The Phoenix Suns go for three wins in a row tonight as they play a very beatable Los Angeles Lakers team in a state of flux. Supposedly some guy named Kobe Bryant just returned from an injury.
When: Tuesday December 10, 2013, 8:30 PM local time (10:30 EST)
Where: Staples Center, Los Angeles, CA
Watch/Listen: TV: Fox Sports AZ Radio: 620 KTAR
The Suns thrashed LA 99-76 at US Airways Center on March 18, 2013. Phoenix blew the game open with a 28-10 fourth quarter powered by Luis Scola, who scored all of his team high 14 points in the period. Goran Dragic also recorded a double-double (12 points and 10 assists) to help the Suns' cause.
Steve Nash tallied a game high 19 points for the Lakers, but only shot 6-17 from the field. The Lakers team as a whole was stymied by Phoenix's defense as they shot a measly 33.3% (29-87) in the game. Dwight Howard finished with 16 points and 11 rebounds. Kobe Bryant did not play, as he was out with a severe ankle sprain.
Tonight's game includes six players who logged major minutes in that contest. Dragic, Markieff Morris and P.J. Tucker are still on the Suns and Steve Blake and Jodie Meeks return for the Lakers. The other player is Wesley Johnson, who was a Sun last year but now plays for Los Angeles. Johnson started the game for Phoenix and put up 14 points while grabbing nine rebounds. Johnson is a likely starter for the Lakers tonight.
Points per game: 101.0 (14) Points allowed: 103.0 (28)
ORtg: 103.8 (18) DRtg: 105.9 (19)
The big news dominating the Lakers landscape, and the NBA as a whole, is the return of superstar Kobe Bryant who, whether you like it or not, has his own gravitational pull. Kobe's return fizzled, however, as he bungled away nearly as many turnovers (8) as he scored points (9) in a 106-94 loss to a shorthanded Toronto Raptors team that entered the contest 6-12. The Lakers starters were soundly whipped by their counterparts on the Raptors as they combined to score only 23 points (on 8-32 shooting) while Kyle Lowry (23), DeMar DeRozan (26) and Amir Johnson (32) tied or beat that total.
Kobe finished the game with nine points, eight rebounds, four assists, two steals and eight turnovers in 28 minutes.
The Lakers had won six of eight games prior to Bryant's return, helping them recover from a 4-7 start. Los Angeles averaged 105.8 points per game over that stretch while outscoring their opponents by an average of five points per game. The Lakers had been winning by sharing the wealth with eight different players recording at least 20 points in a game during those eight games. Kobe's return may provide the Lakers with a dependable scorer, though, as right now Nick Young leads the team in scoring with 14.4 per game and only two other players average double digits. Pau Gasol leads the team in rebounding with 9.7 per game, but is well below his career average in scoring (14.2) while shooting a paltry .416 from the field.
Points per game: 101.2 (13) Points allowed: 99.5 (15)
ORtg: 107.2 (9) DRtg: 105.4 (17)
Phoenix comes into the game looking for its first three game winning streak of the season, as the team's inconsistent play has resulted in two game streaks ending on four previous occasions.
The Suns last played Friday and beat the Toronto Raptors 106-97 in a game they led comfortably for most of the last quarter and a half. Markieff Morris led all players with 25 points while grabbing 11 rebounds in the victory. Morris made his first 11 shots in the game before missing his last three. Not to be outdone, Tucker had 18 points and 13 rebounds, including two key offensive rebounds in the closing minutes that stifled any possibility of a comeback by the Raptors. P.J. was 2-4 from three point range in the game and is tied for third in the league at 50%. I guess we know that someone was working hard last summer.
After a stretch of indefensible defense, which saw their DRtg plummet, the Suns have appeared to regain their footing by yielding just 35.2% shooting to the Rockets and 40.2% shooting to the Raptors in their past two games.
The work in progress that is the Suns' starting backcourt will chug along tonight with both players (rarely) healthy. Interestingly enough, both Dragic and Bledsoe are basically averaging 18 points and six assists on the season.
Kobe Bryant vs. P.J. Tucker: Tucker is coming off his best back-to-back games of the season in which he averaged 18 points, 9.5 rebounds and 2.5 steals a game. Just as importantly, if not more, has been his suffocating defense. In particular, he ate James Harden's lunch by holding him to just 14 points on 3-17 shooting (0-10 from three). Bryant, like Harden, doesn't possess blinding quickness so P.J. may be able to frustrate him by blanketing him and getting a little physical.
Gerald Gr33n?: Green is shooting just 3-17 (17.6%) from three point range in the last three games after returning to his role coming off the bench with Eric Bledsoe's reinsertion into the starting lineup. A solid performance from him could help the Suns combat the long, athletic duo of Wesley Johnson and Xavier Henry.
Mike D'Antoni is 4-6 against the Suns since leaving after the 2007-08 season to coach the New York Knicks. His teams have failed to score 100 points against the Suns in each of the last four games, averaging just 90.3 points per game.
Kobe Bryant scored his season high for points in 2010-11 (42) and 2011-12 (48) against the Suns.
Through his first two seasons (145 games) Markieff Morris had scored 20+ points six times and recorded four double-doubles. Through 19 games this season he has five 20+ point games and three double-doubles. All three of his double-doubles this season were 20/10 performances, of which he had none his first two seasons.
This would seemingly be a felicitous time to go up against the Lakers and take advantage of a team lacking stability as they attempt to reincorporate their star, who is obviously far from top form, one quarter way through the season. But with the Lakers playing at home and Kobe's loathing for the Suns, which may spur him to a better performance than his season premiere, I give them a slight edge.
Phoenix's sporadic play also makes them hard to gauge, though, and I wouldn't be surprised if they won or lost by 20. After playing mostly close games at the beginning of the season, no final margin has been within seven points for the Suns over the last ten games.
But if the Suns play the pertinacious, pesky defense we've seen they are capable of this season they should have a pretty good chance to...
Steve Nash is a legend here in Phoenix. The Suns experienced some of the greatest highs during his time here which included three trips to the Western Conference Finals. The story is about to be told...
by Craig Lawson
When veteran documentary film maker Michael Hamilton approached the White House to ask whether President Barack Obama would be willing to talk to him about Steve Nash, he knew it was a long-shot, but he managed to get a sit-down interview with the President, who proceeded to praise Nash's character.
When Hamilton prefaced a question to Kobe Bryant with, "I know Steve Nash isn't really athletic," Bryant cut him off, and told him how he hates when people say that about Nash, and went on to explain why Nash is athletic and why what Nash does is so special - and this was long before Nash became his teammate.
And whereas President Obama focused on his character and Bryant on his athleticism, actor Owen Wilson fixated on Nash's name. "It's kind of a funny name, isn't it? I'm just saying it, ‘Steve Nash.' It's a little bit like an action hero. It's a cool-sounding name. ‘Steve Nash.'"
Watching that clip, Wilson reminds me so much of Dirk Nowitzki that I could see him playing Dirk if there was ever a Hollywood buddy movie based on the Nash / Nowitzki friendship.
But Hamilton is not making a buddy movie. He's making a full-length documentary feature on Steve Nash, whose atypical path from west-coast Canadian kid to two-time Most Valuable Player for the Phoenix Suns has captured the imagination of underdogs everywhere, and whose dedication to his craft has provided a solid road map for anyone to follow, regardless of profession.
In an email interview, I asked Hamilton, who is also a Canadian, what first drew him to Nash, and indeed it was the unlikelihood of Nash's journey. "I think I was in college. What really drew me to him is that back then it was unheard of for Canadians to be getting attention in basketball, so when I guy from Canada started making noise, it was cool to see. I've followed him ever since."
Hamilton longingly recalled a Slam magazine photo featuring many players from the fabled draft class of 1996. "Back then, looking at that photo, if someone would have asked people to pick the guy who would win back-to-back MVP awards, do you think one person would have picked Steve Nash? No chance."
Hamilton's documentary, which in addition to President Obama, Bryant and Wilson, also features Nowitzki, Tony Parker, Yao Ming, Baron Davis, Commissioner David Stern, Snoop Dogg, David Beckham, Hollywood moguls Ron Howard and Doug Ellin, and illusionist David Blaine, all discussing what makes Nash so special.
But Hamilton's movie is much more than just a long list of celebrities singing Nash's praises.
Hamilton was given incredible behind-the-scenes access into Nash's personal life - almost all of it filmed when Nash was a member of the Phoenix Suns - and the footage of Nash away from the spotlight will be the big draw for Nash fans. In a promotional piece for the film, Hamilton writes, "This project has given me a front row seat to the never dull but sometimes very private life of Steve. His prowess and work ethic on the court speaks for itself, but now fans will get a rare glance into what drives one of the world's most influential people off the court."
Given that Hamilton has spent so much time with Nash, I asked him for a little insight into what he thinks makes Nash so special. Hamilton had this to say: "Nash really cares. He cares about life, his craft, his family, his Foundation. I find a lot of celebrities do things simply for the public relations and the attention it will get them. Steve isn't alone in caring, but what he does just feels genuine."
While the shooting for Nash: The Movie is now complete, the film itself is not. To pay for the final distribution stage and to get the film in front of as many people as possible, Hamilton has just launched a 38-day Kickstarter campaign to raise $30,000.
Hamilton has made it clear that although Nash has provided him with extensive access into his personal life, Nash is the subject of the documentary, and not involved in any way this the film's production, editing, or financing.
As a life-long Nash fan on the wrong side of 40, I've contributed $150 to Hamilton's Kickstarter campaign, but Hamilton is accepting contributions as small as $1, recognizing that this will allow more Nash fans to feel a small sense of ownership of the movie.
What's even better is that, regardless of the size of the donation, each donation receives some considerable gifts, all related to Nash: The Movie.
I asked Hamilton whether the long process of creating this documentary - which is nearly complete but has not yet crossed the finish line - reminds him at all of the long journey that Nash faced on his way to the NBA.
Hamilton replied that the process has taught him never to be complacent. "No matter what you have, never be satisfied. Always strive to be better at whatever you set your mind to, and when it's all said and done you'll know you gave it everything you had."
That sounds an awful lot like Steve Nash to me.
You can watch the trailer for Nash: The Movie, and hear Hamilton's pitch, by viewing the Kickstarter campaign page.
Whether or not you're able to contribute to Hamilton's campaign, please consider forwarding this article, which will help move this very worthwhile project about Steve Nash - a high-character and very athletic action hero - to a big screen near you.
Craig Lawson is the owner and sole contributor of the web site Steve-Nash-Chronicles.com, which is dedicated to documenting the final stages of Nash's career on a game-by-game basis. You can follow him on twitter @stevenashchroni .
KrisDog and JimDog are at it again. It is actually good, we promise...
As the conversation always does it twists and turns. Other topics covered include the present state of the Lakers with their roster of shoot first guards, the future of the Lakers and the Suns from the draft, salary cap, roster construction, and who will likely win an NBA Championship first.
Listen Here: Phoenix Suns Podcast Episode 48
!!!ALSO WE HAVE ANOTHER CONTEST!!!
Make sure you listen all the way through because we introduce another contest as the podcast rolls along with a tremendous prize pack for the winner. All you have to do is listen to the podcast and watch the Suns-Lakers game. Tough, I know...