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.

  • Bin

    I’m expecting much better results on the offensive end especially on the front court since David Lee will not be playing.

  • Scott

    Suns finally crack into the triple digits. The offense is not entirely back yet, but you can see it’s coming. :)

  • Geo

    Yes!?! At last we scored in the hundreds like scott said and the win. Didnt watch the game but from the stats looks like everyone put in work. Lets hope the suns can consistantly play this way.

  • Mel.

    All the asterisks relating to Lee’s absence and Curry’s remnant ankle-related problems aside… a win’s a win’s a win’s a win, and it still goes in the appropriate column.

    Also, there’s something to be said about the fact that Morris’ recent numbers appear to be teasing STAT-like levels, and that he’s the first Suns rook to post these kinds of lines since Amar’e did. Way too premature to get legitimately excited about his long-term prospects, but one can’t help to glance at those numbers… then at STAT’s mystery back breakdown last year, and his currently ankle-related woes… and wonder if that whole mess might not have turned out for the best. Go figure.

  • Scott

    @Geo -

    Just so you know, as it may not show up in the stats, the starters did still struggle quite a bit. They started the 2nd half with about 5 scoreless minutes, for example. It’s clear that Nash, Hill, and Frye still don’t have their legs.

    Nonetheless, there was offensive improvement across the board, and it’s clear the team is coming together chemistry-wise.

    Gentry also played some guys together that fans have seen as competitors. Frye and Morris played together, and Brown and Dudley played together. And both combinations did well.

    The odd men out: Childress, Telfair, and Siler. Which is logical, because however much we may like them, and however much the Suns may be paying them, these are the worst scorers on the team.

  • Scott

    @Mel -

    Morris is not the beast inside that Amare was, but he’s a far more polished player than Amare was as a rookie. Morris plays at both ends, rebounds, has a high motor and IQ, and starts off with mid-range and long-range shooting, which STAT had to work his way into over the years.

    So Morris is a gem, but I don’t expect him to abuse opposing centers the way Amare did to Garnett as a rookie. (Cue photo of Marbury’s reaction.)

  • Mel.

    Agreed, Scott. I also see those occasional moments of subtle nastiness and hard-nosed grittiness that were such an integral part of STAT’s game, once upon a time; different strokes to be sure, but the possibility of a legitimate buck at the four is definitely something to be happy about.

  • Cam

    Keef’s play on the court seems eerily similar to Carlos Boozer’s. If Morris turned out to be a power forward in that mold I think the Suns organization would be ecstatic. I thinked he played with some toughness on the boards and on defense and still showed a nice touch outside the three point line on offense and power inside too. Go Suns.

  • Mel.

    ^Better comparison, actually. Good point.