PHOENIX — The suddenly streaking Phoenix Suns will be aiming to win their fourth straight game after seven consecutive losses when the lowly Charlotte Bobcats come to town for a Wednesday night tilt fresh off 12 straight losses.
In the process, the Suns hope to become the first Phoenix team to win four in a row after a losing streak of at least seven since the 1987-88 Suns followed a nine-game skid with four straight wins. Perhaps it’s also not a good sign that the ’87-88 Suns finished 28-54 but for now the current rendition of the franchise is just seeking some consistency after the awful start.
They may have found that in their new starting lineup that has opened each of these past three wins. The unit consisting of Dragic-Brown-Dudley-Scola-Gortat has outscored opponents by 11.4 points per 100 possessions (109.5 offensive rating, 98.1 defensive rating) in 49 minutes of action, according to the league’s advanced stats site. When Markieff Morris has replaced Scola, a happenstance over 20 minutes in two of these games, they have actually outscored the opposition by 27.1 per 100 (92.1 off rating, unsustainable 64.9 def rating).
Jared Dudley’s strong play has been a huge key as well with JD going for 20 points in his last two and at least 15 in his last four. He also said he feels the three spot is more “suitable” for him defensively, but really the Suns have been a better team all season with Dudley on the floor so his move to starter certainly makes sense.
The Suns are 24.6 points per 100 possessions better when Dudley plays than when he sits, and they are a whopping 19.6 points per 100 better defensively with Dudley in the game. Of the Suns’ top five lineups involving players logging at least 150 minutes together, Dudley is involved in the top five. So the fact that he has played 43, 43 and 37 minutes in these past three wins should be no surprise.
The swingman from Boston College has surely helped the Suns dominate defensively during their past three games in which Phoenix has yielded a mere 93.4 points per 100 possessions (for the season they are giving up 105.2) while holding all three opponents below 90 points and 42 percent shooting. The Suns had not held three straight opponents under 90 in six years.
The Bobcats enter this one coming off a demoralizing loss late last night in Staples against the Lakers. Charlotte led Los Angeles by 18 points late in the third quarter and had a chance to win on its final possession but missed three different shots before the horn sounded in a one-point loss.
That game has been par for the course for the Bobcats of late as they have lost 12 games in a row to come back to earth after a stunning 7-5 start. This is about where we expected the Bobcats to be, but it’s pretty crazy that they would suffer through such a long losing streak after playing so hard and winning so many home games to start the season.
Kemba Walker has taken his game up a few notches this season as he’s averaging 18.5 a game after torching the Lakers for 28-7-5 last night. However, aside from him there’s not much impact talent so for once the Suns will be better in that department tonight.
The Suns have already dropped enough games against bad teams to fill up three seasons, and they cannot afford another one in tonight’s ideal situation: a tired opponent that has lost 12 in a row. Phoenix must continue to play good basketball while extending a home winning streak that can help make up for its previous disastrous road trip.
“Anytime you lose seven in a row you’ve got to go on a streak that you get close, about seven in a row or two five games,” Dudley said. “Obviously we’re at three now. We’ve got the Bobcats in here on Wednesday, we’ve got to win that game, and we’ve got to keep going. You win three, lose one, win four. Right now we’re playing the right way, we’re playing unselfish, and guys are moving the ball, defensively we’re talking, and anytime you have that you give yourself a chance to win every night.”
I joined the crew over at Queen City Hoops for a 3-on-3 preview of tonight’s game.
Tags: Jared Dudley