Preview: Charlotte Bobcats (21-27) at Phoenix Suns (28-18)


Time: 7 p.m. MST

TV: FSAZ

Suns

Suns

Bobcats

Bobcats

This is undoubtedly the high point of the Suns’ season so far. They’ve swept the Pacers, one the league’s best teams. They’ve won four straight road games. And even without Eric Bledsoe, they are sixth in the Western Conference standings. The only question Phoenix has to answer today is whether this high point is a peak or a plateau.

Tonight’s game against the Charlotte Bobcats is a classic trap game. The Suns are exhausted from a triumphant four wins in a five-night stretch. They’re returning home after a tough road trip. And on the horizon are four straight games against playoff contenders before their week-long break for the All Star game. If the Suns are currently at a peak, then they could very easily look past tonight’s inferior opponent and stumble back down the mountain. If however, the team is on a plateau, they should have no problem taking care of business tonight on their home floor the way they did against Cleveland, Philadelphia, and Milwaukee. The Bobcats are not the same single-digit win team they have been in the past. They play great defense and are coming off back-to-back wins over the Nuggets and Lakers. The Suns cannot afford to look past the soon-to-be Hornets.

For more analysis on this game, let’s ask three preview questions.

Who’s got Big Al?

Many people scoffed when Al Jefferson got $40 million from MJ and the Bobcats. I was not one of them. For all of his defensive deficiencies, Big Al is still a scoring beast. Charlotte’s big-time big man has scored at least 20 points in 11 straight games. He’s topped 30 in five of those games, and had 40 points last night against the Lakers. With Kemba Walker likely out with an ankle sprain, the Bobcats will be relying on Jefferson tonight in Phoenix to help them keep pace with the Suns’ elite offense. Jefferson will be a tall defensive order for Miles Plumlee. Big Al is one of the few remaining big-bodied centers. Plumlee’s athleticism has helped him hold his own in the paint against a lot of quality big men, but his agility may be for not in this game as Jefferson may simply be too heavy for him to contain. To counter that, I expect Coach Hornacek to rotate Plumlee, Alex Len, and Channing Frye in fairly regular hockey shifts to keep the fouls dispersed and a fresh body on the Big Al.

Will the Suns push the pace?

The Suns play the sixth fastest pace in the NBA. The Bobcats play the tenth slowest. Phoenix, as I’ve mentioned several times, is probably still exhausted from their road trip. Charlotte played in LA last night, and is without their speedy starting point guard. There are a ton of factors indicating this could be a slow, plodding game. But the Suns can’t allow that to happen. Their best chance to win is to push the pace, even if their legs are jello. Charlotte’s best chance to score is Al Jefferson. But a man his size can be neutralized by having to run up and down the floor at the Suns’ usual pace. The Suns’ best offensive weapon is their fast break, and I imagine Coach Hornacek will be yelling every chance he gets for Goran Dragic and the rest of the Suns to push the ball up the floor every single possession.

Can the Suns find easy baskets?

Charlotte does two things very well. First, they don’t turn the ball over (lowest TO/gm in the NBA). Second, they clean the defensive glass (2nd-best DRR). Turnovers are the key to Phoenix’s fast break. The Suns force the seventh most in the league which should come as no surprise given the number of fast break points this team scores. Phoenix is also better than average when it comes to offensive rebounding. 2nd chance points are a major part of the scoring production the Suns get from Plumlee, P.J. Tucker, and Markieff Morris. If the Suns come out in this one with less than their usual energy or shooting touch, they’re going to need to manufacture easy buckets to get a win. That means second chance and fast break points. That means beating the Bobcats at the few things they do really well.

Tags: Charlotte Bobcats Phoenix Suns Phoenix Suns Preview

  • the real al

    Sucks the Dragon got snub from the ASG. But hey the kid’s banged up! He could definitely use the rest.

  • BUTLER

    This just in…Indiana, reeling from their sweeping humiliation at the hands of the SUNS, sign A. Bynum in an attempt to shore up their front court in preparation for a Finals rematch with their nemesis.

  • http://none Go Phx

    Why the hell does it need to be a plateau? A plateau means you stay there and can’t get any higher. The Suns are only scratching the surface of their potential and to say they have leveled off at the number 6 seed is laughable. When Bledsoe comes back, they have a true shot to reach their full potential. It will also come as Len gets more time.

  • DZ

    A plateau is actually “A relatively stable level, period, or state”, not an upper limit. I think that Ryan was referring more to their level of play rather than their present playoff seed level.

    Four strait road wins including their second win over the Pacers is a damn fine plateau to be on. If the Suns can play at that level for the rest of the season then I would not doubt them finishing with a higher playoff seed. Against the Cats they need to play at that same level and not relax or loose their focus or intensity.

  • http://none Go Phx

    It’s used, especially in sports, as a derogative term, meaning you’ve achieved all you will ever achieve

  • Smovich

    Actually, to peak is to achieve all you’ll ever achieve. If they can plateau at winning 4 straight on the road and beating the best team in the NBA, I’ll take it. Especially without one of your best players on the court.

  • DZ

    I see that the Spurs just signed Shannon Brown to a 10 day contract. With all his faults, I’m kind of surprised that it took this long for a team to offer him another shot.

  • DZ

    That last line should have been “Even with all his faults…”.

  • John

    Hollinger’s playoff odds http://sports.espn.go.com/nba/hollinger/playoffodds has the Sun’s championship odds at 2.3% and playoff odds at 79.6%. The Suns are the best story nobody in the established east coast biased sports media has heard of.

  • BUTLER

    DZ – Brown didn’t seem quite the defender nor passer that one associates with pop.

  • EarlBlackJesusMonroe

    Hey Butler, where is Jay Smith?

    Adam Silver will offer Phoenix fans an olive branch by naming Goran Dragic as Kobe’ replacement. This will signify the end of Stern’s historical bias against the Suns franchise that dates all the way to 1969 when he tried to deny the Suns of the services of Connie “The Hawk’ Hawkins.

    On behalf of all the Suns fans, thanks Adam!

    You know, the only thing better than having Dragic on the Suns would be having two Dragic’s on the Suns! I think it is time to bring Zoran over!

    MUST start and finish with Goran & Zoran!!!!

    Make it so Jeff!!!!

  • SD:f32

    Suns win tonight

  • Dave:f32

    This is more like how i would imagine the draft to pan out, according to each team’s specific needs:

    http://www.basketballinsiders.com/full-2014-nba-mock-draft-13114/

    Phoenix Suns 1st round looks like this:

    #14 – James Young. SF. Kentucky
    http://www.draftexpress.com/profile/James-Young-6462/

    #17 – Adreian Payne. PF. Michigan State
    http://www.draftexpress.com/profile/Adreian-Payne-5286/

    #23 – Mario Hezonja. SG. Barcelona Oro
    http://www.draftexpress.com/profile/Mario-Hezonja-6392/

    #29 – Clint Capela. PF. Chalon Int’l
    http://www.draftexpress.com/profile/Clint-Capela-6359/

    2nd Round

    #53 – Keith Appling. PG. Michigan State
    http://www.draftexpress.com/profile/Keith-Appling-6217/

  • Dave:f32

    This is more like how i would imagine the draft to pan out, according to each team’s specific needs:

    http://www.basketballinsiders.com/full-2014-nba-mock-draft-13114/

  • Dave:f32

    Phoenix Suns 1st round looks like this:

    #14 – James Young. SF. Kentucky
    http://www.draftexpress.com/profile/James-Young-6462/

    #17 – Adreian Payne. PF. Michigan State
    http://www.draftexpress.com/profile/Adreian-Payne-5286/

  • Dave:f32

    #23 – Mario Hezonja. SG. Barcelona Oro
    http://www.draftexpress.com/profile/Mario-Hezonja-6392/

    #29 – Clint Capela. PF. Chalon Int’l
    http://www.draftexpress.com/profile/Clint-Capela-6359/

  • Dave:f32

    2nd Round

    #53 – Keith Appling. PG. Michigan State
    http://www.draftexpress.com/profile/Keith-Appling-6217/

    Adreian Payne is like a combo of The Original “Big Dog” Glenn Robinson and Amare Stoudemire but with a better post game and better defensive presence!

    Enjoy y’all! Go Suns!!!

  • Chris

    We have a good building block, but need to sign 2 very good free agents this off season to be a serious contender. The suns are a surprise and a great regular season story. Come playoff time nobody will be talking about the suns, even if they make the playoffs. I love where the suns are headed, but don’t be satisfied with anything other than a championship suns fans. We are still a few players short. Right now I would put the Wildcats, Cards, and the DBacks ahead of the Suns in the Championship possible category

  • http://www.valleyofthesuns.com Dave:f32

    Great game tonight by the Suns! Everyone on the team scored some points tonight… Didn’t see LB get too many minutes, so I hope he can get some burn on the next.

    Tough stretch of games coming up!

  • BCrayZ

    Dave -

    Barbosa didn’t play in the 2nd half.

    Do you think he may be hurt? Hope he will be well enough to play. Shot over 70% last 2 games & is beginning to gain confidence in his trey. Will help the team more with more playing time. Make it so Jeff.

    MUST start & ALSO finish with LB. Let’s go SUNS!!!!