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Who: Phoenix Suns (#3 seed) vs. Golden State Warriors (#1 seed)

What: 2013 NBA Summer League Championship Game

Where: Las Vegas Nevada; NBA TV

When: 6pm PDT (AZ time)/9pm EST

Why:

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Clash of the Titans

Record PPG FG% 3PT% FT% REB AST STL BLK TO
Phoenix Suns 6-0 93.2 49.0% 42.1% 69.3% 36.2 17.7 7.2 3.8 17.5
Golden State Warriors 6-0 76.4 37.9% 25.5% 71.9% 38.2 9.6 9.4 3.4 15.6

Although neither of these teams has lost a single game in Vegas this year, a team statistical comparison reveals that each has achieved success with different styles. The Suns' offense this summer has been crisp and on-point, averaging a Vegas-leading 93.2 points per game. Moreover, the team is shooting the ball extremely well from the field and the three point line and is playing stellar team ball, averaging 17.7 assists per game (although they are turning the ball over at an equally high rate).

The Suns' summer squad boasts a roster replete with NBA-worthy talent. PJ Tucker is playing like a seasoned veteran this summer, complementing the young guys well but also putting his foot down and downright dominating whenever he feels the need. The Morris twins have performed very well, shooting the ball, scoring, and hitting game-winning shots (and unfortunately, fouling) at a great rate. Kendall Marshall continues to struggle statistically, but has at times shown tremendous poise when running the team's high-powered offense. And of course, Archie Goodwin has been one of the most sensational rookies in Vegas (with plays such as this).

The Suns also have some great reserves in Dionte Christmas, Diante Garrett, Chris Babb, and Arinze Onuaku, all of whom have played arguably well enough to earn a roster spot. The problem is that the Suns' actual roster is already pretty packed with 15 guaranteed contracts. It will be very interesting to see if the team makes any moves to free up a roster spot or two.

On the other side, the Warriors haven't been the most efficient team. However, they are a great defensive squad that also has solid talent on their roster. Kent Bazemore has been lighting up the Summer League to the tune of nearly 19 points, 5 rebounds, and 3 assists per game. He's also getting help from Draymond Green, the Warriors' second round pick from 2012 who was a rotation player for them last year, playing an integral role in their playoff run.

Other notable names include former Iona College point guard Scott Machado (who has started every game for Golden State despite shooting a ridiculously low 18% from the field and 8% from three - wow), guard Cameron Jones (a D-League standout), shooting guard Ian Clark (an undrafted rookie who led the Miami Heat's Orlando Summer League squad in scoring), along with big men Dwayne Jones (who was actually on the Suns' regular roster for a bit in 2010), and Gary McGhee (a center from Pitt who spent the last two years playing in Europe).

What to Watch For

- Kent Bazemore vs. Archie Goodwin: This will be the matchup of the game. Goodwin, already the new favorite player of many Suns fans, will have to try and keep Bazemore, one of Summer League's highest scorers, in check. Bazemore is also a good defender so Archie will have to bring his best tonight. This should be a great litmus test for the 18 year old.

-Suns front-court vs. Warriors' front-court: The Suns' front-court has a clear advantage here with actual NBA talent in Tucker and the Morris twins, whereas the Warriors only have Draymond Green and a couple of fringe-NBA big men.

-Kendall Marshall: Marshall has received much criticism for his supposedly lackluster performance thus far in Summer League. While he's by no means blowing away his competition, I think he has shown a lot of promise in his ability to lead the team and run a fast-paced offense. He has also displayed better touch as a spot-up shooter, knocking down one three pointer per game while shooting 50%. He'll be facing Scott Machado in this game, who's a quick point guard but is really struggling with his shot.

-Which reserve will make the team? As mentioned earlier, the Suns have 15 players under contract for the upcoming season. Pending a trade to get rid of some players, they have absolutely no roster space, though they can invite players to their training camp. This likely means that Christmas, Garrett, Babb, Onuaku, and Oriakhi are all competing for one available spot on the team's final roster. Personally, I like Christmas (versatile, do-it all guard, will be 27 soon), Babb (undrafted rookie, very good 3-point shooter, solid defender), and Onuaku (a big body that can be useful at the end of the bench as a 12th man, as well as in practice). Let's see which of them steps up tonight.

Why Does This Matter?

Many people are wondering why summer league success even matters. Both of these teams have been seriously competing to do well in the first-ever Summer League tournament. Truth be told, what happens in Summer League should be relatively inconsequential - you should never extrapolate conclusions from overreactions to Summer League play. So what could be the point in trying to win meaningless games?

For these teams, it's all about setting a tone and a mindset. The Golden State Warriors have not lost a summer league game since 2011. The actual Warriors team is coming off a successful year which saw Steph Curry break out into a bonafide star in the league, leading his Warriors team to the second round of the playoffs before they ultimately lost a competitive series to the San Antonio Spurs. Having signed Andre Iguodala in the offseason, they hope to accomplish even greater things in the upcoming season. For them, Summer League is about setting a winning mindset and culture that they can carry with them into the regular season.

The Phoenix Suns are also taking Summer League very seriously, albeit for slightly different reasons. The team has a vastly remodeled front office, with a new General Manager and Head Coach that want to lead Phoenix out of the purgatory it has been stuck in for the last few years. They know that the players and fans are starved for success and that a great showing in Vegas can bring at least a little bit of excitement back to the team, something it desperately needs as it continues rebuilding and experiencing growing pains. In an interview with Hoopsworld two days ago, Markieff Morris said, "It was terrible" when asked about the trials of last year's losing season.

Our own Dave King said it best:

I hope Suns fans just enjoy the moment without over analyzing other scenarios. Suns are 6-0. Smile big.

— Dave King (@DaveKing_BSotS) July 22, 2013

There you go, Suns fans. Just watch the young guys play and enjoy what you see. Tune in at 6pm PDT to witness what could possibly be the first championship in Phoenix Suns history.

Mercury_meter_logo

Record: 9-8

Place In Standings: Third

Points Per Game: 83.8

Points Against: 85.4

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Coming into this stretch of games there was a very good chance the injured, short-handed, and inconsistent Phoenix Mercury could have fallen into a downward spiral. At this point the team is in a spiral, but knocking off the Los Angeles Sparks on the road was a testament of how good this team can be.

With their backs against the wall Diana Taurasi (32 points 7 rebounds 6 assists 15-17 FT) and the Mercury put together a win when failure was not an option.

Sure, the team is locked into the third seed in the Western Conference now and for the foreseeable future with the way the teams below them are playing. They have some security. But that security means nothing when the playoffs begin and the Minnesota Lynx are an impossible mountain to climb and the Sparks are as tough as they come. The Mercury have Championship potential and, when fully healthy, can compete and defeat any team in the league.

It was a good sign seeing the Mercury play tough with the Sparks the Lynx, closing out the former, but still struggling with the latter. Gaining (creating) some consistency and figuring out the rotation to a machine like nature are the next steps for this team in the progression towards reaching their potential.

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New Mercury Member

In lieu of waiving Samantha Prahalis the Mercury signed Jasmine James, former University of Georgia guard that was selected by the Seattle Storm in the third round of this years draft. She played just one pre-season game with the Storm where she collected 4 points 2 assists and 2 steals in 14 minutes.

At Georgia, James never showed a proficiency shooting the ball, which is one of the team needs, but can be a facilitator and distribute the ball. She brings the Mercury roster to 11 and will be the third point guard behind Taurasi and Alexis Hornbuckle.

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All-Star Game Preview

When talking about the Mercury's potential as a team it should become obvious when looking at the All-Star Game this year. Of the five Western Conference starters they all come from the Lynx (Seimone Augustus and Maya Moore), Mercury (Taurasi and Brittney Griner), and Sparks (Candace Parker). They have the talent and the star power on the court.

Looking at Griner specifically, she was voted as a starter and will be on the court with No. 2 Overall pick Elena Della Donne. Both rookies have been fantastic this year and could form a competitive rivalry over the next 7-10 years in the WNBA.

Right now it is arguable that either Taurasi or Della Donne is the MVP of the league at this point in the season. Should make for an interesting game with unique individual battles.

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Upcoming Schedule:

Wednesday @ Minnesota Lynx at 10am AZ Time

Saturday ALL-STAR GAME at 12:30pm AZ Time

Another hectic game down, another win for first-year head coach Jeff Hornacek. The Phoenix Suns advanced to the Summer League championship game on Sunday by beating the Miami Heat 91-89 behind a...

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The Phoenix Suns beat the Miami Heat, 91-89, in a game that was much closer than it should have been. The Suns blitzed the Heat in the first half and led by 20 points at one point in the third quarter before the Heat stormed back to momentarily take the lead. In the end, Markieff Morris hit a game-winning shot to help the Suns advance to the Summer League Championship game.

The Suns used a strong performance from their bench to take a 51-37 lead into halftime. They did this without the luxury of having even one player in double-digit figures at the half. Instead, they used great offensive balance and teamwork: 7 different players had at least 4 points by the midway point, with the bench leading the way. Arinze Onuaku and Dionte Christmas each scored 8 points in the first half and Chris Babb pitched in 6 off of two three-pointers.

The highlight of the first half came from a play that didn't even count. Archie Goodwin took an inbounds alley-oop pass from Marshall to hit a FANTASTIC circus tip-shot while being fouled (which was ruled off due to a foul being called before the shot):


The Suns also started the second half on a strong note, with PJ Tucker hitting a long corner two-point shot and following it up with a fast-break three. On the next possession, Marcus Morris converted a beautiful alley-oop pass from Marshall in the half-court and the Suns suddenly had an 18 point lead. However, the Heat used a strong surge through the rest of the quarter to cut the lead to just 5 at the end of the third.

The Suns managed to recover and stretch the lead back to double digits early in the fourth but an 14-0 run from Miami gave them a three point lead with just three minutes left. That's when PJ Tucker took the game back into his own hands. He scored on two impressive shots to give the Suns the lead. After Miami tied it up once again, Markieff Morris used a strong baseline drive to hit a go-ahead shot with 21 seconds left that would prove to be the game-winner.

The Suns kept runnin' and gunnin' and manged to barely finish out a good Miami Heat Summer League squad with a 91-89 victory.

Key Takeaways

-Jeff Hornacek will make this team run, run, and run until the game ends. Regardless of the outcome, the Suns will be exciting to watch this year.

-The Morris brothers were good offensively, for the most part. Markieff may not have scored very much (10 points), but he rebounded and passed the ball well tonight. He also used a hard drive to hit the game-winning shot. Marcus finished with 17 points before he fouled out with 3 minutes left. The twins continue to complement each other well but they have a long way to go defensively. They also continue to foul way too much (Markieff fouled out last game, Marcus this game).

-Kendall Marshall was a bit sloppy in the first half (most of the Suns started the game on a sloppy note) but was good to begin the second half. His stats may not catch many eyes, but he ran the team well and was a significant part of the Suns' fast-break success. In fact, the Suns' offense was at its best tonight with Marshall on the floor. He finished with 3 points, 6 assists, and just 1 turnover in 17 minutes.

-Arinze Onuaku was very good. He used his body well to repeatedly establish great position in the post and finish inside. He also displayed his surprisingly adept ability to run the floor in the fist half with consecutive fast-break buckets. He finished with 10 points, 4 rebounds, and a block in less than 15 minutes.

-The Suns' trio of guards off the bench were excellent. Dionte Christmas showed off his great scoring touch in a variety of ways (10 points, 3 rebounds, 3 assists) and Chriss Babb continued to display his excellent three-point shooting ability (9 points off 3-3 shooting on threes to go with 4 rebounds and 4 assists). Diante Garrett was a big part of the Suns' huge first half lead and ran the team well, although he struggled a bit in the second (6 points and 3 assists). Even though the Suns are well-stocked at the guard positions, one of these three could very well make the roster.

-PJ Tucker is just a man among boys. The fact that he's playing in Summer League really isn't fair to the rest of the guys out there. Tucker took over in the fourth when the Suns needed him the most and finished the game was the team's leading scorer with 19 points.

-The venerable Archie Goodwin didn't have the eye-popping sort of game he did yesterday, but he was very good nonetheless. He scored 7 points to go with 5 rebounds but more importantly, he continued to showcase the skills, hustle, and feel for the game that has fans swooning every time they hear his name. Much to the chagrin of Suns fans, Hornacek kept Archie on the bench for most of the fourth quarter for some reason.

The Suns will play the winner of the Charlotte-Golden State game in the first ever Summer League Championship game tomorrow (6pm AZ time) in a match to decide which team takes home all the summer marbles.

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The Phoenix Suns face the Miami Heat 3PM PST (AZ time)/6PM EST in a game that will decide one of the two final teams of the 2013 NBA Summer League Tournament.

The Suns' Summer League Domination

The Phoenix Suns are not only one of just two undefeated (5-0) teams remaining in Vegas, they're also highest scoring team in Summer League, blitzing their opponents to the tune of 93.6 points per game in Vegas. In the NBA's regular 48 minute game, that pace would lead to a 112 ppg average. Hornacek definitely wasn't lying when he said he would make this team run. Run N Gun, Summer Suns!

The Suns are also scoring efficiently, shooting 48% from the field and 42% from the three point line. The team's free shooting has been subpar at a mere 69%, but the Summer Suns are getting to the line 33.4 times a game, which not only leads Summer League but is a higher average than any team in the 2012-13 regular season. The team that shot the most free throws last year (shocker: the LA Lakers) got to the line 27.9 times per game, so that show the Suns are REALLY attacking the rim.

The Opposition

The Miami Heat team is 4-2 in Las Vegas and is averaging 82.6 points per game. They set this year's Summer League scoring record by absolutely demolishing the Knicks in a 113-66 game on Wednesday so just like the Suns, this team can score.

Miami also played in the Orlando Summer League with several undrafted rookies such as Myck Kabongo, Jackie Carmichael, and DJ Stephens. Although those guys won't be playing tonight, Miami's Las Vegas squad also boasts some quality Summer League talent in players like James Ennis (Miami's second round pick this year), Jarvis Varnado (Miami's second round pick in 2010), Erick Griffin (undrafted 2012), and DJ Kennedy (a D-League All-Star and Champion).

Lebron James, Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh will not be playing tonight because they are afraid of Archie Goodwin. Some champs they are.

Back to the Finals - 20 years later

The last time the Phoenix Suns competed for a championship was in 1993. I'd argue that this 2013 iteration is even more equipped (relatively) to bring home the title they're competing for. EYES ON THE PRIZE.

Both of these teams like to score so I expect lots of offense in this one. When it's all said and done, the Suns have more NBA talent on their Summer League roster than the Heat do. If they are indeed playing to win in Vegas, they should be able to take care of business against Miami and earn a seat in the championship game tomorrow. The winner of this game plays the winner of the Charlotte-Golden State game for all the summer marbles.

In order to be the best, you have to beat the best. The Suns can start be defeating the reigning NBA champions tonight. The stakes are high in this one, folks, so be sure to tune in to see what the likes of Kendall Marshall, PJ Tucker, the Morris twins, and of course, ARCHIE "BEST PLAYER IN THE HISTORY OF SPORTS" GOODWIN have in store in an effort to cement the Suns' place in Summer League History.

NOTE: This is my first ever Suns Game Preview/Thread so let's hope I can be some good luck for the team going forward (or at least not bring bad luck).

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