Preview: Washington Wizards (7-24) at Phoenix Suns (13-19)

Phoenix Suns 104, Washington Wizards 88


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PHOENIX — Fresh off a convincing win over the Lakers, the Suns continue their home month with a contest against the lowly Washington Wizards tonight.

That’s only slightly hyperbole as starting with last night’s game the Suns play 12 of 14 in the friendly confines of US Airways Center, meaning they will hit the road just twice until March 20 starting with this six-game homestand.

It’s a crazy stretch for a team that just played 14 of 20 on the road, oftentimes returning for a quick home game before jetting out on the road to make it seem like one long, continuous trip.

“It’s obviously going to be an important stretch for us,” Gentry said. “We have not played very good at home, which is a mystery, I don’t know why, but we’ve got to establish some kind of consistency at home because we have played pretty good basketball on the road.”

Even after beating the Lakers the Suns are still the West’s second-worst home team with a 6-8 mark, and if they want to get close to the playoff conversation (which Gentry still feels is possible) they must enjoy a dominant home stretch. That surely seems possible on this first six-game homestand with the Lakers win already in the bag and games against the Wizards, Warriors, Timberwolves and Kings coming up along with a showdown against the Clippers.

“Hopefully we can close out this stretch of games before the break feeling good about ourselves,” Grant Hill said. “If we can do that then maybe we can take advantage of this home stretch.”

The Suns will be facing a Wizards squad completing a five-game road trip that hasn’t played since dropping a 114-100 decision in Utah. The Wiz are a horrid road team, having won just three of 15 all season away from Washington but two came on this trip as they beat the Pistons and the Blazers.

The dysfunctional Wizards dropped their first eight games and started 2-15 but have been a not so terrible 5-9 since then.

Their offense is anemic, as they rank ahead of only Charlotte in offensive efficiency by scoring 94.6 points per 100 possessions, and their defense isn’t much better at 104.4 (tied for 25th).

Nick Young is their leading scorer at 17.5 a game, but John Wall is their superstar, averaging 16.9 points, 7.5 assists and 4.9 rebounds per game. JaVale McGee is also putting together a solid season with 12.1 and 8.8 to go with 2.74 rejections per contest and Jordan Crawford (AKA the man who dunked on LeBron in college) provides 11.5 points off the bench.

“(Washington) is a real talented team; I don’t think you can judge them by their record,” Gentry said. “They’ve got a lot of really good young players. Nick Young is a terrific scorer and obviously Wall and those guys are really talented guys. Yeah we are playing at home, but once again we’ve got to come back and do a good job.”

Yet despite that talent the Wizards are the league’s worst team among franchises not owned by Michael Jordan because they seem to be a rudderless crew missing the kind of veteran leadership the Suns possess in Steve Nash and Hill. In fact perhaps the Suns always speak of the importance of having Nash and Hill around to set the right example for their young players so that they don’t devolve into what the Wizards have become when they eventually do rebuild.

On paper this is a game the Suns should win, but if we’ve learned anything this season it’s that the Suns have the propensity to blow a home game to any team, no matter their record. With the Wizards coming in well-rested and the Suns having played their starters heavy minutes to win an emotional game against their hated rivals last night, this is the kind of letdown game the Suns have lost time and time again this season.

And 1

Gentry on Michael Redd: “I still think there’s another plateau that he can reach, and he does, too, as he continues to work with the medical staff here and gets himself into a better rhythm and shoots the ball more consistently and [is] able to move more consistently and things like that. He’s going to work over the All-Star break and try to see if he can reach another level, and we’ll see how that goes.”

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