Like the Suns, the 76ers are also coming off of a narrow defeat on Monday night when they fell to the Portland Trailblazers 107-104. Andre Iguodala scored 22 points and grabbed 8 rebounds, and the sensational 6th man Lou Williams also scored 25 points in the loss.
How will the Suns respond after losing their home-opener to the New Orleans Hornets, a team that many analysts have predicted to end up with the wort record in the Western Conference? Will the Suns get better production out of their wings tonight? Will the Suns new focus on defense be able to slow down Iguodala, Williams, and Brand?
Read on after the jump for a brief analysis...
Although the Suns suffered a heartbreaking loss to a less than quality opponent in their season opener, there were still quite a few bright spots. The Suns showed a focus on defense and rebounding and played with energy, rookie Markeiff Morris showed tremendous hustle and a very nice all around game, and Robin Lopez was outstanding! And let's not forget Steve Nash who started the season strong with 14 points and 12 assists! That's no small feat for a team that shot only 39.5% from the field.
On the other hand, the Suns' played sloppy and disjointed...especially when anyone not named Nash was running the offense. Ronnie Price and Sebastian Telfair were both equally unproductive and struggled to find any rhythm whatsoever. And although the Suns got tremendous play from their centers, the wings shot a combined 10 of 35 with Josh Childress being the most efficient of the group shooting 3 of 6...and that simply won't get it done.
So what will the Suns do differently tonight against the 76ers, and what changes could head coach Alvin Gentry make to help the offense run better?
Well, aside from playing Nash for 48 minutes, Gentry will have to try once more to find out if one of the backups can lead the second unit. But maybe this time he will choose just one of them to handle the duties in an attempt to establish some sort of continuity. This is the same strategy Gentry used with Childress as the lone back-up at the SF spot on Monday night.
And speaking of the SF position, this will be another position to keep an eye on tonight. Grant Hill played poorly in the first game, shooting just 3 of 10 from the field for a total of 8 points, and missing all four of his corner 3 point attempts that he was so money at last season. I don't expect this to continue, and I think this will prove to be an aberration as BAMF returns to form and his sore right knee continues to improve. In addition, while Childress performed decently as a back-up in the season opener, I wouldn't be surprised if he sits this game out while Warrick gets a turn tonight. This could mean good things for our offense as Warrick gives the Suns another weapon with both the pick-and-roll, and an improved jump shot as well. Let's just hope he's never matched up against Iguodala defensively or things could get ugly.
As for the defense, I fully expect to see the Suns continue to progress in this area tonight, though playing against the Sixers will present some unique challenges. Grant will have to play at a much higher level tonight than in Monday's game if we hope to stifle Iggy, who can light up the scoreboard on any given night with his quick and powerful moves to the basket. Markieff and Frye will have their hands full with Brand and Young, and Jrue Holiday and Lou Williams will be a very tough assignment for Nash and whoever leads the second unit.
Another lesser thought of match-up that may prove important tonight will be Specer Hawes vs. Gortat/Lopez. Hawes has been inconsistent at best in his NBA career thus far, but he played very well against Portland tallying 10 pts, 14 rbs, 9 ast; falling just one assist short of a triple double. However, Phoenix does have the advantage here, especially with a healthy and rejuvenated Robin Lopez to complement Marcin Gortat, so I expect the Suns' bigs to to win this match-up and dominate inside.
Last but not least, let's also not forget Evan Turner who had the first breakout game of his career right here in Phoenix last season where he scored 23 points. Although Turner's still a reserve, he's seeing a lot of minutes on the floor and the Suns don't want to get him going again. So hopefully Dudley and Brown can do enough to frustrate him and keep him out of rhythm.
When it's all said and done, expect the Suns to get their first win of the season tonight and play much better on offense while keeping the intensity on defense. I believe Grant Hill will be much more effective tonight and hopefully Hakim Warrick will give our second unit an extra boost. However, the most exciting aspect of the Suns at the moment is their front court. The Suns have more talent and depth among their bigs, which will be their biggest advantage, and they should look to exploit this throughout the game. If Gortat, Lopez, and Morris can continue to be productive on both sides of the court then the Sixers will have no answers for them.