Today, the Phoenix Suns kick off their five-game road trip in a trip to my home state to face the San Antonio Spurs. San Antonio is off to a dominant 8-0 start at home, with an 8-4 record overall.
The Suns are reeling from a three-game losing streak capped by a Steve Nash- and Grant Hill-less loss to the New Jersey Nets on Friday. The past two losses have seen the Suns give up big numbers to opposing point guards Kyrie Irving and Deron Williams, a problem that could continue today against the Spurs' Tony Parker, the team's leading scorer at 17.8 ppg.
The Spurs are playing without star and team leader Manu Ginobili, who broke his shooting hand two weeks ago, while the Suns may be without Steve Nash and Grant Hill, who are both questionable with sore legs and Steve's chronic back pain.
After compiling the best record in the Western Conference and promptly losing in the first round of the playoffs to the Memphis Grizzlies, the Spurs are out to prove that their run as an elite NBA team isn't over yet. The Suns are struggling in a similar vein, trying to remain competitive while transitioning from being an elite team to a rebuilding one.
The Suns look to improve on their 1-3 record last season against the Spurs, and the Spurs are seeking to even the all-time wins between the teams at 72 apiece.
A look at the Spurs' stat lines:
Tim Duncan vs Channing Frye: "Timmeh" is averaging career lows of 11.1 points and 6.6 rebounds at age 35. His game as a forward is opposite that of Channing's, and it'll be interesting to see whether Channing remains on Duncan or whether Gentry decides to put Frye on Dejuan Blair and Marcin Gortat on Tim Duncan. Either way, the Duncan/Blair duo makes for matchup problems for the Suns.
Tiago Splitter vs. Markieff Morris: my grandmother will no doubt be sitting in her San Antonio home cheering on Tiago Splitter, her favorite young Spur. Spurs fans love this Brazilian guy and he just scored a season-high 14 points Friday. Markieff Morris can handle him, though. 'Kieff has been a great early surprise this year and a bright spot for Suns fans.
If there's any game for Robin Lopez to 'get his' it's this one. He'll likely match up with Matt Bonner, who he should be able to handle in the post. Lopez, despite solid per-48 numbers, has been unable to get the minutes that he perhaps deserves behind the Suns' best scorer, Marcin Gortat.
Jared Dudley and Channing Frye are crucial elements to Suns' success. Can they find their game and help save this season?
The Suns' recent struggles have caused over-reaction by many fans, including myself, who are calling the season a loss already and are hoping for a high draft pick next year. The season is still young, however, and the Suns still have a chance to right the ship. Let's start that tonight and with this road trip.
Road Trip Schedule:
Today: at San Antonio Spurs
Tues: at Chicago Bulls
Wed: at New York Knicks
Fri: at Boston Celtics
Mon: at Dallas Mavericks
yikes. Let's get a win today!
GAME DAY LINKS
Phoenix Suns prepare for daunting road trip (AZ Central)