The Phoenix Suns’ first road trip of the season has been downright depressing thus far after the team blew a 14-point lead in a 21-point loss to the lowly, injured Magic before getting obliterated by the mighty Heat.
But as bad as the team looked in the final 20 minutes in Orlando and throughout the game in Miami, those losses will pale in comparison to a potential defeat at the hands of the Charlotte Bobcats.
Charlotte is a .500 team entering this game thanks to a season-opening win over the Indiana Pacers by one point in which second-year man Kemba Walker exploded for a career-high 30 points.
However, that win snapped an astonishing 23-game losing streak to end last season that left the Bobcats with the worst winning percentage in NBA history (.106) and a 7-59 overall mark. Charlotte looked very much like that historically bad team once again in its second game, a 126-99 blowout loss in Dallas.
Gerald Henderson injured his foot in that Mavs game and thus one of the team’s few bright spots will now be out 2-4 weeks, although the team does have options with Ben Gordon on the bench and Walker having the ability to play some two.
Therefore, this should end up being one of the Suns’ easiest road games of the season, but then again that’s what we thought about Sunday’s tilt in Orlando against a Magic squad missing Jameer Nelson and Hedo Turkoglu, and we all know how that turned out.
At this point, though, the Suns can’t take any team lightly, and Charlotte’s lower class status makes this an even more important game. That’s because although five games is far too small a sample size to rush to any definitive conclusions about a team, when those losses come to squads like Golden State, Orlando and now potentially Charlotte, you can’t exactly be optimistic.
The Bobcats were perhaps the worst team in NBA history last season and don’t seem to be all that much better this year. This is one of the few occasions this season that Phoenix will possess the talent advantage. In fact, the Suns might wonder if they’re playing in the same league as they were Monday going from the uber-talented Heat to these anemic Bobcats.
Through four games Luis Scola (16.8-8.8-3.5), Goran Dragic (14.3-8.8) and Marcin Gortat (13.0-12.3 with 3.5 blocks) have been the only consistent performers for the Suns. Michael Beasley has only turned in one good game and is shooting 36.8 percent from the field, so figuring out a way to get him going starting tonight will be important for the team.
Then Jared Dudley is averaging a mere 6.0 points on 32.1 percent shooting, and the career 40 percent three-point shooter has hit 2-of-13 threes and just 4-of-8 free throws. I have a feeling this is just a slump magnified by it being the beginning of the season.
From there, the bench must rediscover that cohesiveness that the Suns’ reserves finally found last April as in 77 minutes their starting lineup of Dragic-Dudley-Beasley-Scola-Gortat has played slightly in the positives, according to the NBA’s stats tool. For a team that’s 1-3 and just lost a pair of games by a combined 46 points, that means the bench isn’t doing its job.
One major problem is continuity, especially with Jermaine O’Neal expected to miss his second straight game due to a death in the family. Only one bench lineup has spent more than six minutes of floor time together (and that one was a mere 12), so combined with the lack of bench talent there’s a serious lack of continuity there, and in these very short runs some of the reserve units have gotten shelled.
As much as I see the need for Gentry to experiment with lineups at this point of the season and utilize different players when he requires their skills, at some point it would be best to find the best potential bench unit and just run with it.
Kendall Marshall will be returning to his old college home state of North Carolina tonight.
Marshall told a local reporter that he doesn’t want to be a “liability” due to his lack of a jump shot before adding, “It was easy for people to say I can’t shoot the ball. It’s the same thing at this level — the defense just has to know I’m willing to take that shot. If that’s so, it makes it easier on my teammates.”