Phoenix Suns Preview: Throwing Rocks At Goliath

April 2, 2015; Oakland, CA, USA; Phoenix Suns guard Eric Bledsoe (2) looks on during the third quarter against the Golden State Warriors at Oracle Arena. The Warriors defeated the Suns 107-106. Mandatory Credit: Kyle Terada-USA TODAY Sports
April 2, 2015; Oakland, CA, USA; Phoenix Suns guard Eric Bledsoe (2) looks on during the third quarter against the Golden State Warriors at Oracle Arena. The Warriors defeated the Suns 107-106. Mandatory Credit: Kyle Terada-USA TODAY Sports /

In the midst of a three game losing streak playing the team off to the best start in NBA history, exactly how the Suns wanted it, right?

Let’s state the obvious, Golden State is the better team, and that’s not an indictment on Phoenix. The Warriors have the league’s best offense, it’s third best defense, it’s best lineup and it’s best player.

The Warriors have had just a handful of close games all season, they’ve gotten off to such an incredible start by limiting the amount of times luck or random chance could be a factor.

Because of that the key to the Suns winning are outlier performances on both sides. Based on a combined 31 games of sample size Phoenix should’t win this game, but here’s the thing, at 16-0 fresh off setting the record, a letdown (and trust me they’ll be talking about avoiding this pre-game) seems almost inevitable and Phoenix is good enough to take advantage of it.

1. King Eric

Eric Bledsoe has played like an all-star this season and this is the perfect time to let the country know it by playing Steph Curry to a draw on national TV.

Bledsoe has a tendency to play up or down (though less so this year) to the level of competition and that has resulted in some all time great battles with the likes of Russell Westbrook and Chris Paul and has allowed the Suns to be in games against superior teams they otherwise wouldn’t be.

On the surface Bledsoe is the perfect defender for Curry (if such a thing exists), athletic enough to stay with him and strong enough to push the Davidson product off his spots.

Yet for his career Curry has embarrassed Bledsoe’s teams to the tune of a 32-6-5 line, likely because the latter has a tendency to have lapses in focus on defense, which is fatal against the quick firing Curry.

When Bledose has had the wherewithal to stay on Curry he’s actually done quite well, holding him to just 42% shooting. Bledsoe has put in work on the other end as well, putting up 23-6-4 of his own. As improved as Curry is defensively he’s always going to struggle physically against someone with Bledsoe’s gifts.

Bledsoe doesn’t have to outplay Curry for the Suns to win, he has to keep it close, or at least closer than the Lakers group of guards did.

2. Build And Guard

It’s pivotal the Suns get out to a big lead because Golden Sate is going to make a game changing run at some point. The Warriors coming off an emotional (and yes, easy) triumph over the Lakers, combined with what’s likely to be a packed house in Phoenix and a rare opportunity at a signature November win should add up to the Suns firing on all cylinders

Two nights ago Phoenix stormed to a massive edge over the Pelicans only to watch Ish Smith and Anthony Davis tear it down.

This will be another test os Bledsoe and Brandon Knight’s abilities to be able to recognize the tone of the game shifting and have the ability to go out and stop it.

3. Containing Death 

The secret’s out. The Warriors built the greatest five man group of all time, some have appropriately dubbed (see what I did there?) “The Death Line-Up”.

The lineup has a absurd 71.2 net rating, meaning it outscores opponents by 71.2 points per 100 possessions.

It’d be fair to say it’s well above my IQ not to mention my pay grade to figure out how to stop in when no one in the league has even some close.

Most teams have tried one of two options. They either play with a true center and hope they can grab enough offensive rebounds to make the Warriors pay for their trickeration (this hasn’t worked). Or they try to match them by going just as small which doesn’t work because it usually involves a team taking one of their best players off the court against a line-up they don’t have a hope to match talent wise anyways.

Here are the two groups I’d try out if I was the Suns.

Big: Bledsoe-Knight-Warren-Teletovic-Chandler 

Small: Bledsoe-Knight-Booker-Warren-Teletovic 

The big line-up counts on Chandler (or Alex Len if Chandler remains out tonight with an upper respiratory illness) having a throwback game and being able to bother Draymond Green out on the perimeter and his gravity rolling to the rim against such a small lineup creating enough havoc for the Suns shooters to take advantage of.

I like the smaller group a little bit more. There’s enough shooting there to really force some tough decisions for a Warriors defense that is usually versatile enough to avoid them. Teletovic would struggle on defense, but he’s the type of x-factor you need to have a shot against a superior group. You could also replace him with Jon Leuer or Markieff Morris if you want a little bit more size at the rim.

Warren dropped 15 points in the fourth quarter last year, matched up with future Finals MVP Andre Iguadola and with this type of spacing around him, he can do it again.

Next: Suns 5-on-5: Will The Real Brandon Knight Please Stand Up

The Warriors are the best small ball group of all time, the Suns just have to be better tonight.