Posted by Kevin Zimmerman on November 19th, 10:22 am
Time: 8 p.m. MST
After starting off the season with a win against the Denver Nuggets, the Sacramento Kings have been in a free fall, their inertia only being altered by a victory against a struggling Brooklyn Nets team. The Kings have lost seven of their last eight, and they’ve already reached the point of talking about effort being the issue. As bad as the Suns were last season, it took quite a while for that to become a recurring theme.
Sacramento’s offense has been short of average, and the defense has done nothing to keep coach Mike Malone’s team in games. Only one game out of the Kings’ seven losses has been a two-possession game or less.
So in our book, Phoenix should be considered the favorite on the road Tuesday night. After falling two games in a row and in painful fashion at that, forward P.J. Tucker said on Friday after losing to the Nets that he wished the Suns played a game Saturday. Maybe the pent up frustration will do the Suns some good. That’s not to mention Phoenix could benefit from a good deal of time off used to fix the offensive woes it exhibited in the last few games.
Will Ben McLemore make Suns fans complain about Alex Len?
If I may, let’s get one thing out of the way. It’s fine to worry about Alex Len’s health, but it’s not fine to call the Suns’ draft pick a huge flub-up because fellow rookie Ben McLemore, who the Suns could have drafted instead, goes off for 25 points on Tuesday. The reason NBA teams favor big men: Their impact goes beyond the flash and it goes beyond their scoring output. You can have a guy scoring 25 points per game on a bad team, but it doesn’t have the impact that even a raw Len could have if he played 15 minutes per. Now, that’s only if Len can get back on the court from his injury issues.
Example: Kings center DeMarcus Cousins may be averaging 21 points and nine rebounds a game, but until he decides to become a rock in the middle, Sacramento ain’t going anywhere.
So feel free to worry about Len and his health. Just don’t do so citing any big game by McLemore, who is averaging 7.4 points per game and shooting a Kendall Marshall-esque 38 percent from the field.
[Read more →]
Tags: Phoenix Suns Preview · Sacramento Kings
Posted by Kevin Zimmerman on November 18th, 9:00 am
PHOENIX — Jeff Hornacek isn’t blaming late-game execution for the Phoenix Suns’ last two losses, both of which came in the final seconds of regulation and overtime, respectively. The first real bumps of a long season came nine games in, but it’s not necessarily a sign that opponents have figured out the Suns just yet.
After all, it’s not easy to stop a young, athletic team whose defense is the last of the problems so far.
Phoenix has been in every game, but a 100-98 overtime loss Friday to the Brooklyn Nets included the first signs of offensive inconsistencies that went beyond hot-and-cold shooting. Brooklyn seemed stumped by the run-and-gun Suns but bridging the two halves went on a 20-0 run. It came down to poor defense allowing no runouts off rebounds, but the lull for the Suns also wasn’t aided by the offense.
“Every third quarter, we come out slacking,” Eric Bledsoe said afterward. “We kind of stopped pushing the ball. It was all on us.”
Bledsoe scored 13 of his 15 points in the second quarter, but he often times looked lost playing off the ball as Goran Dragic finally finished a game. While both guards thrive with the ball in their hands, Hornacek admitted that Bledsoe is still figuring things out when Dragic is running the show.
It showed early in the third quarter. Hornacek started Markieff Morris in place of Channing Frye to get a boost, but that didn’t do much. Bledsoe, Morris and Miles Plumlee — who was getting torched by Brook Lopez off pick-and-rolls — were replaced with Channing Frye, Marcus Morris and Gerald Green. With that trio along with Dragic and P.J. Tucker, things settled and shots finally began falling.
They fell because the ball movement finally ratcheted up. Bledsoe was at the forefront of a passive offense. He caught the ball swinging his way and hesitated before taking a few dribbles and then, more often than not, passed the ball anyway. Bledsoe said he was simply playing off Dragic, but that’s not going to fly for a player with those skills and whose free agent stock is rising quickly.
“If nobody’s hot, you have to play as a team,” Dragic said, in a way hinting he was not the hot hand Bledsoe alluded to. “Try to make the open shot from those actions. We didn’t do that tonight in the third quarter and I think that cost us the game.”
[Read more →]
Tags: Brooklyn Nets · Phoenix Suns Analysis
Posted by Kevin Zimmerman on November 17th, 12:28 pm
PHOENIX — Late-game execution makes a winning team in the NBA, but the Phoenix Suns would rather avoid that theory altogether.
The painful ending in the Suns’ 100-98 loss to the Brooklyn Nets on Friday was another reminder that blowing leads midgame will put a team in bad positions come crunch time. With more than five seconds left on the game clock and the game tied at 98 in overtime, a Goran Dragic steal gave Phoenix the ball with about 30 seconds left in the game.
Coach Jeff Hornacek elected not to call a timeout because he had previously told his guards to attack center Brook Lopez, who despite his offensive explosion in the second half, had sprained his ankle earlier on.
“He wasn’t moving very well,” Hornacek said. “When we look back, probably should have told our guards should have come off the pick-and-roll and just shoot it. He wasn’t going to challenge it. In the heat of it, the guards are going, ‘Can I get by him and get to the basket?’”
Attack Lopez they did. Goran Dragic calmed the offense with 30 seconds left and off a pick-and-roll got a decent-enough shot from Frye as Lopez failed to recover from a hedge. The attempt didn’t fall.
“(Frye) said the ball was so wet he couldn’t grab the ball and shoot it,” Dragic said.
But after a series of tips off the miss between Tucker, Marcus Morris and the Nets’ Kevin Garnett, the ball popped out to Joe Johnson, who took it the length of the floor in five seconds and put a floater just above the fingertips of a retreating Frye just as the clock ran dry.
[Read more →]
Tags: Brooklyn Nets · Phoenix Suns · Phoenix Suns Analysis
Posted by Kevin Zimmerman on November 15th, 9:49 pm
PHOENIX — Oh, Joe.
The Brooklyn Nets were tied in overtime with the Phoenix Suns having possession and working with a game clock just long of 24 seconds. Joe Johnson took a long rebound off a Channing Frye miss the length of the court for a floater that left his hands just as the overtime ran dry. Nothing but net. Game over, 100-98, Nets win.
It wasn’t the first big shot of the night for the former Suns guard.
P.J. Tucker hit perhaps what would have been the biggest shot of his life in regulation. After Eric Bledsoe had missed two wide open three-pointers and after Goran Dragic knew he could will his way into the paint to find his teammates for open jumpers, he drove left and, running out of space under the hoop, flung the ball to Tucker on the right corner. Swish. The Suns led 92-90 with 40 seconds left in the fourth.
That’s when Johnson hit his first of two floaters in the lane on Brooklyn’s next possession. Dragic missed a tough floater with the clock seemingly running out. And then, Tucker nearly made the mistake of his career. He seemingly put a purposeful foul on Paul Pierce as the clock was reaching 0.00 and the game tied at 92. Somehow, the officials ruled time had run out. On to overtime.
There Dragic performed masterfully. Trailing by two points, the Suns ran off a miss and several offensive tip-attempts by the Nets. Dragic pushed the break and recorded a hockey assist through Bledsoe that ended on an alley-oop to Tucker, but after a Dragic steal and a failed scoring opportunity by Channing Frye on the right three-point wing, Johnson hit his second dagger of the day.
The end result was more heartbreak for the Suns just days after Portland stole a game from their fingertips in the final seconds.
[Read more →]
Tags: Brooklyn Nets · Phoenix Suns Recap
Posted by Dave Dulberg on November 15th, 11:00 am
Time: 7 p.m. MST
Friday night’s contest at U.S. Airways Center features a pair of organizations that underwent major makeovers in the offseason.
One of those organizations, the Phoenix Suns, opted to tear down their shaky present in the hopes of rebuilding a promising future.
The Brooklyn Nets, on the other hand, opted to fully commit to a ‘win at any cost’ mentality, bringing in three aging NBA champions — Jason Terry, Kevin Garnett, Paul Pierce — to play alongside All-Stars Brook Lopez, Deron Williams and Joe Johnson. Not to mention, general manager Billy King also went out and hired 10-time All-Star and former Sun Jason Kidd to lead his cavalcade of headliners despite no prior coaching experience.
On paper, the latter squad — one built on proven talent and experience — would appear to have the upper hand when it comes to building chemistry early on in the 2013-14 season, but that has certainly not been the case.
Phoenix has raced out to a surprising 5-3 mark, while Brooklyn finds itself stumbling into the Valley with an unimpressive 2-5 record.
The sample size is small, so it’s hard to glean too much from either squad’s eye-opening start, nonetheless the non-conference battle should be a fun one given all the intriguing story lines in play.
Here’s what to watch for in the battle between Mason Plumlee and Miles Plumlee, who by the way, haven’t played on opposing teams dating back to their days at Christ High School in Arden, North Carolina.
How will Plumlee fare better against the more talented Lopez brother?
Friday night will definitely serve as mini-family reunion for the Plumlee brothers in Phoenix, and who knows maybe the two will go head-to-head for a few minutes here or a few minutes there. After all, Mason is averaging more than 13 minutes of run during his rookie season.
But the more intriguing individual matchup is between Plumlee and Brook Lopez, arguably the best pure center in the league and the toughest opponent the Suns center has had to go up against to date.
The Nets’ sluggish start has had little to do with Lopez’s production. The former first-round pick comes to Phoenix sporting a pretty nice stat line of 19.6 points, 6.4 rebounds and 2.7 blocks per game.
In Phoenix’s 90-89 loss to the Portland Trail Blazers Wednesday night, Plumlee had no problem staying active on the glass — posting his fourth double-double of the season. However, the former Duke standout also didn’t have a problem letting Robin Lopez, Brook’s less-gifted twin brother, return the favor.
Lopez grabbed 15 boards in the one-point victory and wasn’t even assessed a single personal foul in the process.
Despite the fact he has no games of 10 or more rebounds this season, Brook can be just as if not more of a force on the glass than his brother. On top of that, he’s an absolute load to handle at the offensive end.
If Plumlee can rise to the occasion — i.e. force Lopez to settle for long jump shots instead of touches in and around the bucket — Phoenix has a decent chance to remain perfect at home.
[Read more →]
Tags: Brooklyn Nets · Goran Dragic · Miles Plumlee · Phoenix Suns Preview
Posted by Ryan Weisert on November 13th, 11:24 pm
Phoenx had three point blank chances to win at the buzzer, but the ball just wouldn’t go down as the Trail Blazers eked out a 90-89 win over the Suns in Portland. After a defensive miscue allowed Damian Lillard a walk-in layup that put Portland ahead by one point, the Suns called timeout and drew up a play for Eric Bledsoe. Bledsoe got past Nic Batum, but his layup was too strong off the glass. P.J. Tucker followed up with a tip, but he too was too strong. Then Markieff Morris grabbed the rebound about six inches from the rim and went back up with it. The ball lingered for a moment that felt like an eternity before falling off the rim. Batum then went through the net to tip the ball out past the fray under the hoop and the game was over. Markieff grabbed his jersey in frustration. Bledsoe walked off the floor, slow and stoic, as red and white ticker tape fell from the rafters. The cheap ribbon stuck to the sweaty Suns the way I’m sure this loss will stick with them for a while.
The Suns were once again led by a 20-point performance from Bledsoe (23 points, six assists) and a double-double from Miles Plumlee (10 points, 10 rebounds). Gerald Green came off the bench and scored 17 to pace what is quickly becoming one of the best second units in the NBA. This was a grinder of a game where neither team shot the ball particularly well. For more in-depth analysis, let’s look at the three questions Kevin Zimmerman posed earlier today.
Will picking the right poisons continue to work for Jeff Hornacek?
The Suns game plan heading into tonight may have been the same as it was on opening night: let Lillard and Aldridge get theirs and keep the rest of the Trail Blazers from scoring. That plan went out the window early when it became clear LaMarcus Aldridge had not come to play at all. We’ll discuss Aldridge’s abysmal night in a minute, but when he went out with two fouls midway through the first quarter, the Blazers shifted their focus away from running plays for their stars toward very rapid ball movement. The Blazers zipped the ball around the floor in their half court offense and really made the Suns work to defend. Phoenix responded by jumping into passing lanes and forcing a ton of turnovers, especially in the second quarter. Portland’s 16 turnovers turned into 20 fast break points for the Suns who once again looked like the fastest team in the NBA. In the end, Thomas Robinson was the Blazers’ leading scorer with 15 points. Both Damian Lillard and Aldridge were not at their best, shooting 9-of-32 combined, but the Suns adjusted nicely on the fly and held the Blazers to less than 42% shooting from the field after Portland shot over 50% against Detroit on Monday. The Suns team defense is a thing of beauty. They communicate, rotate, and box out on every possession, and because of their immense effort, they are capable of holding offensively potent teams like the Blazers to 90 points at home.
[Read more →]
Tags: Phoenix Suns · Phoenix Suns Recap · Portland Trail Blazers