Let's force the tempo, Suns!
The Phoenix Suns had a rare stretch of three consecutive days off to lick their wounds after dropping two games in a row to the Spurs and Clippers, plus the news that Grant Hill needed surgery to repair a torn meniscus in his knee and will be out of action for an estimated 2-4 weeks.
A visit from the worst team in the Western Conference, the New Orleans Hornets, should help cure what ails the Suns. The 13-39 Hornets are 28th in the league in offensive rating, 29th in points per game and last in pace. They're a slow, grinding team that tries to lure opponents into defensive slopfests and then steal a win at the end, as they did on opening night in Phoenix, winning 85-84 on Eric Gordon's game-winning jump shot.
Gordon played one game after that, then had arthroscopic knee surgery, and has yet to return this season. The Hornets also missed injured players Trevor Ariza, Carl Landry, and Emeka Okafor, plus Chris Kaman (illness) and Gustavo Ayon (personal reason) in last night's loss in Los Angeles to the Lakers. That means the Hornets will likely have only one starter in the line-up tonight from that season opener.
This should be a game the Suns will be able to win, yeah?
That doesn't necessarily mean it will be pretty. On the surface, the Hornets are a team in tank mode but they've continued to compete. This past week, they've played the Spurs and Blazers tight, beat up on the Warriors and nearly stole one from the Lakers in LA last night.
They also flat out don't give up many points. A lot of that is due to the snail's pace with which they play and they're only 18th in defensive rating, but the bottom line is that they only gave up 100 points twice in the month of March. In one of those games, they gave up 101 to the Warriors and in the other they gave up 107 in an OT loss to the Lakers, but less than 100 in regulation.
The Suns, meanwhile, have averaged 101 points per game in going 11-6 since the All-Star break. The loss of Hill will be felt much more in games against opponents with strong perimeter scorers, which the Hornets don't have right now unless Marco Belinelli scares you.
Markieff Morris isn't expected to play for the Suns, still out with the flu. I would have thought seeing his Kansas Jayhawks beat Ohio St. to make it to the NCAA Championship game would have made him feel better.
Projected starting line-ups, using Hornets starting five from last night:
PG Steve Nash vs. Jarrett Jack
SG Shannon Brown vs. Marco Belinelli
SF Jared Dudley vs. Lance Thomas
PF Channing Frye vs. Al-Farouq Aminu
C Marcin Gortat vs. Jason Smith
In the first three meetings between the teams, two won by the Suns, the Suns scored 84, 93 and a whopping 120 last time they met. Still, I'm calling this one a likely ugly win, scoring under 100. Sorry fans, no free tacos. You'll just have to get your own.