Alvin Gentry's lineup changes made all the difference tonight for the Suns. Markieff Morris and Shannon Brown played very well as starters, while Jared Dudley made his first big hustle plays of the season as part of the second unit. The Suns shot something like 95% for the game - just as Gentry drew it up.
When: Tonight, tipoff at 7:12PM AZ Time (Mountain)
Where: US Airways Center, Phoenix, Arizona
Watch: FSNAZ (locally), NBA League Pass
Tonight, the Phoenix Suns (4-7) try to right the ship against the Portland Trailblazers (5-5) after three free days or workouts and practices.
Alvin Gentry will introduce a new lineup tonight, already tiring of the quintuplet of Goran Dragic, Jared Dudley, Michael Beasley, Luis Scola and Marcin Gortat. Those guys have generated at least a 10-point deficit at some point in 10 of their first 11 games. Only once this season has the starting unit not been on the floor for a 10+ point deficit, and that was against until-recently-winless Detroit at home. Coincidentally, that was the last time the Suns played effective defense against another team.
On the other hand, the second unit has been dynamite lately. While the starters have dug hole after hole, the second unit has clawed their way out of that hole in all but a couple of games. At least one, if not three of those guys will be rewarded for their efforts with a starting spot tonight.
The Trailblazers, who the Suns beat in the preseason, have exceeded expectations to the tune of a .500 record that includes three-game winning streak against Sacramento, Houston and Chicago. They have also beaten the Lakers and a second time over Houston. Their losses have been to OKC, Dallas, Clippers, Spurs and Hawks.
Rookie PG Damian Lillard (taken 6 spots ahead of Kendall Marshall) has been an impressive, scoring 19 points per game and dishing out 6.1 assists. LaMarcus Aldridge leads the team in scoring (21.1) while J.J. Hickson leads the team in rebounds (10.6). Expect to see a lot of Portland's best players. Four Portland starters average at least 37.5 minutes per game, with J.J. Hickson getting 28.5 minutes.
2012-2013 OVERALL NBA RANKINGS PER GAME
Suns: 98.3 (14th) Blazers: 100.4 (7th)
Suns: 104.3 (30th) Blazers: 101.8 (28th)
Both teams prefer scoring to defending. The key for the Suns is to score more points over the course of the game.
On a more serious note, Goran Dragic and Sebastian Telfair need to outplay Blazers rookie Damian Lillard on both ends of the court. And Michael Beasley/PJ Tucker need to outwork Nicolas Batum at the SF position. If Lillard and Batum both score their season numbers (combining for nearly 40 points) then this will be a tough game to win.
With Gentry mixing up the lineups, we have no idea what we are going to get tonight. We can only hope that the Suns will play as hard as possible. And when they do, good things tend to happen.