Preview: New Jersey Nets (2-9) at Phoenix Suns (4-6)

New Jersey Nets 110, Phoenix Suns 103



PHOENIX — Alvin Gentry will keep saying it, but it’ll mean nothing if nobody’s listening.

“I’ll keep harping this season, NBA basketball is the toughest place to win on the road,” the Suns’ head coach said after dropping a home game to the Cleveland Cavaliers. “If you go back and look over the history of this league, even the last few years, the teams that have had the really good records have had great records at home and have been about .500 on the road.

“It’s just really important for us to take care of business at home.”

The loss to the Cavs was a missed opportunity, but Phoenix can make it less painful with a US Airways Center win against the 2-9 New Jersey Nets tonight. Then the Suns are off on a daunting five-game road swing.

Gentry joked before the Cleveland game that it’d be silly to put the blinders on and not realize the task ahead. Looking at the road trip only helps his team realize how important a win against New Jersey at 7 p.m. could be down the road.

This is a Suns team that’s now averaging the same 102.9 points per 100 possessions and giving up 102.9 to opponents. But while the assumptions from those numbers would put the Suns somewhere around .500, that won’t be the case if they can’t finish games.

In the past two games, both losses, Phoenix was within five or six early in the fourth quarter, but a 15-point final period against the Los Angeles Lakers and a 19-point period against the Cleveland Cavaliers were signs that the Suns could lose to anyone willing to put their defensive foot on the Suns’ throats.

That’s why a win is vital against the Nets, who are dead last in the NBA by giving up 112.2 points per 100 possessions.

“It’s critical,” said forward Jared Dudley, “you want to take care of the home games, especially the teams that probably won’t make the playoffs.”

Scouting New Jersey

Deron Williams — Compared to past seasons, the point guard’s numbers have dropped off a tad, but it’s likely more of a result of the lack of talent around him. He’s putting up 16.9 points and 8.2 assists per game, yet struggling with a 35.4 percent clip from the field. He’s also averaging 5.2 three-point attempts per game and hitting only 30.8 percent of those.

If the Suns are willing to risk it, going under screens might bait Williams into taking a shot he has struggled to make.

MarShon Brooks — The 6-foot-5, 200-pound shooting guard out of Providence was relatively unknown until he went for 52 points against Notre Dame in his final collegiate year. Of the Nets players averaging more than 20 minutes a game, the rookie leads the team with a 19.3 PER. His 14 points per game is coming surprisingly efficiently too — Brooks is hitting on 45.2 percent from the floor and 38.7 percent from three-point land.

Kris Humphries — There are two things to note about the Nets’ energy guy. Firstly, Humphries is quietly averaged a double-double of 13.1 points and 10.4 rebounds. Secondly, why does everyone hate Humphries so much? Do we really hold someone of Kim Kardashian’s stature higher? I mean, I don’t even know what she does. Maybe she makes perfumes. My pop culture ineptness could be to blame for this ignorance, but so too could be my like for basketball over E! television.

Redd to start?

With Grant Hill probable against New Jersey and Gentry possibly sliding Jared Dudley to the bench, it’s possible there’s a shake-up in the starting lineup, Paul Coro reports.

And 1

Schwartz took part in a 3-on-3 game preview with the TrueHoop Network’s New Jersey blog, Nets are Scorching.

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