Preview: Phoenix Suns (36-28) at Boston Celtics (22-43)


Time: 4:30 pm

TV: FSAZ

Celtics

Celtics

Suns

Suns

How long does it take to remove rust and work out kinks? For the Phoenix Suns, the hope is that it takes exactly one game. The Suns lost a winnable game to the Cleveland Cavaliers on Wednesday at a point in the season when they cannot afford to lose winnable games. Eric Bledsoe returned from a two month absence. PJ Tucker was suspended and didn’t play. Phoenix shot just 43% from the field, their lowest mark in the last seven games. And they allowed Spencer Hawes to score 17 points in the first quarter. It’s safe to say that’s the rustiest performance the Suns could have mustered. For their sake and the sake of their shrinking playoff hopes, the rust needs to be all but gone when they take the floor tonight in Boston. From this point forward, there is no margin for error.

Phoenix needs a winning streak. By the end of this month, they need to have accumulated at least 44 wins to have a shot at the playoffs. I’m not great at math, but I think that means they need to emerge victorious in eight of their next ten contests. Their schedule may be road heavy, but the opponents are not all that tough. Compared to the brutal four game stretch of games the Suns just played they just came off, these next ten are a cake walk.  If the Phoenix is going to pass Memphis and/or Dallas before April, the time to capitalize is now. For more on tonight’s matchup with Boston, let’s ask three preview questions.

Will Bledsoe take another step forward?

Eric Bledsoe didn’t have a stellar shooting night in his return against the Cavs, but then again, neither did most of his teammates. He did dish out nine assists which is a great sign for both his recovery and his ability to hop right back into the flow of the offense. Each game has to be another step in the right direction for Bledsoe. Neither he or the team can afford a setback. Bledsoe needs to get to the basket and earn his points that way. His jumper will come back in time.

Can Miles Plumlee find his double-double form?

Plumlee hasn’t posted a double-double since January. He hasn’t had one against a good team since mid-December. It’s no secret that his play has fallen off dramatically in 2014. But the lackluster Boston frontline will provide Miles a golden opportunity to crash the boards and find easy buckets inside. With all the Suns perimeter fire power, they are rarely if ever going to feature Miles in the post, but that shouldn’t prevent him from finding a way to contribute offensively. He’ll likely be matched up with Jared Sullinger who he has at least five inches on. Put backs, pick and rolls, and quick baby hooks in the post will all be readily available. Plumlee just has to put the ball in the net.

Can the Suns start fast?

Phoenix has been digging holes for itself during their recent string of losses. They’ve come out flat footed in the first quarter and been forced to play catch up the rest of the game. The Suns can’t afford to do that anymore if they hope to make the playoffs. It’s unclear if these slow starts are because of a lack of energy or if Hornacek needs to make a change in the starting lineup, but whatever the case. This is a problem that needs to be nipped in the bud immediately.

I know all three of those questions focused almost entirely on the Suns, but that’s what this team has to do for the next two weeks. Focus on themselves. The miniscule differences in their next ten opponents are basically irrelevant. They are all beatable, even on the road. The Suns just have to come out and play their best basketball every night. That’s the only way they’ll have a shot to shoot up the standings and make the close to the season one to remember.

And 1

Goran Dragic’s free throw percentage has declined every month of the season. He started out at 80% in November and is now down to 70% for the month of March. I’m not sure if it’s exhaustion or a lack of focus, but since he’s been a starter, it’s very unlike the Dragon to miss this many free throws.

Tags: Boston Celtics Phoenix Suns Phoenix Suns Preview

  • Voqar

    Could we have one game where a suns player does NOT step out of bounds like a moron? How does this happen like 4-5 times in a game like it did against Cleveland?

    This drives me crazy because it doesn’t seem to happen to other teams. Stepping out of bounds happens, yeah, but not BEING out of bounds when you rec’v a pass or immediately stepping out under no pressure like a complete idiot.

    Wake the hell up. In general but especially with the little details that should not even remotely be an issue.

    Horny should bench the next moron that does this for the rest of the game.

    Hitting shots would be helpful too. Unfortunately against Cleveland most of the team seemed to be having a poor shooting night.

    Green needs to focus and just play. He can’t be worrying about minutes, because he’ll get minutes if he’s hitting shots, but if all he’s doing is laying bricks he’s gonna be sitting and it’s just going to snowball.

    A big difference between us and them over the last 10 has been, they hit open shots that seem to be in abundance with PHX fading defensive efforts. Suns get plenty of wide open shots too but don’t seem to hit them as often.

    Ug. A lot of suns look tired, which isn’t good at home with no very recent back to backs. Not getting up and down the court on fast breaks or defense aggressively enough.

    All small details matter if you want to make the playoffs – everything needs to be done at 100%. Not 75 or 50%.

  • DBreezy
  • Raffi AKA Anonymous

    I hear bledsoe might be joining the starting line up tonight. Anyway, any win from now on is crucial to making the playoffs.

  • http://ultimatesimbaseball.com Brenton

    There are not that many games left, and its not like Memphis, Golden State, and Dallas are bad teams. The Suns have to win these games against poor competition. Every game is a must win.

    Dragic needs to get some help from teammates. The hustle and all-out attitude we saw earlier just isnt there. How many loose balls went to the Cavs? I saw several where Phoenix just seemed a step slow.

    Its too late to start thinking about tanking now. Suns need to be all-in for the playoffs. Hopefully they can sneak in, give the Spurs/Thunder a good fight in the first round, and use that as a pitch to any free agent or trade target.

    This is also Bledsoe’s time to shine. If he can pour it on, and get this team to the playoffs, the Suns will hand him a blank check this offseason. If he falters and the Suns collapse down the stretch, then that $12M to $15M a year will dwindle into the $7M to $8M territory.

    And for the love of all that is good in this world, if Frye plays ole defense even one time the rest of the season, bench his ass. I plan on offering to drive him to the airport should he want to visit with other teams when he hits free agency.

  • Foreveris2long

    Brenton I am not sure Magic Johnson in his prime could get a team to the playoffs with Frye as soft as can be, playing the starting power forward and Plumlee, who has struggled beyond belief, starting at the center spot.Bledsoe and Dragic are the best players on the team, so absent some exceptional trade they will both be wearing a Suns uniform next season. Bledsoe is getting $10m+ from the Suns no matter what the Suns do. New Orleans traded CP3 and they have not made the playoffs since. I think they will sign Bled no matter what.

  • DBreezy

    After watching the jump shooting effectiveness of Griffin, Hawes, and Anthony Davis recently against the Suns, I find myself concerned about Jeff Green and/or Bass getting off to a hot start at home. At least Avery Bradley is out or the Celts could have had a backcourt well equipped to stifle Goran and Bled on the defensive end.

  • http://ultimatesimbaseball.com Brenton

    I was looking at +/- numbers, and its baffling that Frye is allegedly the second best player on this Suns team.

    Dragic, unsurprisingly, is #1 at almost +5, but right behind him is Frye. After that, it falls all the way to Marcus Morris(seriously, WTH?) at about + 3, and then a collection of guys around +1(Green, Markief, Bledsoe). Plumlee is barely above 0. I didnt count Randolph or Barbosa since they have such limited minutes.

    The only guys below zero are the ones you kind of expect. Ish Smith, Alex Len and Archie Goodwin were all in the – area.

    Along the same lines, the 5 man plus minus numbers show that the Dragic, Bledsoe, Frye, Tucker, Plumlee lineup was one of the best in the league, with Dragic Tucker, Green, Frye, Markief holding their own. Every other lineup sucked hard.

  • http://valleyofthesuns.com hawki

    Buddy of mine is up in Laughlin….3 team parley tonite

    Providence -2 1/2 ov Seton Hall
    UMass -1 ov George Wash
    TWolves -2 ov Magic

    Couldn’t bring myself to take the Suns giving 4 on the road the way they been playing lately.

  • DBreezy

    Just looked at hoops hype and apparently Stevens said that Bradley is coming back tonight.

  • Ellensburgbballfan

    Yep, i heard that as well

    i dont think the Suns own any season series over the Grizzlies, Mavs, or Warriors so they are basically are going to have to play stellar ball the rest of the season and hope all the other teams struggle at the same time

    realistically, what are the chances of that happening?

    probably not very high, but hey this season we were supposed to be like 18 and 64 or something so in a big picture way this has been a great season

  • sunsn7

    Suns have an 11 pt. 2nd quarter lead, in comes Frye and the lead immediately disintegrates..and Frye is left in the game to brick layups and 3′s.

    Hornacek is starting to piss me off.

  • http://valleyofthesuns.com hawki

    and of course the Suns cover & the Twolves don’t…lol

  • Raffi AKA Anonymous

    Good win and Memphis loses. Success.

  • john

    Raffi you call sweating bullets “success” haha. Next ur gonna tell me the Suns are winning a title this year and praise Alex Len for doing his job while only getting 6/3. Boy, what it means to be a Suns fan these days aka. Settle for mediocrity and missing the playoffs!!! Cheer for them beating lowly teams lol

  • Raffi AKA Anonymous

    I never mentioned anything about Len, I don’t see what all the Lensanity is around here. Mediocre center at best. We just need a solid small forward and a good center like Noah.

  • Raffi AKA Anonymous

    Plus none of top teams in the west look THAT intimidating to me, so advancing to the second round wouldn’t be a crazy miracle. (If the suns were to get that 6-8th seed.)

  • Ellensburgbballfan

    Great win over a bad team in Boston, the Suns will take anything they can get at this point

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  • sunsn7

    Next!