PHOENIX – When Ish Smith was wondering where the defense went, you know you’ve not found the most competitive opponent. Such was the case Monday night at U.S. Airways Center as the Phoenix Suns opened the 2013 preseason with a 130-89 win against Israel’s Maccabi Haifa.
New Suns guard Eric Bledsoe led the team with 22 points on 10-of-15 shooting and added four dimes. Goran Dragic was second in scoring with 16 points and led the Suns with five assists.
Coach Jeff Hornacek went deep in the bench early and toyed with a number of small and big lineups. In short, the Suns will need to wait another game before they know where they stand. To put it nicely, the competition didn’t tell much.
Were our three questions heading into Monday night answered?
So what’s the deal with Maccabi Haifa?
The deal is the reigning Israeli Super League champions aren’t very good. When coach Danny Franco said prior to the game his team was going to run, it was a sign of things to come. Within the first two plays, it was clear the Suns had a clear speed advantage.
Phoenix turned 24 turnovers into 35 points — they put in a ridiculous 49 fastbreak points and 72 points in the paint — and led by as many as 42 points.
How involved are the big men in the halfcourt?
The offense wasn’t tested much. An unathletic Maccabi Haifa team couldn’t cut off drives and didn’t have the ability to recover on drive-and-kicks to stop the Suns’ shooting. Phoenix’s ball movement was good, and there wasn’t much wasted time with the dribble or otherwise. Once in halfcourt sets, the guards did a decent job of not only looking to the post but dumping the ball down to Gortat and Len, who made the effort to get early position.
The Suns had 62 possessions in the first half, a blazing pace that was mostly aided by bad defense and turnovers by Haifa.
Maybe the biggest part of Hornacek’s offense, from what we can tell this early, is that the Morris twins are playing more reactionarily rather than holding the ball and forcing out-of-rhythm jumpers. Marcus Morris hit 4-of-6 shots for 10 points and Markieff Morris shot 5-of-8 for 10 points.
Who wins small forward minutes?
The Suns ran out a starting lineup of Goran Dragic, Eric Bledsoe, P.J. Tucker, Markieff Morris and Marcin Gortat. That may or may not change, but it wasn’t quite surprising. If Tucker is going to lose his job, however, Marcus Morris saw time at power forward and continued to look more confident on the offensive end. He hit catch-and-shoot threes and even a right shoulder fadeaway along the left baseline when a double-team cut off the passing lane.
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