early games were supposed to represent the easy portion of their schedule before the end of the month turns brutal.
But right now the Suns aren’t thinking long term, they just want to find a way to play better and get in the win column against a team expected to be among the league’s worst after trading its superstar.
“We’ve got to try to find a way to win a game,” Nash said. “That’s the bottom line. We obviously have proven we’ve got a lot of work to do, but we have to find a way to grind one of these games out and get our season started at some point here because we haven’t really come out yet and made shots or felt in any sort of groove or confidence. We’ve just got to buckle down and get something done.”