Preview: Phoenix Suns (4-7) at San Antonio Spurs (8-4)

San Antonio Spurs 102, Phoenix Suns 91



PHOENIX — Every team will face arduous stretches during this truncated season, but few will match what the Phoenix Suns will encounter the next week and a half.

The Suns will bounce around the country for five games in the next 10 days, going from Phoenix to San Antonio to Chicago to New York to Boston to Dallas and then back to Phoenix for a back-to-back against Toronto.

This so-called “Toy Story 3″ trip (it is necessitated by the Jan. 18-22 showing of Disney on Ice in US Airways Center) kicks off tonight in the Alamo City against the Suns’ old rivals the Spurs.

The Spurs thus far have looked like world beaters at home where they are undefeated but are winless on the road in four attempts.

They have hardly missed a beat without injured shooting guard Manu Ginobili, winning five of seven since his injury. Tony Parker has stepped up in Manu’s absence, scoring at least 19 in four of his last five.

Perhaps more than any other team in the league the Spurs are careful to manage the workloads of their top players to keep them fresh for the stretch run. Only Parker (31.8 mpg) and Richard Jefferson (30.8) average more than 26 minutes. Tim Duncan at 25.9 mpg has only played long enough to average 11.8 points and 6.6 boards per game as the Spurs rely strongly on a big man rotation involving DeJuan Blair, Tiago Splitter and Matt Bonner all receiving significant minutes.

These days the Spurs are a grind-it-out defensive team as much as the Suns are a Seven Seconds or Less kind of squad. San Antonio is actually the fifth-best offensive team with an offensive rating of 105.3, but the Spurs rank 23rd in defensive efficiency at 102.1.

The Suns, however, are becoming more like the Suns of old after Friday’s loss to New Jersey. Despite missing Steve Nash the Suns actually enjoyed their second-best offensive performance of the season with a 113.2 efficiency (in part because the Nets are the league’s worst defensive team) yet it doubled as their worst defensive effort by a good margin after yielding a pathetic 120.9 to D-Will’s team. The Suns now rank a more normal 10th offensively and 18th defensively.

Phoenix will certainly have to defend like it did to start the year to have a chance in any game this road trip because, as discussed yesterday, the Suns face five of the better teams in the league. Although there will only be one back-to-back (Chicago-New York), this trip is also unusual in terms of the distance traveled between with locations with only the New York-Boston flight being short.

“We play five outstanding teams that will all be in the playoffs, so guys have to be ready and healthy, we have to pick it up a notch for us to come back on a positive note from this road trip,” Dudley said.

Already on a three-game losing streak entering the week, this is the kind of trip that can really bury a team. If the Suns go 1-4 (which I feel is the best they will do) then they are sitting at 5-11. A 0-5 trip puts them at 4-12, and the schedule doesn’t get too much easier from there.

Therefore, this trip will go a long way toward determining whether the Suns can hang around in the playoff race or whether it will be time to start thinking lottery because the Suns will either prove themselves as a team that can beat good teams on the road or they will fall to the bottom of the standings by trip’s end.

“We’re just trying to go out there and steal some games and start building our confidence,” Dudley said. “This is a game that once we start winning a couple games confidence will grow. You don’t want to lose too many because you don’t want to look back and be so far out of it.”

  • shazam

    they hardly missed a beat because they are more than one player deep and they have a good coach…notice pops demeanor is rough…every good team has a rough player or coach…all we have is a bunch of nice guys who want to be around their kids and dont care that much about winning…watch them on the sidelines…their internal dialogue is..this team can win and i dont like the owner but keep pretending so we dont upset the fans

  • shazam

    oops i meant their internal dialogue is we CANT WIN

  • JZ

    @Shazam I’ll have my box of tissues ready.
    P.S Nash and Hill to Miami for Bosh!!!

  • JT’s Hoops Blog

    I agree w/ you Shazzam. Why else would Grant Hill want to stay on a team that’s going nowhere like Phoenix? I figure that and the Suns would be the only ones that would pay him 6$ million for one last season.

  • A-ROCK

    Fire Mentor Gentry…. He doesn’t help the team, he is Nash’s assitant coach, can’t you tell by the New Jersey game, without the head coach nash the team self destructed. @ Shazzam I have to agree with you, but it is to late the fans are not dumb and I know a dissappointment when I see one, the are the Sarver Suns, Go ahead and take Phoenix off the jersey because they not giving the world a good product. I hate you for that sarver!!!!!!!!!

  • shazam

    im not even sure if it has to do with money…i think they would rather be all warm and comfy around their rich kids for an extra 15 days this season…thats what they held us hostage for… 2 time knew he had leverage on sarvers turnstiles and wont be traded unless HE(the selfish bastard asks for it)…it hurts to write that..i used to love the guy…he just prefers creature comfort over winning and thats why he is a loser…kobe,michael,popovich etc. would crawl across glass to get a title

  • shazam

    we need a real man barking orders on this team…our co-captains…eat tofu,sleep with their legs suspended,stick a thermometer in their excrement to make sure it left their body at the perfect temperature…eat a cow every now and then you old injury prone clown shoes….FIRE THE TRAINING STAFF…they have turned us in to a bunch of fu fus with high squeaky lon babby voices

  • Big Daddy

    Wow. Channing Frye belongs in the d-leagues. He’s been playing so bad on offense and made costly mistakes on defense tonight. Only a matter of time before morris takes over the starting PF.

  • Scott

    I don’t know that you solve the Suns’ problems by firing Gentry. So often each attempted change brings about its own new problems.

    Also, Gentry can point to the FO’s installation of the new defensive coach, Elston Turner, and his defensive program, as having taken up all the coaching time that was available in the abbreviated pre-season, and say, “Just when did you want me to teach the guys a new offense? I didn’t even have time to get the new guys in their spots. So we’re running last year’s offense, using last year’s players to train this year’s in the sets; there was not enough time to do anything else.”

    Aside from all that, I do think the Suns need to get serious about building through the draft. Especially with this new CBA, it’s going to be hard if not impossible to get stars from other teams. There’s only so much the Suns are going to be able to accomplish through picking up the league’s cast-offs and brushing them off. (Cast-offs the Suns polished in recent years: Nash, Joe Johnson, Hill, Frye, Dudley, Gortat.)

    I don’t advocate trying for the lottery, but the Suns need to make each draft pick count, and they need to seriously consider buying picks from other teams. (Both Barbosa and Dragic were picks bought from San Antonio.)

  • Scott

    My dream pick for the Suns out of the upcoming draft, based on relatively little research: Anthony Davis.

  • Michael Schwartz

    I agree, but the problem is that’s the dream pick for quite a few teams. David Thorpe wrote basically that even his floor is still an excellent NBA player.

  • steve

    Has shazam always been this ridiculous?

    @Scott and Michael Schwartz

    It’s sad that it’s already that time of the year in PHX. Draft preview time.

  • shazam

    @ steve…i used to be astute,conscientious and followed all things suns with detail…this year there is so much wrong that i dont bother putting my time in to that effort;;;instead i humor myself with over the the top vitriol…cmon fire the training staff is funny..its the last thing we have left that we all agree on that does a good job

  • steve


    Understandable. This season is going to be one all of us Suns fans will hope to forget. I guess we have to find the joy wherever we can.

  • Scott

    @steve -

    Actually, questions came up about this time last year on about the next draft. Normally I prefer to wait till the end of March before I begin considering picks, yet last year I’d already selected Markieff Morris in Feb.

    Hopefully we’ll have better things to talk about before long, though. I doubt the Suns can stay this bad all season long. At some point adjustments will be made and we’ll start to see higher quality, more consistent play.

    In a sense, we’re still in pre-season, but in this pre-season the games count.

  • shazam

    last year no one believed in the team either..thats why this year has more venom

  • Mel.

    “Hopefully we’ll have better things to talk about before long, though. I doubt the Suns can stay this bad all season long. At some point adjustments will be made and we’ll start to see higher quality, more consistent play.”

    Or at least an admission that the lack thereof is a serious long-term problem, and some acceptance that it’s time to either make those trades happen, start looking to the draft, or stick to “what (currently) works” and the total mediocrity that’s going to result from it.

    … cripes, that sounds like an opening reading of the charter from an AA meeting. Early as it is, this season’s already gearing up to be the weirdest in recent memory.

  • shazam

    bwahahahaha mel…u rock…i love the team but this year allows me to work on my most cynical material…its very hard to offend people when the subject is about a team this bad…and if they are offended then they have no sense of humor or need reality rehab