Time: 5:00 p.m. MST
After winning their second consecutive game on Wednesday, the Suns will look to improve to 8-5, as they’ll take on the Philadelphia 76ers. Already, tensions seem to be brewing in this game, starting when Suns’ point guard Eric Bledsoe said that he thought that the Kentucky Wildcats could defeat the 76ers in a seven game series. However, Bledsoe didn’t just pick the Wildcats to win, he took it a step further:
“I think Philly would probably get maybe one game,” Bledsoe said. “I love my Wildcats.”
Whether Bledsoe actually believes that the Wildcats would beat the 76ers or if he’s just supporting his alma mater, the comments did not sit well with the 76ers. Tony Wroten fired back at Bledsoe, calling him “crazy” and his comments “insulting,” and it is almost certain that Bledsoe’s comments will be used as bulletin board material for the 76ers.
Switching gears, this game will mark the fourth stop in the Suns’ six game road trip, and a win would give the Suns their best record through 13 games since the 2009-2010 season. That year culminated in the Suns making a deep playoff run, losing to the Lakers in six games in the Western Conference Finals.
One more thing to note heading into this game, is that with the Oakland Raiders defeating the Kansas City Chiefs last night, the Philadelphia 76ers are the only winless professional team in major American Sports, a distinction that certainly no team wants to have. Prior to last night, the Raiders were 0-10 and the Chiefs came in at 7-3, which is certainly similar to this game as the 76ers are 0-11, while the Suns have seven wins.
Advantage off the bench
The Philadelphia 76ers’ starting five isn’t all that bad, as Michael Carter-Williams can do a little bit of everything, Nerlens Noel has been a more than serviceable starter, and Tony Wroten has been able to provide a scoring spark, while posting a career best PER of 17.13. However, when the 76ers start to fall apart is usually about the time they turn to their bench.
Philadelphia has relied on players like K.J. McDaniels and Brandon Davies to come off of the bench and keep the team in games, which frankly hasn’t worked to this point. With Gerald Green, Isaiah Thomas, Alex Len and P.J. Tucker lurking on the bench for Phoenix, the Suns should have absolutely no problem going on a major run against the 76ers when the teams go to their second-units. It should be noted that the Philadelphia tried bringing Tony Wroten off of the bench in their last last game to shake things up, but it made a negligible difference as they lost by 11 to the Celtics.
Plumlee’s poor play
Miles Plumlee is having a pretty dismal season, averaging just 6.3 points and 6.5 rebounds per game, with a PER below 12. For whatever reason, Plumlee’s points per game, rebounds per game and blocks per game have all been down from last year, despite the fact that his minutes per game average has actually gone up. Suns fans haven’t been the only ones to notice Plumlee’s struggles either:
With Alex Len breathing down his neck, putting in solid performance after solid performance, Plumlee will need to step up and show why he deserves to be the starter, or he might find himself as part of the Suns’ bench unit before long. Len has already put up a couple of really strong performances, including two games where he posted a double-double and a 19-point, 7-rebound performance against the Boston Celtics.
Getting back into the postseason picture
If the season were to end today, the Suns would find themselves outside of the playoffs, as the tenth seed in the Western Conference. While the season is not anywhere close to being over, last year the Suns found out the hard way that every game does matter, as they finished the season just one game out of the playoffs. Phoenix needs to be careful not to overlook the 76ers, especially considering that a victory would move the Suns ahead of the ninth place Sacramento Kings, and a win could move the team up all the way to seventh place in the West by the end of the night.
Despite a fiery performance from the stubborn 76ers, who haven’t been all that bad at home, the Suns should control this game, especially considering their giant advantage in depth. The game will probably be close early, and maybe even a little uncomfortable for Suns fans through the first quarter, but Phoenix should be able to pull away by halftime.