Preview: Golden State Warriors (2-2) at Phoenix Suns (1-3)

Phoenix Suns 102, Golden State Warriors 91

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So the Suns want to run? The Suns want to find a groove on offense? Ideally, Phoenix (1-3) needs to get back to Suns basketball to get out of a funk.

Unfortunately, finding their old selves against the Golden State Warriors Monday afternoon won’t come as easily as it might have in the past.

This isn’t the same Don Nelson coached team that could rip off 120 points and still lose a game. First-year head coach Mark Jackson has his 2-2 Warriors believing in defense, one complementary to their usually-explosive offense that comes by way of a young and talented backcourt duo of Monta Ellis and Stephen Curry.

Golden State has dropped its last 12 games on the road against the Phoenix Suns, but considering the new defensive approach being similar to the Suns’ own in 2011-12 and noting their early-season schedule, anything is bound to happen. The Warriors have played all their games at home thus far, and their record is indicative of how scary yet inconsistent they’ve been.

They began the season with a double-digit loss to the new-look Los Angeles Clippers, then ran off two victories against the Chicago Bulls and New York Knicks — winning by scoring only in the 90s, nonetheless — before dropping their last game in a 107-79 blowout to the Philadelphia 76ers. Against Philly, the Warriors were without Ellis, who was attending a funeral, but it’s likely he’ll be available for the game against the Suns.

Curry and Ellis each average more than 15 points and six assists per game, and against what Paul Coro says is an ailing Steve Nash thanks to a rib bruise, any success in defending the Golden State duo becomes questionable.

The key for Phoenix is still to find an offensive groove within its starting lineup. Phoenix is reeling coming off an unsettling loss to the Oklahoma City Thunder in which the Suns got romped despite keeping Kevin Durant from going wild.

Even though the Suns’ defense has held all individual opponents to 20 points or less through four games, their defensive efforts have been offset by the lack of scoring from the starters. With Marcin Gortat (broken thumb), Grant Hill (knee injury) and Nash (bruised rib) all far from 100 percent, Phoenix has been led in scoring by bench players in all four games.

That’s bad news.

With Nash not feeling confident to do anything but pass, the Suns’ lack of firepower becomes even more apparent, and at this point, they’ll need some extraordinary performances from unlikely characters to get them through this injury-riddled stretch.

What to watch for

  • Will Hakim Warrick continue racking up the points? He’s been one of the few bright spots for Phoenix, and he’s been a consistent one at that. Playing small forward, Warrick needs touches in solid scoring positions to continue his somewhat efficient scoring output. Of course, he needs help, but continuing his solid season will obviously be necessary to keep Phoenix anywhere close to being competitive for the time being.
  • Can anyone get into a groove? Hill has struggled with his patented mid-range game early, Jared Dudley and Channing Frye haven’t been their usual capable selves in shooting from distance, and centers Robin Lopez and Gortat have yet to be consistently productive. The Suns need one or more of their main rotation players to step up, say “I’ve got this,” and make up for Nash being somewhat out of commission.
  • Does Phoenix have a plan to keep Ellis and Curry contained? The Golden State backcourt is the machine to a roster otherwise raw and unlikely to produce its own buckets. The Suns don’t have the athletes to hamper the duo individually, and if Elston Turner and company can’t concoct a game plan to shut them down from a team defense standpoint, the Suns will disappoint once again.

And 1

Join the ValleyoftheSuns team for our very first ValleyoftheSuns Live postgame show approximately a half hour following the conclusion of the game. … Warriors forward David Lee is out today with an illness. Dominic McGuire will start in his place.

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