While the Suns have had a day to sit back and solemnly reflect on a tough loss, the Utah Jazz have had 3. The last time the Jazz took the court it was against our same Phoenix suns on Friday who handed them a loss after overcoming a double-digit deficit in the second half.
Sadly, the Suns experienced the same fate on Sunday night as they saw their own double-digit lead fail them as well in the second half as they were handed their second loss in a row to the Sacramento Kings. Paul Westphal pwned Phoenix.
Paul Coro dejectedly tweeted - "The Suns have what no other team has - 2 losses to the Kings".
A sad but true reality, while it seemed like we were taking huge steps forward after Friday's victory over the Jazz - Sunday's loss to the Kings has really felt like we're taking just as many backwards. Square dancing won't get you anywhere in the NBA, the Suns must finish these last two games before the All-Star break in winning fashion to avoid perpetual stagnation at .500 or even worse, a plunge back into the negative realm.
Winning this week out will be no easy task though. We've got a rested, probably more organized and vengeance filled Utah team tonight - and then a hot Dirk-led Dallas Maverick squad ahead on Thursday.
Though the loss to Sacramento was a difficult one to swallow for both fans and players alike - there is a positive to be taken from it. The collective 'feeling' and attitude in the locker room after the game was one of shock, not surrender. Channing Frye best described the shift of perspective,
"The good thing we can take away from this is surprisingly when they were making all those those shots at the end, we were very uncomfortable," Frye said. "It wasn't like, 'OK, oh well.' It was like, 'We're not used to this. This is not how we play.' We made a lot of mistakes. We had a lead and we needed to continue to keep that lead and continue on the throttle. We let up a little bit and then they got some confidence."
Let's take a closer look at today's match-up. Jump it fools!
The Suns held a hard practice yesterday, everyone was suited up - even Goran Dragic, who went through a full practice including a scrimmage for the first time since his injury. Afterward he said he felt good physically and that he was surprised that his 'wind' was good too - when asked if he would play tonight he explained that it would be up to Aaron Nelson and Coach Gentry. My guess is that he will play, but there was a curious tweet from Paul Coro from practice concerning the same -
Read it like it is, but you can take it two ways - either he means Gentry is concerned that Dragic won't have his game-face and conditioning back quite yet after missing a few weeks and 7 games... or it means that Dragic really has some serious competition for his back-up spot. Whatever it means, Dowdell has been a great addition and a pleasant surprise for us over our last 10 games and I don't see anything wrong with putting a little pressure on the Dragon to bring his 'A' game to the table as he returns and hopes to help the team find a way to scratch themselves into the playoffs. Gortat has inspired Robin, why can't Dowdell inspire Goran?
Steve Nash - Derron Williams
Vince Carter - Raja Bell* [Gordon Hayward]
Grant Hill - CJ Miles
Channing Frye - Paul Millsap
Robin Lopez - Al Jefferson
*Raja Bell is listed as a game-time decision as well as Ronnie Price for the Jazz. Andrei Kirilenko will sit out due to a sprained ankle he suffered in Friday night's game. Memet Okur is also still out with back issues.
I'm interested to see if Raja Bell will play - if not, I'm not 100% sure who would get the start off the bench since CJ Miles is already projected to be in the line-up with Kirilenko out. If I had to guess I would say that rookie Gordon Haywood would get the nod since he seemed to play well on Friday against the Suns.
If Bell does play - I'm hoping we get to see what we were hoping to see on Friday, Grant Hill guarding Derron Williams. We tried to make this work on Friday but with Hill on Williams and CJ miles in for the injured Raja Bell, Steve Nash was having an incredibly hard time covering the much bigger and more physical Miles. He picked up 2 early fouls within the first 2 minutes of play and the Suns were forced to move Hill back to Miles and Nash back to Williams. It all could work if Raja Bell is playing - Steve can effectively stand out on the perimeter with him... there isn't really a threat of Bell posting up Nash so let's all hope that for our defense's sake Raja can be cleared to play his former team tonight.
Even if our ideal match-ups don't line up, I'm sure the Suns will be able to find the schemes and coverages to make it work like they did after the first quarter of Friday night's game.
Besides anxiously waiting to see how the team as a whole will respond to the bad loss on Sunday, and besides looking for the return of the Dragon, here are a few other things I'll be watching for.
Vince Carter - Everyday I step closer and closer to joining Scott Howard's CTLVCOF (Coalition to Light Vince Carter on Fire), his shot selection, his phobia of contact, his sloppy fourth-quarter play, his jovial attitude with EVERY SINGLE opposing team/player... it all gets on my nerves. I want to light him on fire. I keep thinking... man - if it's true and Vince is gonzo after this year, let's just bench the fool and play more Josh Childress.
But even like my hatred for Boris Diaw, as long as he's a member of the Suns I'll root for him and give him a new opportunity to improve my opinion of him on a game-to-game basis. I heard him in an interview after practice yesterday say that he was aware of his struggles and let-downs to the team in the 4th quarter and throughout games, and he said he took a vow after Sunday's game to get back to "being Vince"... whatever that means, I hope it means that he'll play well. That's all we can do is hope. Alvin Gentry commented as well about Vince, he said something to the effect of, "well when we traded Jason Richardson it was understood that Vince would be our scorer like JRich was, I need to trust him more and give him the opportunity to be that guy". Please don't Alvin.
For more on Vince Carter check out SBNationAZ and their post on him today.
Hakim Warrick - Dude loves to play against the Jazz. He's averageing 17 PPG against the Jazz this year. Let's see some more Hak like Hawk, as in Connie Hawkins like we saw on Friday.
Jared Dudley - Will he dunk tonight? I sure hope so - it seems like with every dunk (2) he's getting more and more confidence and more and more adrenaline goes into each so much that his last dunk was really impressive in the way he elevated and threw it down with one hand. What I liked the most was that he didn't laugh or immediately look to the Suns bench. He roared and looked angry - intense. It was a look like, "Get that Mutha$$%%$ monkey off my back - I can dunk".
What will you be looking for?
(I will not correct any spelling/grammar so you can fully take in the Pietrus experience)
"Here are my Top 10 tips for Valentines Days... ya ready?"
Gotta love it.
Here's to handing new head coach Tyrone Corbin his second straight loss. Welcome to the job coach.
26 - 26
[Note by Eutychus, 02/15/11 10:26 AM PST ]
Official word is that Goran Dragic WILL PLAY and Raja Bell is out. Jazz are down to pretty much 9 active players.