Preview: Phoenix Suns (3-1) vs. San Antonio Spurs (3-1)

Time: 6:30 p.m. MST


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A healthy rebound from the Phoenix Suns’ first loss of the year came against a New Orleans Pelicans squad that, like a relatively talented team in the Denver Nuggets, isn’t playing up to its expectations. Speaking of, the Nuggets fell to 0-3 at the hands of San Antonio on Tuesday, and that means the young legs of the Suns will face an older Spurs squad that’s also on the second night of a back-to-back.

Will it matter?

The Spurs’ model is one Jeff Hornacek’s Suns are following, or so it appears. Ball movement, floor spacing and relying upon the point guard when it comes to crunch time is the plan for both San Antonio and Phoenix. Eric Bledsoe is coming off another huge fourth quarter for the Suns while Tony Parker will surely threaten to do the same for the Spurs. Goran Dragic appears unlikely to play in the second game in a row while his sprained ankle recovers.

Just how good is Eric Bledsoe on defense?

I don’t personally buy into the steals category being that significant other than to measure instincts. Bledsoe has earned the perception of being a defensive specialist, but there are question marks about his game. It’s not just about a steal here or there, but about disrupting the offense at the point of attack. It’s about being focused on every play.

There are times Bledsoe floats, especially on help defense. A late Eric Gordon three on Tuesday was part mix-up with Gerald Green about who was guarding who and part who was boxing out who. But on the play, Bledsoe didn’t show any effort in making a run at Gordon when an offensive board by New Orleans ended up in Gordon’s hands.

If we’re to keep it simple, Bledsoe should at least be able to do a better job fighting over screens, especially against the slippery Parker. Bledsoe matched up decently against the rusty Russell Westbrook and the still young Jrue Holiday, but Parker is a whole other animal.

What pans out with backup point guard spots?

It wasn’t just that Suns backup point guard Ish Smith’s behind-the-back pass against the Pelicans was good enough for the second slot on SportsCenter’s Top-10. It’s that he recorded eight assists by doing much of what Parker does. Smith’s prodding of the defense opened up easy backcuts for his teammates, and arguably his play was just as important for a bench unit that got 33 combined points from Markieff and Marcus Morris.

San Antonio has been giving Patty Mills the playing time behind Parker and his aggressive on-ball defense should be an interesting challenge for the undersized Smith. It would be good for the Suns to find a change-up option at point behind Bledsoe, who finished strongly for the third straight game but not after a sluggish start. Smith looks like a solid fit so far.

Can Miles Plumlee score big against a solid gameplan?

After two games, Suns center Miles Plumlee hit a bit of a wall against the Oklahoma City Thunder. Part of it was the Thunder being half-conscious about his two double-doubles to begin the year. It also didn’t help that Plumlee picked up two fouls in the first six minutes, which might have caused some apprehension on his part.

Plumlee came back with with a 10-point outing against the Pelicans on Tuesday, but Wednesday’s game should give a good hint of how well he can do against a team with experienced bigs and, likely, a plan to prohibit him from rolling hard to the basket. If Plumlee is to find success, it’ll probably have something to do with his quickness and athleticism handing him the advantage against Tiago Splitter. On the other side of things, how he handles Splitter defensively will be interesting in itself.

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