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When: Sunday, November 25, 2012, 4:00 PM local time (6:00 EST)

Where: Wells Fargo Center, Philadelphia, PA

Watch/Listen: TV: FSAZ, Radio: 620 KTAR

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Last Meeting:

First meeting this season. The teams last played December 28, 2011 with Philadelphia winning in Phoenix 103-83 (in a game that's sure to have no bearing on today's contest).

Team Bios:

Philadelphia 76ers: 7-6

Points per game: 89.8 (29th) Points allowed: 90.9 (1st)

Offensive Efficiency: 96.3 (27th) Defensive Efficiency: 97.1 (2nd)

Philadelphia is coming off of two straight losses, including a 116-109 OT loss to the Oklahoma City Thunder last night. Philadelphia's best player in the early season is Jrue Holiday, who leads the team in scoring at 17.5 ppg and assists at 8.9 apg. The Sixers are still indefinitely without their uber talented offseason acquisition, center Andrew Bynum, whose regulated activities now include bowling, walking, sitting and breathing. It's starting to appear that Bynum may never suit up for an actual game for the 76ers due to ongoing injury concerns. Check out this article on Liberty Ballers for the latest.

The Sixers play grind it out, slow it down, defense wins basketball. In Philadelphia basketball is not an artform, but a travesty that resembles a barroom brawl. The problem with their style of basketball is that while they excel on the defensive end they are equally inept on the offensive side. They do have some guys that can stroke it from deep, so don't be surprised if they try to exploit the Suns league worst 3PFG% allowed (.426).

For those of you who aren't familiar with the storied tradition of 76ers basketball, allow me to give you a quick tutorial: They traded us Charles Barkley. That is all.

Best things to come out of Philadelphia: Markieff Morris and cheesesteaks.

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Phoenix Suns: 6-7

Points per game: 100.5 (8th) Points allowed: 103.2 (30th)

Offensive Efficiency: 102.5 (12th) Defensive Efficiency: 106.0 (T-27th)

The Phoenix Suns are this close to looking like a real basketball team. Despite being 4th in the Pacific Division, they are only one game out of 5th place in the Western Conference. In a departure from most of last season, where the starting units (and those including Nash) carried the team, this year the bench has been their salvation. To illustrate this point, PJ Tucker and Sebastian Telfair have the best +/- numbers on the team.

While the Suns have managed four exhilarating comebacks from double digit deficits, all of those have been at home. The Suns lone road win (1-4) saw the opposite dynamic in effect as they nearly squandered an 80-65 lead and allowed the Charlotte Bobcats to close to 100-97 before Shannon Brown exploded for six fourth quarter threes. If the Suns plan on winning against Philly they will need a different game plan.

Unlike Philly, the Suns push the pace and score at an above average clip. Unfortunately the Suns are basically the worst defensive team in the league. Creating extra possessions only helps if you can score/defend at a better rate than your opponent. So far the Suns can't.

Goran Dragic (16.5 PPG, 7.4 APG) has been the Suns best, most consistent player this season, but don't be surprised if all four other starters to begin the season find their way to the bench if their indolent play continues (two down, two to go).

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What To Watch For:

Markieff Morris/PJ Tucker: These two have arguably (I'm conceding it to them) been the Suns two best players the last two games. If they continue their stellar play, the Suns should have a chance in this game. The entire bench has been outplaying the starters, to the point of early season lineup changes. Is the bench mob back? Young players and bench players traditionally have the biggest disparity between home and road performance. Watch to see if the hostile performance causes any dip in their output.

Pace: The Suns like to play frenetically and the Sixers prefer a plodding, methodical approach. OKC had some success controlling the pace against them last night until Philly stymied the Thunder into 13 fourth quarter points. If the Suns can score 100+, they will probably win. If they are below that mark, you get the idea.

Fresh Legs: The Suns are coming in rested and Gentry has found (some) players on the team that are willing to hustle like madmen. The Sixers are coming off an overtime loss to OKC last night. Advantage: Suns.

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The Final Word(s):

Despite all my bluster and bravado, I think the Sixers have the upper hand in this game. Even if we assert the teams are nearly equal (lots of people would still dissent on this), the Sixers have the trump card of playing at home. It would be an impressive, though not startling, road victory and a great way to start a road trip that could turn ugly if the Suns don't win a couple early.

But that still doesn't mean we're not coming for you, Philly... and your cheesesteaks, too.

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Time: 4 p.m. MST TV: FSA PHOENIX — It’s a good thing the Suns had two games under their belt to get acclimated with Alvin Gentry’s new lineup rotations, because as the team begins...

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Philadelphia 76ers 104, Phoenix Suns 101 PHOENIX — It’s a good thing the Phoenix Suns had two home games to get acclimated to Alvin Gentry’s new rotation, because as the team begins...

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This time of year allows all of us to reflect on all the things we have to be thankful for. As my wife reminds me, I need to be thankful for what I get, not for what I would like to get. No, I am not talking about that you deviants; I am talking about the Suns.

So in the spirit of the holidays, here are the top ten things I am thankful for about the Suns.

10. ROSTER TURNOVER
With all of the changes made to this roster, I can most definitely state that this season has been far more interesting than last year. Watching the same old, and I mean old, personnel clinging on to the glory of the good old days, was unwatchable. Good or bad, this team is interesting to watch. I can’t wait for it to be fun.

9. LAKERS STRUGGLES

I am usually not one to wish ill upon my rivals [oh who am I kidding, I can’t wait for Dook to go down in flames], I have to admit watching the “Super” team falling flat on their sacks is making me giddy. Don’t know how long that will last, but fun nevertheless. Oh, and apparently I was two days early on my prediction of when Kobe would start bashing his teammates.

8. MY DAUGHTER
As we were watching part of the game, my five year old daughter asked who the guy with the funny hair was [Beasley]. I asked why and I swear on my mother’s grave, she said “he doesn’t try very hard”. You can always count on little kids to tell it like it is. And mom, if you read this, ignore the part about the grave. Love you.

7. DARYL MOREY
Sure, you can make the case that he screwed us out of drafting Jeremy Lamb and other various undermining moves, but let me ask you something. Who would you rather have, Lin, Lamb and Patterson, or Dragic and Scola? Frankly, Dragic and anyone gets my vote. Lin will always be a poor man’s Dragic, Patterson will always be a tweener bench player and I have no idea what Lamb will be if anything. Thanks to Daryl Morey, for pushing Goran to sign here.

6. DOMINANT PLAY
Keep in mind, this is about being thankful for what we are given, not a time to gripe about what we are not. In several quarters this season, the Suns have put together dominant defensive performances to climb out of double digit deficits. If you had only watched those stretches, and not known we were behind, you would be talking championship. So I am thankful that we have been given glimpses of brilliant play.

5. KENDALL MARSHALL
I love a guy who has two L’s at the end of each of his names. I am thankful that the Suns drafted Marshall, who has clearly lifted the Suns through his lighting of a fire under Sebastian Telfair. Telfair clearly got the message that he better bring defensive intensity and run this club and stop thinking about his own play. While his numbers haven’t been any better, his impact has clearly been felt in a positive way. Plus, Marshall is getting schooled in how to be a professional, what he needs to bring to the table, and being given time to get there. I still believe that Marshall will matter to this franchise, and I just hope that isn’t the Tar Heel in me.

4. ALVIN GENTRY
I love the fact that Gentry is willing to play the guys that bring it. You can criticize a number of things about Gentry’s coaching, but the fact he is willing to sit guys without fear of retribution is something to behold. And he seems to be doing so without too much grief from the players, despite a losing record. Thanks Coach, more please.

3. PJ TUCKER
I think had the Suns passed up on Tucker and signed Diogu, we probably would be sitting here with a 2-11 record. Seriously! I cannot even imagine Diogu impacting the game, while I think Tucker has single-handedly won us several games. Maybe not through any particular play, but he certainly has shown that hustle, determination and having no fear produces results. Most of this team has picked up on that and the results have been spurts of inspired play.

2. GORAN DRAGIC
Equal to Tucker’s impact, Dragic has been everything we could have ever dreamed for thus far. An all-defense point guard, Dragic disrupts the opponent almost as much as Tucker, is in constant motion and never quits on that end, despite also being our go-to guy offensively. At the other end, if not for teammates failing to make shots, he may be second in the league in assists. Everyone keeps saying he is no “you know who”, but I don’t care anymore, because Dragic is getting it done and the other guy is nowhere to be found. Thanks Goran. You make this season worth watching.

1. SUN[S]
Finally, I am thankful that I don’t live in DC, Sacramento, Toronto, Detroit, Cleveland, New Orleans, Orlando, Indiana or Minnesota. I am sitting here in my shorts and t-shirt, enjoying my backyard, and we are only one game below 500. Phoenix is pretty nice.

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Thirteen games into the young season, the Phoenix Suns are allowing opponents to make more than 43% of their three-point attempts, the worst rate in the entire Association this season by far.

The league's most generous three-point shooting defenses the prior three seasons were Denver (38.3% allowed), Cleveland (41.1%), and Philadelphia (39.3%).

The Suns, by contrast, have allowed 35.2%, 36.7% and 35.5% three-point percentage to opponent the last three seasons. League average has been between 34.9-35.5% during those seasons. Despite finishing in the bottom quartile in defensive efficiency and points allowed each year, three-point defense has not been the primary culprit.

This season, though, it sure seems to be. If you look at the team's "four factors" on defense, sticking out like a sore thumb is their opponents effective shooting percentage which takes the extra point on threes into account.

2012-13 Season (13 games)

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While the other defensive marks are middling (a big bonus in Suns-land!), the effective shooting percentage (eFG%) of their opponents is really, really bad.

As always, the Suns are also poor in the area of defensive rebounding, but 22nd is not that bad relatively speaking. The front line of Gortat/Scola/Morris/O'Neal have been at least respectable on the glass.

Opponents have not been great 3-point teams

Maybe the Suns have just faced a really proficient number of offenses so far? Uh no. The Suns opponents this season have been Golden State (currently 27th in 3pt shooting), Detroit (16th), Orlando (8th), Miami twice (FIRST), Charlotte (LAST), Cleveland (11th), Utah (18th), Denver (26th), Chicago (22nd), Lakers (20th), Portland (5th) and New Orleans (17th).

Only five of the Suns first 13 opponents have shot better than average on three-pointers this season, but the Suns have been the elixir for many of them so far this season. Klay Thompson made 4 of 7 in the opener. Aaron Afflalo, J.J. Redick and E'Twan Moore combined for 9 of 10 in game three. Mario Chalmers, LeBron James and Ray Allen made 8 of 10 in game four. Byron Mullens went 6 for 10 in game five. Daniel Gibson and Dion Waiters made 8 of 12 in game 7. Andre Iguodala went 3 for 3 in game 9. Ron Artest was 5 for 10 in game 10. Ryan Anderson went 8 for 13 on Friday night.

Ouch. How can the Suns be so bad on three-point defense?

"I have no idea," Gentry said before Wednesday's game against Portland. "Usually, the best three-point shooting in the league is from the right corner but for some reason they are coming from the left corner against us. It's something that we really emphasize and we're baffled as to why teams are shooting so well against us."

While opponents are not taking an abnormal number of three-pointers per game (league average) against the Suns, you have to believe that their shooting percentage is contributing to these double-digit deficits. And despite the thrill of comebacks, the Suns have lost 7 of 11 times they've been down by at least 10.

Road Trip a true test

This upcoming 6-game trip will shed some light on whether the Suns' three-point defense is really that bad, or if the first 13 games were an aberration that will naturally correct itself.

The Suns face Detroit and Cleveland for a second time, while seeing Philadelphia (6th), Toronto (14th), New York (2nd) and Memphis (12th) for the first time.

Today's opponent is especially interesting. While they are a good three-point shooting team, they run a terrible offense (27th overall in offensive efficiency). The Suns just might be the elixir they need.

Every team on this trip is at or above the league average on three-point shooting. Keep an eye on their conversion percentage. If the Suns come out of this road trip still at the bottom of the league, then further adjustments need to be made on their defensive scheme.


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