The Suns should have revenge on their mind after being humiliated in their last trip to the Sooner state.

The Good Guys: The Phoenix Suns, ready to start a new winning streak

The Bad Guys: The Oklahoma City Thunder, who will never be as cool as the Seattle Supersonics

Where: Chesapeake Energy Arena, Oklahoma City, OK

When: 6:00 PM Arizona time

The Tube: Fox Sports AZ 

The Phoenix Suns saw their six-game winning streak come to an end as they couldn't find enough late-game buckets to steal a win in the Big Easy, falling to the Pelicans 110-106. They have no time to sulk, as the always formidable Thunder await. The last meeting between these two was over almost as soon as it begun, as the Suns got smacked like a red-headed stepchild, 112-88.

Goran Dragic was out with a back injury, but it's hard to believe he would've made a dent. The Suns never stood a chance.

But like the sleazy gal told Forrest Gump in that dive bar on New Year's Eve, "everybody gets a second chance". Let's hope she knew what she was talking about (something tells me she had a plethora of second chances in her time), because a repeat of the last humiliation would take much of the luster out of the recent wins.

As if there isn't enough motivation to show up tonight, it's never to early to consider playoff implications in the West and the Suns are currently the closest available target if the Thunder want to leapfrog their way into the top 8.

The Starters

Phoenix Suns Oklahoma City Thunder
G - Eric Bledsoe G - Russell Westbrook
G - Goran Dragic G - Andre Roberson
F - P.J. Tucker F - Kevin Durant
F - Markieff Morris F - Serge Ibaka
C - Alex Len

C - Steven Adams

As of 8:00 PM Tuesday night, Kevin Durant is said to be "likely" to return from a brief injury hiatus tonight, which obviously does not bode well for the Suns. P.J. Tucker will again be tasked with slowing him down, and hopefully will fare better than he did in the last meeting, when Durant scored 23 points in 24 minutes.

The Thunder are still waiting for their season to truly kick into gear with a healthy Durant after a few false starts. Durant has only managed to play in 9 games on the season at 28.2 MPG, so there aren't many meaningful conclusions to be drawn from their first 32 games.

One thing that hasn't changed without Durant is the Thunder's defense, ranked 5th overall. They also are still searching for that third complementary scorer to fill the void left by the James Harden trade in 2012. Reggie Jackson can do amazing things, but is inefficient. Perry Jones was raw as a prospect and still hasn't seasoned, even with the recent opportunities afforded by injury. Anthony Morrow is a deadeye shooter, but not much else. Jeremy Lamb has failed to make the Harden trade look any better in hindsight.

But I'm sure everyone in Oklahoma City is happy that they didn't have to pay that luxury tax.

Their only salvation was the draft pick that became Steven Adams, who at 21 looks to be a legitimate starting center and has finally sent Kendrick Perkins to the bench. In addition to his bruising style of play underneath, Adams has also developed a knack for getting under the skin of his peers.

With Durant in the lineup, everyone knows what they're getting with the Thunder. They're going to defend well and let Westbrook and Durant do a bunch of amazing stuff and shoot a ton of freethrows. It sounds simple. It is simple. And usually, it works.

Key Matchup

Tucker versus Durant is always compelling, and Len versus Adams in a battle of 21-year-old big men should have some interesting moments, but I'm giving the nod to Bledsoe versus Westbrook. Russ won the last one emphatically with 28 points on 18 shots in 26 minutes, going a ridiculous 13-13 from the freethrow line. He also added 8 rebounds and 8 assists.

Bledsoe, on the other hand, shot 4/12 for 12 points. No bueno. Look for him to be a bit more of a factor this time around, and hopefully limit Russ to less than a freethrow attempt every 2.2 minutes.

Prediction

Just make this one competitive, please. Eat some spinach or something.

Bonus

And if you're like me and still miss the Sonics, enjoy Sir Charles bending Shawn Kemp over his knee and giving him the belt back in 1993. 44 points and 24 rebounds in a WCF game 7!

See you after the game. Go Suns!

Time: 6:00 MST TV: FSA Since starting the season at 12-14, the Phoenix Suns have won six of their last seven games, thanks in part to the fantastic play of Eric Bledsoe. In that span, Bledsoe has...

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It's the last podcast of 2014, which serves as the perfect opportunity to look back on the year that was in Phoenix Suns basketball and peer into the future that awaits in 2015.

Dave King joins the show to discuss the Suns' six game win streak that ended against the New Orleans Pelicans. We dissect the mercurial play of the team, speculate on whether the Suns will remain in the playoff hunt for the long haul and briefly touch on the departure of Anthony Tolliver. Finally, we review the calendar year of Suns' basketball and take a look ahead into 2015.

Thanks for listening and have a Happy New Year!

Check Out Basketball Podcasts at Blog Talk Radio with Bright Side of the Sun on BlogTalkRadio

The Suns gave up 52 percent shooting to New Orleans, who closed the standings gap to one game.

      
 
 

Phoenix Suns head coach Jeff Hornacek wants his team to play hard-nosed defense and constantly preaches to the team that good defense initiates high-quality offense in the form of fast breaks and early offense opportunities before the other team can get settled in.

The Suns players, to a man, agree with the coach and after losses they are more apt to lament their poor defense than offense as the reason for the loss. And they would be right. When the Suns lose, it's because their defense just couldn't hold the other team in check.

Last night's loss is a case in point. The closing lineup scored 16 points in the final 6 minutes of the game, but gave up just as many to the Pelicans in a 4-point loss. Those key defensive possessions just did not end in enough stops.

It's not that the Suns played bad defense in the closing minutes, per se, except for one possession on which they forced Tyreke Evans into a bad three-pointer but then allowed him to get the offensive rebound and score on free throws. The other times, they just got bullied by a bigger team and/or forced a midrange just that Reke made anyway.

Last season, the Suns began to rise back from the ashes with a high-intensity combination of "above average" offense and "okay" defense that allowed them to win unexpected games all season long and finish with a 48-34 record. The offense finished 8th most efficient in the league (scoring per possession) while the defense finished 15th.

This season, the results have been mixed but the Suns seem to have "found" themselves over the last seven games and we probably should just hop along for the ride. The offense is going to carry this team, like it or not.

The new Suns team, as they embrace the three-point-guard lineup in key situations, looks a great deal like Suns teams of the past. Please don't take this in the literal way. I am not suggesting that anyone on this team looks like Steve Nash, or Charles Barkley, or Tom Chambers in his prime. Don't put those words in my fingertips.

But these Suns are using the same formula as the best of the franchise's past: score like crazy and hope the defense holds just good enough to win

Closing games with Eric Bledsoe, Isaiah Thomas and Goran Dragic in the same lineup with two big men has caught fire, propelling the Suns to a 6-game winning streak snapped only by Reke's unlikely shot-making in the clutch. With the guards, the Suns are scoring at will and generally playing good enough defense to hold the advantage.

And finally, let's listen to the Kobe Bryant when he talks about the Phoenix Suns:

"They've got one on the left, one on the right and one in the middle," Bryant said. "You can't cover them all."

As Mike D'Antoni famously said, the best defense is a better offense.

I pointed out the other day, the Suns have the league's #1 offense over the past two weeks, even pace-adjusted. The three-point shots are finally falling and, generally, the team's best players are playing well on a consistent basis.

But over the same period of time, the Suns defense has been sagging. This is old news to Suns fans who have been around since the 2000s, or the 90s or the even 80s and 70s. The better the offense plays, the more lazy the defense gets.

On the season, the Suns have jumped from 13th overall in offense to 8th (points per possession), and dropped from 15th on defense to 20th in the span of just seven games. Those are big swings in the small span of two weeks, but if it's working why change it? The Suns are 6-1 in those games.

A by-product of easy scoring is to lose your edge on defense. When you know you're going to score 100+ points a game, it's easy to let your defense slide in the first half, or even early in the second half. But the problem is that by then the other team has confidence and mojo, knowing they can keep up in scoring too.

We'll see how 2015 plays out, but my guess is that we will see a lot of what we've seen over the past week.

And we should embrace it.

It's going to be a wild ride, Suns fans.

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