Dec 21, 2013; Phoenix, AZ, USA; Dallas Mavericks guard Monta Ellis (11) handles the ball against the Phoenix Suns forward Marcus Morris (15) in the first half at US Airways Center. Mandatory Credit: Jennifer Stewart-USA TODAY Sports

Phoenix Suns look to rebound in huge game against Dallas


Just one day after suffering a loss at the hands of the San Antonio Spurs, the Phoenix Suns will look to rebound against the Dallas Mavericks, who haven’t played since Thursday. The Suns currently sit in ninth in the Western Conference, but with a victory against the Mavericks, they will move up to 7th place (for at least one night). This is an absolute MUST-WIN for the Suns if they are going to make the playoffs.

Like the Suns, the Mavericks are coming off a loss to the Spurs, which snapped their four-game winning streak. After sitting out against San Antonio, Goran Dragic is expected to play, which will likely provide the Suns with a much-needed boost. Again, this is certainly the largest game of the year for both teams, as the winner of this game will gain much more than just a tally in the win-column. Having split their first two games, the Suns and Mavericks will be looking to earn the tiebreaker (over each other), as the regular season comes to a close.

Key Matchup:

Channing Frye versus Dirk Nowitzki.  There’s no way to sugar coat the fact that Channing Frye has been in the midst of a serious slump as of late. In the last thirty days, Frye has scored in double figures just five times (in fifteen games). Additionally, Frye has not managed to make more than 50% of his three-point attempts in any of his last twenty-six games, and since the All-Star break he has only been shooting 29.8% from beyond the arc, while continuing to launch around five three-pointers per game.

While Channing Frye will probably not outscore Dirk Nowitzki, his defense against the German big man may be the deciding factor in this game. Nowitzki has scored ten or more points in each of his last 26 contests, and he has hit the twenty-point mark in 47 of the 78 games he’s appeared in this year. Frye will need to make things difficult for Nowitzki, especially early in the game, and if he can keep Nowitzki in front of him and force him to settle for three-pointers, the Suns will be well on their way to getting the win.

What the Suns offense needs to focus on:

Going inside. The Suns have had a tendency to settle for threes this year (as in previous years), which is something they really don’t need to do against the Mavericks. Dallas is averaging just 4.3 blocks per game, which is 21st in the NBA.

The Suns will need to focus on getting the ball into the paint and getting to the free throw line. Channing Frye in particular cannot sit back and launch threes if the Suns are going to emerge victorious. Markieff Morris should also look to score around the basket, especially considering that he has yet to make a three-point field goal in the month of April.

What the Suns defense needs to focus on:

Contesting without fouling. The Mavericks are currently 6th in the NBA in field goal percentage, and the Suns will need to be especially careful in limiting the amount of open shots that Dallas will get. This year the Mavericks have seven different players on their roster that are shooting over 45% from the field, and they even have two players shooting over 55% (compared to zero on the Suns).

The Suns will need to be dialed in defensively, and they will need to be careful to defend without fouling. At 79.5%, Dallas is currently third in the NBA in free throw percentage. While the Suns have just three players shooting 80% or better from the line, Dallas has six different players who have made over 80% of their foul shots on the season, and they have had three players make over 90% of their free throws, while no members of the Suns have been able to accomplish that feat in any of the last three years.

Prediction:

The Suns step up and win 102-100 in the biggest game of the year.

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