20121110_kkt_st3_026

When: Monday, November 12, 2012, 7:00 PM local time (9:00 EST)

Where: US Airways Center, Phoenix, AZ

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

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Last Meeting:

Preseason - Suns defeated Nuggets 88-72 @ US Airways Center on October 26, 2012

Team Bios:

Denver Nuggets 4-3

Points per game: 99.0 (8th) Points allowed: 96.3 (17th)

The major acquisition for the Nuggets this offseason was Andre Iguodala who enters the game averaging 15.1 points, 7.3 rebounds and 4.0 assists per game, but has struggled to find his touch from the field (42.0%). Look for him to try to get healthy against a Suns team that is mired near the bottom of the league in several defensive categories.

The remainder of the Nuggets squad is the usual suspects from last season, and by usual I mean the guys that have beaten the Suns brains in to the tune of six straight regular season wins by an average margin of victory of 15 points while scoring 120 points per game. Those guys.

The Nuggets have won four straight games after a start of 0-3. Their last two wins, on a B2B Friday and Saturday like the Suns just navigated, were by 20 at home against the Utah Jazz (104-84) and in overtime on the road against the Golden St. Warriors (107-101), both teams that have beaten the Suns in the early season.

Phoenix Suns 3-4

Points per game: 96.4 (15th) Points allowed: (103.4 (28th)

The Suns just split a B2B which saw them overcome a historic 26 point deficit to win at home against the Cleveland Cavaliers (107-105) on Friday night just to be summarily pounded on the road by the Utah Jazz (94-81). The whole season to date has taken on this feast or famine dynamic with the Suns yo-yoing between impressive runs and humiliating, demoralizing sprees. There has been little middle ground for these Jekyll and Hyde Suns.

Among the things that have been consistent, excluding the last game, is the play of Marcin Gortat. He is currently tied for 5th in the league in rebounds and 1st (numero uno) in blocked shots. Goran Dragic and Luis Scola have also been routinely solid, if not spectacular, but the rest of the roster has been shaky at best. Shannon Brown has provided intermittent firestorms and others have shown glimpses through their sporadic play, but for the most part it has been fairly parallel to the Suns' current record... subpar.

Expect Gortat to bounce back from the recurring debacle in Salt Lake City ready to take out his frustrations on the Nuggets. Expect a more ebullient effort after a B2B travel game on the tail end of a hard fought, emotional victory. Expect a fast-paced game with profuse points. Expect free tacos. Just don't expect an easy victory. Not from these Suns. There may be a paucity of those this season, at least until they figure things out (assuming they will).

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What to watch for:

Goran Dragic vs Ty Lawson - Dragic needs to win dominate this matchup. Across the board there aren't a whole lot of positional battles where the Suns get an obvious nod, so they need to make their hay where they can. Lawson had two 20+point/10+ assist games in the last four against the Suns, but now faces a more tenacious defender. Speaking of 20/10 games, this would be a felicitous time for Goran's first of the season.

Rebounds - The Nuggets are 1st in the league in total rebounds (52.1) and 2nd in rebounding differential (+9.0). The Suns are.... the Suns. Keeping this close would eliminate one of those areas we might point to after a loss saying, "Well, you just can't win getting dominated on the glass."

Pace - This should be a high scoring game. Hopefully it's not just one team. And hopefully if it is just one team... it's the Suns. My trepidation with respect to a frenetic, free-wheeling style is that the Suns have seemed incapable of stopping the bleeding at times which could get ugly against the Nuggets if they get going on all cylinders.

Shooting - While neither team has shot the ball particularly well, Nuggets .426 and Suns .423, the Nuggets have defended much better against their opponents. The Nuggets are 5th in the league with a .417 fg % against while the Suns boast a more munificent mark of .461 (23rd). In a game that promises to have more possessions than most, the importance of winning this battle is significant. Plus, the Suns need to get off the schnide here pretty soon, because they aren't going to win a ton of games this season if they keep up these ineffectual shooting numbers.

Bench - Shannon Brown has played well at times. That is all.

Power Outage - The Suns are 22nd in the league in three point shooting (.303) while giving up a laughable .435 clip (29th). The Nuggets come in 29th in the league in three point shooting at .286. Something has to give... and these teams should both be ashamed of themselves. For additional reading on the Suns' shooting woes check out my write up on the Power Outage.

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Before the season I thought I would be able to gauge the pulse of the season using Beasley and Morris as a bellwether. So far those two have been mostly fetid garbage and while the Suns' record is 3-4, the three wins have come against teams with a combined record of 4-15. The training staff might want to check Beasley and Morris to see if they still have a pulse before tonight's game because the Suns will need something from these two in the next stretch of games that also includes Chicago, Los Angeles and Miami.

It's not getting any easier. Time to protect home court. The Suns can do this, right?


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The reason for a team to employ an offense geared towards extra possessions (pace) is that by doing so, coupled with an offense that shoots the ball well (scores efficiently), that team can have a better chance of outscoring their opponent. This is the philosophy the Suns have chosen to implement this season according to all reports from their organization. There's only one problem.

The Suns can't shoot.

Threes_11

The Suns were never lower than 4th in the league in the league in pace (# of possessions per 48 minutes) during Mike D'Antoni's tenure (they were 1st twice). They were even 4th during the Porter/Gentry season. The team slowed a little bit over the last thee seasons finishing 4th, 7th and 8th, respectively. The Suns push the tempo. This year the Suns are in high gear so far, currently standing at 2nd in the league in pace.

So far that hasn't been good.

By only posting meager shooting numbers of 42.3% from the field and 30.3% from three, while benevolently yielding 46.1% from the field and 43.5% (yikes!) from three, the Suns attempt to run and gun has been self-defeating. They are creating extra possessions for opponents who are scoring far more efficiently than they are.

The eFG% numbers make a clear cut case. The Suns are shooting 45.6% and allowing 50.7%. Good, or even decent, teams don't have a net -5.1% in this comparison. That's atrocious.

As horrific as the overall drop in field goal percentage has been, it seems it has been trending this way. After a seven year stretch that saw the team average nearly 49% and never dip below 47%, the team dipped to 45.8% last year and has bottomed out (I hope) at 42.3% to start this season. The FG% has in fact decreased (depending on the much larger remainder of this season) each of the last five seasons.

The results from three point range have been even more nugatory. The Suns currently stand at 30.3%, which would be a full 10.9% drop from the 2009-10 season. That's over one extra three per 10 shot attempts, or just over two extra three point shots made per game based on their current 18.9 attempts per contest.

Six extra points per game.

These Suns aren't those Suns, though, so that may be an unfair comparison. So, of course, I've devised another.

The top chart depicts the Suns current and career three point field goal percentages. The number at the bottom right is the number of three point field goals the Suns would have made this season based on the career shooting numbers, which have been adjusted to reflect the proportionate amount of attempts for each player.

Seven extra threes. 21 points this season.

They could have probably used a few of those points in the season opener against Golden St. or in a couple of their other losses to keep them from getting out of hand.

So why are the Suns failing epically struggling shooting the basketball this season? Here are a couple possibilities:

  1. Anomalous early returns that will soon adjust to a higher true value for the season. This would propitiate well, since it implies the team has some improved shooting performances on the horizon.
  2. The constitution of the team coupled with a paucity of talent and elite shooters. This team likes to take long twos. Two of the players who comprise a bulk of the three point attempts are reputed "chuckers" who aren't deterred from taking a long shot just because they're well defended (although one of these two has carried the team with his shooting at times this season). I'm not the least bit surprised that a team composed of Nash, Richardson, Dudley and Frye would shoot better from three than the current assortment of Dragic, Beasley, Brown and Dudley. It's also not surprising that teams with the likes of Stoudemire and Marion/Shaq were more efficient than the current Gortat/Scola duo.
  3. Steve Nash. Dude was kind of good at getting people the ball in a position for them to be successful. Even the point of entry for a pass is important for a three point shooter so he doesn't disrupt the rhythm of his shot.
  4. Gentry's "shoot the shot that's available to you" philosophy. That works great when you have good shooters with high basketball IQ, but with these Suns maybe that's not the best idea. It's absolutely eerie how many open shots opposing teams allow in the 19-23' range...
  5. Add your own more astute and discerning observation in the comments below.

The first step in fixing a problem is admitting you have one, and Phoenix, we have a problem.

Will it auto-correct? Doubtful. What the Suns were able to accomplish over the better part of the last decade was truly special. It is unlikely this team will be able to match the pace or efficiency of those previous incarnations. They will hopefully at least come close and not become a pitiful travesty.

The Seven Seconds or Less era is gone. The "New Era" is Eight Seconds or Beasley.


20121001_gav_aj4_231

In a stunning turn of events, the Los Angeles Lakers have assimilated the Phoenix Suns into their Borg. I guess, even if you CAN beat them you might as well join them too.

Steve Nash is the Los Angeles Lakers starting point guard.

And now Mike D'Antoni is their head coach.

After losing to the Suns a couple of contentious times in the playoffs in the mid-2000s during the Suns' short glory run, later beating the Suns in the 2010 Conference Finals to end the Suns' last gasp at glory, the Lakers have absorbed the Suns. Or at least, taken the losing team's best guys after sending them home for an early lunch.

Last summer, a fading Laker team (it's all relative, folks) decided they needed a driver and appropriated the guy who ran the best offense in the league - on two different teams - for a decade. When the car sputtered off the starting line, they hired the pit boss who kept the car on the fast track during most of that run.

What a strange turn of events.

Steve and Mike never were able to win that championship during their run-n-gun days in Phoenix. They changed the league forever, turning it into a high-scoring fast-paced league in a way that the earlier versions of high-scoring teams (Sacramento, for example) couldn't.

And even though the Lakers eventually beat the Suns, as did other eventual Finals teams in every year of the magical D'Antoni/Nash run of the 2000s, the lure of the most beautiful offense in the history of the NBA is too drool-inspriring for team's clinging desperately for that magic.

The Lakers had no need for Nash and D'Antoni when they were winning. "Defense win championships" was the mantra, and every fan around the league knew it. At least, fans of the Spurs, Pistons, Mavericks, Lakers, Celtics, and HEAT knew this without question.

But the Lakers are fading and Mitch Kupchak knows it. Only desperate men swing like this for the fences by hiring the enemy.

The Lakers are a storied franchise that knows how to win. Get a world's-best scorer, a world's-best center, play strong defense, and run the table.

Now, they have hired the world's best offense-only point guard to run a team that has not had run their offense through a point guard in twenty years, six Finals appearances and five league championships.

Now, they have hired a stubborn, offense-only head coach after not having such an offense-only head coach since Paul Westhead thirty years ago.

Can Steve Nash and Mike D'Antoni win a championship running their style, as they always claimed they could? Well, it helps having three Hall of Famers (Howard, Gasol, Bryant) in the lineup.

Can the Lakers, of all franchises, prove that offense-only scheming can beat all comers in a 7-game series?

We shall see.

The mustachio'd stunt double for the Pringles mascot and the once-floppy-haired-finger-licking best passer in the game now have a chance to make history.

And all Suns fans get to do is watch.


PHOENIX — Like a jilted lover following a bad breakup, Marcin Gortat was rather emphatic to anyone within an earshot of him during the preseason that he would be more than alright without Steve...

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PHOENIX — Like a jilted lover following a bad breakup, Marcin Gortat was rather emphatic to anyone within an earshot of him during the preseason that he would be more than alright without Steve...

[[ This is a content summary only. Visit my website for full links, other content, and more! ]]

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