More photos » Matt York - AP
Suns need a big game from their birthday boy. (AP Photo/Matt York)
Phoenix Suns PG Steve Nash has not played on his birthday since 2004, when he scored 29 points and dished 11 assists against his former team the Dallas Mavericks. Any time Nash played the Mavs it was special, particularly in that season right after Cuban said he'd rather spend his money on Erick Dampier.
Tonight, Nash has a perfect excuse not to stray from his strict diet when his teammates wheel in a cake and put on their party hats. The Phoenix Suns play the Warriors in a few short hours, meaning Nash gets to chase Stephen Curry or Monta Ellis around the court all night. I know how I felt after eating Super Bowl food. A piece of cake would not help matters.
Happy Birthday, Steve!
Oh and get over that little groin pull, okay? We need the old speedy Nash tonight.
Nash's perfect health
Regarding a "groin pull", nothing's been reported on any Nash/health issue all season, as opposed to prior seasons when his health was a fairly constant worry. I reject the notion that Nash is not any nursing bumps and bruises this season. He slightly limps to the sideline during timeouts, often comes up short on jumpers late in the game, rarely drives all the way to the cup and almost never initiates a fast break that doesn't involve a 60-foot two-handed chest pass.
It might not be a groin pull. Could be a calf, back, side, front, top or bottom issue instead. But does it really matter, in the scheme of things? He's still good enough to put up 17 and 11, so who are we to argue? I just hope he feels really good tonight, that's all.
Its bad enough that old men Nash and Vince Carter have to defend roadrunners Curry and Ellis, but Marcin Gortat just might have to grapple with the smaller Louis Amundson for a significant portion of the night.
Yes, folks, there's a Louis Amundson sighting! His shooting/scoring has been worse than ever this season (maybe due to the thumb injury he sustained in training camp), but otherwise he's the same old Lou we all knew and loved.
His minutes per game (14.6) are nearly identical to his Suns days, as well as points, rebounds, blocks, steals and everything else. Unfortunately, he just can't score - 40% from the field on mostly layups and tips, 26% from the free throw line.
His best game of the year might have been his last - 4 points (on 2-5 shooting), 11 rebounds and 4 blocks against Utah in 18 minutes. Earlier in January, he netted 7 points and 12 rebounds against New Orleans in 21 minutes.
But before your eyes get too misty, read on: Between those two January gems, he tallied a grand total of 14 rebounds and 3 field goals in 7 games on more than 85 minutes of court time. Lou has always been hit-and-miss, depending on matchups. This season, he's also been bothered by back spasms, only playing in 5 of the Warriors last 10 games, including sitting out the last 2.
The rest of the Warriors
We're going to see a whole lot of Monta Ellis, Dorrell Wright, David Lee and Stephen Curry (37+ minutes per game over the last 10). After that, Biedrins gets the most burn, followed closely by Reggie Williams, Vlad Rad, and even Ekpe Udoh on the front line*. Golden State has been playing bigger and even a little slower than in years past. After years of being 1st or 2nd in pace, the Warriors have dropped precipitously to 4th this season on 6 fewer shots per game.
(*Remember when 6'10" Brandon Wright was the 10th pick in the draft and seen as a can't miss prospect? He was once considered a key piece to an Amare trade, as a potential PF replacement. The guy can't stay healthy, and even when he is healthy he's the 7th or 8th big man in their rotation.)
Recent Success, for Both Teams
On the season as a whole, Golden State's defense is slightly more effective than the Suns (27th vs. 28th), while their offense is a lot worse (12th vs. 7th) in terms of efficiency (points per 100 possessions).
Both teams are playing better of late.
NOTE: league average on efficiency (points-per-100-possessions) is 104. This applies, of course, to both offense and defense.
Golden State are winners in 7 of their last 11 games, including wins over +.500 Chicago and Utah. They are doing it with offense (110 offensive efficiency vs. 107 defensive efficiency per game), mostly from the 4 aforementioned players (Curry, Ellis, Lee and Wright).
The Suns are winners in 8 of their last 12 games, including wins over +.500 New Orleans, Boston, NY Knicks and Portland. The Suns are doing it with improved defense to go along with their good offense (107.3 offensive efficiency vs. 102.2 defensive efficiency). The Suns defense since that first debacle against Philly, where Gortat famously called the Suns defense the worst defense and the numbers proved it, is right at league average over the past 18 games.
Summary and Forecast
The Suns play a home-and-home versus the Warriors this week, needing to sweep in order to reach .500 for the first time since November. Sweeping home-and-homes are a nearly impossible task in any situation though, and the fact the that the Warriors are nearly as good as the Suns doesn't help matters.
The Warriors have been playing well and are always a threat to shoot you right out of the building.
The Suns are playing well, but can't score in crunch time.
Expect the Suns and Warriors to split the next 2. It's just nearly impossible in the NBA for a team to sweep a home-and-home over an equal. Luckily, the Warriors defense is so bad the Suns will likely be able score in crunch time. Stopping the Warriors from scoring in that same crunch time will be the toughest task of the week.
Other links for your gameday pleasure
Phoenix Suns Get Back to Work - SBNation AZ
"We're not going to score 90 (points) and win, not against that crew over there. But we never do. I think they're really fun games for the fans, I'm not real excited about them...They are very good offensively. We have to find a way to slow them down a little bit but keep the pace offensively ourselves," Gentry said.
A brief peek at JRich and Hedo...hmmm
Orlando Magic a Team in Disarray Following Loss to Boston Celtics - Orlando Pinstriped Post
But since a nine-game winning streak in the team's first 11 games after the trades, the bloom has fallen off the rose. Richardson is shooting 45-of-114 (39.5 percent) from the field in his last 10 appearances, and Turkoglu's been so awful during the same stretch (11 points, 4.2 assists, 36.3 percent shooting)
Van Gundy said, following the loss to Boston, "I've never been through a stretch with him where it seems like the majority of the plays he's making I'm sort of saying, 'What the hell is he doing?'"