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The Phoenix Suns face the fast-paced Philadelphia 76ers on the second night of a back to back, trying to eclipse their entire win total in 82 games last season (25) by the 44th game of this one.
Where: Wells Fargo Center - Philadelphia, PA
When: 5:00PM (AZ Time)
Watch: Fox Sports AZ, NBA League Pass
Read: Get the Philly point of view over at Liberty Ballers
When the season started, the Phoenix Suns (25-18) and Philadelphia 76ers (14-30) were widely considered to be battling it out for the first overall pick in the draft. At this point, the Suns are more likely to get the first overall seed in the Western Conference playoffs as they are a shot at Julius Randle. The 76ers on the other hand are right there in the thick of the ping pong ball hunt.
The last time these two teams met, the 76ers hung tough in the first half before this Suns put them away, 115-101, with a strong second half. Thaddeus Young, Michael Carter Williams, and Tony Wroten led the way scoring 79 of Philadelphia's 101 points as leading scorer Evan Turner sat out. Young in particular gave the Suns fits, scoring 30 points on 18 shots while also pulling down 10 rebounds and snaring 4 steals. That game also featured a career night from Miles Plumlee who finished with a career high 22 points to go with 13 rebounds.
Since then, not much has changed for the 76ers. They've gone 6-9, which I suppose is better than the 8-21 pace they were on, but nothing to write home about. The Suns for their part lost Eric Bledsoe and have been playing .500 ball, winning 7 and losing 7 in the same period.
Phoenix Suns: Offensive Rating 108.5 (8th in NBA), Defensive Rating 105.2 (13th in NBA)
Philadelphia 76ers: Offensive Rating 99.8 (29th in NBA), Defensive Rating 108.2 (23rd in NBA)
F - P.J. Tucker
F - Channing Frye
C - Miles Plumlee
G - Gerald Green
G - Goran Dragi?
F - Thaddeus Young
F - Evan Turner
C - Spencer Hawes
G - Michael Carter-Williams
G - James Anderson
Suns: Eric Bledsoe (Knee) - Out, Emeka Okafor (Neck) - Out
Second Wind for a Second Win: The Suns are 4-5 in the second games of back-to-backs and this one figures to be a track meet. The 76ers don't lead the league in much, but they do lead it in pace. After spending a significant amount of energy overcoming a 20 point deficit in Cleveland last night, do the Suns have the legs to keep up with one of the only teams that runs faster than them?
Outbalance Their Balance: Like Phoenix, Philadelphia has a very balanced offensive attack. 6 players average double figures for the 76ers, led by Evan Turner with 18.5 points per game. It's a different hero every night for the Suns. Who steps up this time?
Do How You Do: This has been covered ad nauseum, but the Philadelphia 76ers are simply not a very good team. They have the 3rd worst record in the league and do almost nothing better than the Suns except tank. You can lay the jinx at my feet if the Suns lay an egg, but if Phoenix comes out and plays their game, this shouldn't be much of a contest.
The one thing this game should have are plenty of fun match-ups in the starting line-ups. Goran Dragic and Michael Carter-Williams checking one another should be oodles of fun. P.J. Tucker will have his hands full guarding the 76ers best scorer in Evan Turner (who missed the last Suns-76ers tilt due to injury). But I think the key to this game is the Suns' bigs vs. the 76ers bigs. Spencer Hawes is playing out of his mind this season. He not only leads the team in rebounds, but is their 2nd best 3 point shooter making 41.0% on 4 attempts per game. I doubt Miles Plumlee can have his way with the 7-year veteran again. And will Channing Frye (or Markieff Morris) be able to slow down Thaddeus Young? Young terrorized the Suns in their previous match-up and his play could be the key to Philly pulling an upset.
I'm hoping the Cleveland Cavaliers were a wake-up call to the Suns with regards to starting strong against weaker teams on the road. I think the Suns come out focused and take an early lead, but give some of that back in a tough second half. But I'm feeling a 2-game streak heading into Milwaukee. Suns 113, Philadelphia 107.
In yet another comeback for the ages, the Suns used a historic third quarter rally to come back from a 20 point first half deficit and defeat the Cavaliers 99-90 in Cleveland.
I feel like I just watched two completely different games. The Phoenix Suns were completely outplayed in the first half by the Cavaliers, only to turn the tables in the second half and leave Cleveland with a 99-90 win.
To say this was a roller-coaster of a game would be quite an understatement. The Suns looked absolutely abysmal in the first half -- in fact, the game looked to be headed straight to becoming a contender for the "worst game of the season" category, as the Suns were outmuscled in the paint and outplayed in nearly every other facet of the game to find themselves down 20 points in the second quarter.
The Cavaliers, who have one of the worst offenses in the NBA this year, got out to a fast start in the first quarter as they dominated the Suns' paint defense. Kyrie Irving dished 6 quick assists in the first period (he averages just over 6 per game), the Cavs' big-man tandem of Tristan Thompson and Anderson Varejao worked Channing Frye and Miles Plumlee, and CJ Miles started the game on fire to give Cleveland a 29-22 lead heading into the second quarter.
The second quarter was far worse for the Suns, as they just could not find a way to stop the Cavs from scoring. Luol Deng had a great first half and helped build a 20 point lead for his team. Meanwhile, Markieff Morris was the only Sun to have a great first half, as he tallied 15 points and 8 rebounds by the halfway mark. The Suns went into the break trailing by 18 after one of the worst halves of their season.
Oh, how I wish I could have been a fly on the Suns' locker room wall at halftime. After a putrid first half, one can only imagine what Jeff Hornacek must have said to his team, but our Dave King has a hunch:
I guess Hornacek at halftime said to his Suns, down 18: %€|€|%\£|%)$&)@&!!!— Dave King (@DaveKing_BSotS) January 27, 2014
Whatever was said to the Suns at halftime, it absolutely worked. Phoenix came out with amazing effort and a noticeable fire to start the second half. What was most impressive about the third quarter was that the Suns didn't make their run with their offense, but their defense completely stifled the Cavs' offensive play and forced some difficult shots. Their offense was also much better, as they hit a flurry of threes (Frye had three in this stretch) to quickly cut into the Cavs' lead and somehow take a one point lead into the 4th quarter.
The Cavs missed more shots than I've ever seen a team miss in one quarter and managed to score just 6 points in the period. SIX POINTS IN ONE QUARTER. They made just TWO FIELD GOALS in the entire quarter and missed twenty. That's a FG% of 9%. Single Digits. I had never seen anything like it -- and even now, all that offensive ineptitude (caused in large part by a more engaged and extremely active Suns defense) doesn't even make sense. The 6 points allowed in the third quarter ties a Suns franchise record. Take a look at the Cavs' shot chart for the 3rd quarter of tonight's game:
The Suns carried this momentum into the 4th, and their lead ballooned all the way up to 11 points behind more stellar play from Markieff Morris. That's a 31 point swing in less than 20 minutes. The Cavs offense managed to wake up a bit later in the quarter, as they cut the deficit to three, but the Suns responded and put the game away late after Channing Frye hit a big three with just over a minute left to give the Suns a 6 point lead. Game over.
|Final - 1.26.2014||1||2||3||4||Total|
*Goran Dragic had a ho-hum game, yet still ended the night with 15 points (on 6-14 shooting from the field), 5 rebounds and 7 assists. Those numbers are right in line with his averages from last season. Kyrie Irving had 24 points and 9 assists, but also shot 23 times to get there. The fact that this performance can be considered subpar for Goran is a testament to how well he is playing this year in what deserves to be an All-Star worthy campaign.
This game was a hell of a comeback by the Suns, just a couple weeks after they rallied from a 21 point deficit against the Nuggets in Denver. They'll absolutely have to improve their first half play on the road as they can't expect to keep making these comebacks every night, but oh, how sweet it was. This team is something else.