Once upon of time, both the Suns and the Spurs were elite teams, with great players, and had their eyes set on the Larry O’Brien trophy season after season. Well, the seasons have passed, the leaves have fallen and so have the Suns while the Spurs are still hanging in the race. The Suns are set to take on the Spurs for the first time in a long time without Steve Nash leading the way, however the Suns still got new head coach Lindsey Hunter who will try to improve his coaching record to 3-0 after taking over for Alvin Gentry.
“Our focus is to create a defensive mentality, to create a defensive presence,” Hunter said. “Our guys are working hard to do it. It’s a difficult thing to just change like that. To see every last guy really buying into it and realizing that regardless of how you shoot the ball, if you can defend you always have a chance to win a game, and our guys have been phenomenal in that area.”
The Spurs are once again atop of the league in terms of winning percentage, tied with the Thunder for the best record in the NBA. Tim Duncan is all the sudden rejuvenated and Gregg Popovich is coaching like his typical basketball maestro self. San Antonio have been dominant at home this season owning a league best 19-2 home record and are also on a league best seven-game winning streak.
Jermaine O’Neal is out indefinitely for the Suns after discovering a irregular heartbeat; thoughts and prayers from Planet Orange are with you buddy. The Spurs are injury free. Heading into tonight’s match-up the Spurs are the favorite by a 12.5 point margin.
Keys to the game: Suns
– Pick and roll defense. Goran Dragic and Marcin Gortat are certainly capable of playing solid defense on pick and rolls but their efforts has been rather inconsistent however Dragic and Gortat will be relied upon heavily tonight to guard the devastating pick and rolls between Tony Parker and Tim Duncan.
– Stop the turnovers! Even in their win against the Clippers two nights ago, the Suns still turned the ball over 17 times collectively. Fortunately for the Suns, the Clippers were without Chris Paul thus they weren’t able to capitalize on quite a few opportunities however the Suns shouldn’t expect the same tonight; one of the biggest variables that makes San Antonio of one the best teams year in and year out is their second to none execution.
– Play 48 minutes! Because the Spurs always do. The Spurs are a highly disciplined basketball team that will take advantage of any and all opportunities presented. The Suns has often displayed tendencies to take the foot of the gas pedal when they have a lead, they simply cannot afford to do that against the Spurs.
Keys to the game: Spurs
– What’s a your role? The Spurs get excellent play from Manu Ginobili, Tony Parker, and of course Tim Duncan. However the Spurs do struggle when their role players fail to produce which happens a lot more than most people perceive.
– Feed it to Duncan early. Gortat may be a adequate defender but skilled, offensive minded centers has had good days against him. The Spurs should give it to Tim Duncan early in order to set the tone offensively.
- Polarization. The Suns are one of the worst road teams in the NBA. In fact, the Suns at one point this season lost 12 straight road games which threatened a franchise road losing record that haven’t been seen since 1984. The Spurs on the other hand have been absolutely dominating at home this season with a 19-2 home record and are currently winners of 15 straight at the AT&T Center.
Match-up of the night!
– Slovenia vs. France! Or if you’d prefer, Goran Dragic vs. Tony Parker. Dragic has played great in his two games under new head coach Lindsey, in Dragic’s last two games he dished out 19 assists which is more than he dished out in the four games prior; Dragic has also turned the ball over only three times in the last two games. Parker hasn’t been nothing to sneeze at either, Parker is quietly having a career year for the Spurs, shooting over 53% from the floor, and is posting a career high in PER(Player efficiency rating) of 22.96(11th in the NBA). Dragic will have his hands full tonight defending against a poised veteran like Parker.