Time: 7 p.m. MST
TV: FSAThe Las Vegas odds-makers set the Suns over/under win total at 19.5 for this season. If you bet the over then you are sitting pretty as the Suns enter the 2014 calendar year tonight against the Memphis Grizzlies with 19 wins.
The Suns have been the biggest surprise in the NBA that not even the players’ moms saw coming. Talk in the preseason was all about whether the Suns will get Jabari Parker, Andrew Wiggins or any of the top college basketball players in the draft but that has now shifted to the team’s contention for the Pacific Division crown — and even to whether the Suns can host a first round playoff series.
General Manager Ryan McDonough has built this team quicker than anyone could imagine and the end of 2013 couldn’t have ended better for the franchise. Tonight, the Suns will try to start 2014 the way they ended 2013 … with a win.
How do the Suns stop Zach Randolph?
One of the very few disappointments of this season came in Memphis on Dec. 3 when a Randolph-less Grizzles team trounced the Suns 110-91. A guy named Jon Leuer led the team in scoring with 23 points in a game that just flat out got away from the Suns. Everything the Grizzlies did offensively in that game will be different tonight with Randolph in the lineup. The power forward is averaging 16.7 points per game along with 10 rebounds. He defines the Grizzlies “grind house” mentality with his toughness he provides in the paint. Frye did a fantastic job shutting down Blake Griffin on Monday, but Randolph is an entirely different animal and it will take a team effort to control him.
Dragic and Bledsoe face a stiff test. How will they do against a strong defensive duo?
Tony Allen and Mike Conley are two of the better defensive guards in the NBA. Allen has a reputation as being one of the best shut down defenders in basketball who routinely guards the opponents’ best players night in and night out. Conley meanwhile may not be viewed as a great defender, but he is quietly one of the better defenders in the league. Last season he ranked 7th in the league in DEF, a category that measures the amount of steals, blocks and charges per game. Back in December Bledsoe was stymied by their defense shooting just 4-13 for nine points as Dragic was just a little bit better scoring 16 points. One of these two will need to solve their defense for the Suns to win.
Will Gerald Green ever cool off?
I will be honest … I did not agree with Hornacek giving Green big minutes earlier in the year. Green has bounced around the league for a reason. He is too much of a streaky player that cannot help a team win when things are not going his way. I will now admit I was wrong and actually think Green is one of the integral pieces to the Suns. Jeff Hornacek has done a perfect job coaching him by giving him the green light whenever the ball finds his hands and the confidence that he needs to succeed. Green has made 25 three point shots in his last six games with the Suns winning five of those. When Green is hitting from deep, it gives the Suns offense a different dynamic that not every team can say they have.