Time: 4:30 pm MST
Another day, another game, and another chance for the Phoenix Suns to get a much needed win as they chase the Grizzlies and Mavericks in the West. After a win yesterday afternoon in Toronto, the Suns are in Brooklyn tonight to take on the Nets, who have improved a great deal over the last few months.
When these two teams last met on November 15th, Phoenix was done in by Joe Johnson not once but twice. The 100-98 overtime defeat was the Suns’ first home loss of the season and one that still stings a bit 47 games later. Phoenix will have their chance for revenge tonight at the Barclays Center.
Both these teams have spent significant portions of the season playing without one of their stars. For the Suns, Eric Bledsoe’s return has led them to two straight wins, but for the Nets, Brook Lopez is not expected to return this year. It was Lopez who led Brooklyn in scoring against the Suns at the beginning of the season, and while the Nets have found a way to win without him, his absence will make beating the full-strength Suns even more difficult. Adding to their front court woes, Brooklyn may also be missing Kevin Garnett who has missed eight straight games and is questionable for tonight.
Despite KG’s prolonged absence, Brooklyn has won 7-of-9 thanks to improved shooting from beyond the arc, solid contributions from Mason Plumlee, and some big games off the bench by Marcus Thornton. The Nets have a very balanced scoring attack, but several of their players are capable of putting up big numbers. To get a win, the Suns will have to stick to their pace, execute their offensive game plan (3’s and fast breaks), and play excellent team defense. Brooklyn is a middle of the road offensive and defensive team, but they are 20-11 at home for a reason. This will be a tough row to hoe for the Suns. For more on this game, let’s ask three preview questions.
Can Phoenix win the battle of the boards?
The best defensive tactic the Suns can employ is holding a team to one shot. Phoenix has given up way too many offensive rebounds and second chance points this season, which has helped to undermine a team that is better defensively than most people think. But yesterday’s game against the Raptors was a different story. Phoenix outrebounded Toronto 45-26 and surrendered only four offensive rebounds. Without their starting frontcourt, Brooklyn is a weak rebounding team. So the Suns have an opportunity to repeat last night’s stellar performance on the boards and give themselves a real advantage on the second night of a back-to-back.
Whose pace will win out?
Phoenix likes to run, but Brooklyn likes to slow it down. The Nets play the fifth slowest pace in the league. Teams that play this slow, deliberate style, like Memphis and Chicago, have given the Suns trouble this year. But those teams had big men who could rebound. The Nets do not. So it stands to reason that the same problems won’t plague the Suns in this game. Phoenix has to be dedicated to running and pushing the ball up the court tonight. If they can dictate the pace, Brooklyn will tire out and the Suns will have clear road to victory.
Who wins the brotherly battle?
Miles Plumlee will square off against his brother tonight. Though I’m sure the two have played against one another a thousand times before, doing it in NBA uniforms will be a different experience. Miles has been getting into early foul trouble lately, which has limited his minutes and made it difficult for him to impact games. He played really well in the third quarter of yesterday’s win over the Raptors, so there’s a chance some of that could carry over to tonight in a game he will definitely be up for. Ultimately, this battle will be decided by which brother can keep his composure in the moment and not let himself get overwhelmed.