Through 24 games the Phoenix Suns have been the model of inconsistency.
Only the Suns, Nets, Raptors, Cavs, Pistons, Wizards, Bobcats, Hornets and Warriors have yet to engineer a three-game win streak — not exactly the best teams to be associated with. But all of that can change tonight at 6 p.m. MST when the Suns take on the Milwaukee Bucks at the Bradley Center with a chance to build on a big road win against the Hawks en route to their third consecutive victory.
Phoenix looked like the Suns of old in Atlanta, knocking down 11-of-24 triples while mixing in enough defense to hold Joe Johnson and company to 39.3 percent shooting from the field and 6-of-24 from three.
Channing Frye played arguably his best game of the year with 19-9-2 and the birthday boy Steve Nash was in MVP form, scoring 24 points, dishing out 11 dimes and drilling all four of his threes in 31 minutes.
So the Suns should be able to continue that play against an Andrew Bogut-less Bucks team that’s on a two-game slide, right? Not exactly.
Phoenix is playing its fourth game in five days and has yet to prove it can string together three consistent games in a row. The Suns are 3-3 in the second game of a back-to-back, however, and they already beat the Bucks 109-93 in US Airways on Jan. 8.
The Suns match up very well with the Bogut-less Bucks, as they shot 55.8 percent and drilled 10-of-22 triples against them in their last meeting. Milwaukee is one of the worst teams in the league at defending the pick and roll, ranking 25th in the NBA and giving up 1.07 points per possession.
As expected, the Suns have the third-best pick and roll offense in the NBA as they shoot 56.9 percent out of Nash and Marcin Gortat’s bread and butter play. If the Suns can avoid the inconsistency bug, establish the pick and roll and limit Brandon Jennings and company, Phoenix should be able to remove itself from that dreaded list that includes the NBA’s cellar dwellers.
Michael Redd will make what’s expected to be an emotional return to the Bradley Center, the place he called home for the first 11 seasons of his NBA career. The lefty sharpshooter will step foot on the floor in game action for the first time since Feb. 4, 2011, when he played his last home game as a Buck.
“It’ll be a unique situation,” Redd told Paul Coro. “Milwaukee will always be dear to my heart, always. Great people, great organization, great owner. Those relationships will never be severed but I’ve got to take care of business and I’m sure they’re thinking the same thing.”
Redd has begun to carve out a niche with the Suns as he’s topped double-figures in his last two games, scoring 17 as a starter in place of the injured Jared Dudley against Charlotte and dropping 10 against the Hawks on Monday. Over his last five games Redd is averaging 9.3 points on 46.4 percent shooting from the field and 46.2 percent from three in 14.3 minutes per game.
“You can see that he can help us,” Grant Hill said of Redd. “He’s finding his legs and his rhythm. He’s making his moves. He’s getting more comfortable out there. You’ve got to play him. We’re all very happy for him and hope he comes out and has a great game (tonight).”
Old man Nash
It’s already set in stone that Nash has passed the test of father time, but that sentiment is further validated as the former two-time MVP takes to the floor on his 38th birthday tonight in Milwaukee. While most 38-year-old point guards are riding the pine or providing a few minutes of spot duty, Nash is playing at an All-Star level that’s up there with the league’s elite.
Nash leads the league in assists with 10.0 and is the only player averaging a double-double of the points and assists variety. He’s also scoring 15.0 points per game on the year and is well on his way to another 50-40-90 season if he picks up his free throw shooting — right now he’s at 55.9-45.2-87.2.
Nash is a proven exception to the average NBA expiration date and has shown no signs of slowing down, averaging 17.8 points, 10.0 assists, 68.3 percent shooting and 72.7 percent from three in his last four games.
“I never thought I’d play this long,” Nash told The Republic. “I never really aspired to do that. I just kept playing and playing, and here I am. When I looked at [John Stockton] playing at 38, 39 and 40, I just assumed I’d be done.”