This is it, the last game of the road trip before the Suns return home. Can the Suns pull off a win to make this road trip a victorious 3-2? I think they can.

Let's go!

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Phoenix Suns Player Thermometer, Week 4: Nash and Gortat Playing Ball

We're going to gauge each player's "hotness" or "notness" in terms of their positive or negative contributions to the team's success (or lack thereof), and monitor how hot or cold the Suns on-court personnel are from week to week.


Dallas Mavericks 93, Phoenix Suns 87 After the Suns defeated a Boston Celtics team without Rajon Rondo on Friday, the basketball gods keep shining hope upon a Phoenix team that could use any and all...

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Phoenix Suns point guard Steve Nash, left, drives against Dallas Mavericks point guard Jason Kidd (2) in the first half of an NBA basketball game, Friday, Dec. 17, 2010, in Dallas. (AP Photo/Tony Gutierrez)

If it can be said that a 6-9 team is on a hot streak, then the Phoenix Suns appear to be on the verge of one. Tonight, the Suns will look to extend their road game winning streak to three when they take on the Dallas Mavericks at American Airlines Center at 6:30pm MST.

The Phoenix Suns lost the first two games of their current road trip to the San Antonio Spurs without Manu Gilnobli, and then to Chicago Bulls without Derrick Rose. But just when it looked like all hope was lost, the Suns came back to life with two promising, consecutive road wins against the New York Knicks and the Boston Celtics, and now sit at 2-2 over the last four games. The Suns have now turned what looked like a very treacherous five game road series into what could end up as a winning trip, depending on how they finish tonight against the Dallas Mavericks.

Also, in what should be great news, Dirk Nowitzki will not play in tonight's game as he continues to sit out for what will be a four game hiatus to work on conditioning and rehabbing a sore knee. However, the last two teams the Suns played minus one of their star players they lost (see above), so the Suns cannot rely on this alone to help them.

Instead, if the Suns hope to finish off their road trip with a win against Dallas before returning back home to play the Toronto Raptors tomorrow, the Suns will need to keep their energy and intensity high and continue to play great defense like they did over their last two games. The Mavericks are still a dangerous team even when Dirk-less, so the Suns need to come out strong and keep the pressure on throughout the game.

Read on for more analysis after the jump...

Here's a look at the Mavericks:


FG 3PT FT Rebounds Misc
G M M A Pct M A Pct M A Pct Off Def Tot Ast TO Stl Blk PF PPG
Dirk Nowitzki 16 30.9 6.4 14.1 45.6 0.5 2.1 23.5 4.1 4.6 90.4 0.6 4.8 5.4 2.3 1.7 0.8 0.6 2.1 17.5
Jason Terry 17 29.2 5.1 12.4 40.8 2.2 5.7 38.1 1.5 1.8 86.7 0.1 1.5 1.6 3.6 1.9 1.4 0.2 0.8 13.8
Shawn Marion 17 28.5 4.6 9.9 46.2 0.3 0.9 33.3 1.4 1.7 79.3 2.2 4.1 6.2 1.8 1.2 1.1 0.6 1.1 10.8
Vince Carter 14 21.4 3.2 7.7 41.7 1.1 2.6 44.4 1.9 2.6 75.0 0.4 2.3 2.7 2.1 1.6 0.8 0.4 2.4 9.5
Delonte West 17 22.6 3.2 7.2 44.3 0.4 1.5 28.0 1.8 2.0 88.2 0.2 1.8 2.0 3.4 1.5 1.4 0.1 1.5 8.5
Ian Mahinmi 17 19.9 2.9 4.5 64.9 0.0 0.1 0.0 2.0 3.2 63.0 1.8 3.2 4.9 0.2 0.9 0.6 0.6 3.2 7.9
Lamar Odom 17 20.8 2.6 7.5 34.4 0.6 2.8 22.9 1.8 2.9 63.3 0.7 4.1 4.8 1.4 1.3 0.4 0.4 2.5 7.6
Rodrigue Beaubois 15 13.6 2.3 5.7 40.7 0.7 1.9 34.5 0.7 0.9 76.9 0.5 2.0 2.5 1.4 0.9 1.1 0.5 1.4 6.0
Brandan Wright 7 8.4 2.0 3.0 66.7 0.0 0.0 0.0 1.3 2.0 64.3 0.9 1.4 2.3 0.1 0.4 0.3 0.7 0.7 5.3
Brendan Haywood 17 21.3 1.9 3.8 51.6 0.0 0.0 0.0 1.1 2.3 46.2 2.2 4.2 6.4 0.3 0.9 0.5 0.9 2.3 4.9
Sean Williams 3 5.7 1.7 2.3 71.4 0.0 0.0 0.0 1.3 1.3 100.0 1.0 1.0 2.0 0.0 1.0 0.3 0.3 2.7 4.7
Jason Kidd 13 30.0 1.4 5.1 27.3 1.1 4.2 25.5 0.3 0.4 80.0 0.3 4.1 4.4 5.4 2.4 1.8 0.2 1.6 4.2
Yi Jianlian 4 7.3 0.5 1.8 28.6 0.0 0.0 0.0 1.0 1.5 66.7 0.5 1.5 2.0 0.0 1.0 0.3 0.3 1.5 2.0
Dominique Jones 9 3.9 0.7 1.7 40.0 0.0 0.3 0.0 0.4 0.4 100.0 0.3 0.6 0.9 0.2 0.4 0.0 0.0 0.7 1.8
Brian Cardinal 15 8.5 0.3 1.8 18.5 0.2 1.6 12.5 0.3 0.4 83.3 0.1 1.1 1.1 0.7 0.3 0.5 0.1 1.3 1.2


The Dallas Mavericks will be looking for their seventh straight home win and their ninth consecutive victory against the Phoenix Suns tonight. Without Nowitzki, the Mavericks will instead start Lamar Odom in his place at the Power Forward position. Dirk was held out against the New Orleans Hornets on Saturday and Lamar Odom played very well in his absence, scoring 16pts to help the Mavericks win 83-81. Oh, and Vince Carter will also be sitting out tonight's game as well with a sprained foot...In case you wanted to know.

Key Match-ups:

  • Steve Nash vs. Jason Kidd (Advantage Suns)
  • Ronnie Price vs. Jason Terry (Advantage Mavs)
  • Grant Hill vs. Shawn Marion (Push)
  • Markieff Morris vs. Lamar Odom (Advantage Mavs)
  • Marcin Gortat vs. Brendan Haywood (Strong Advantage Suns)
  • Suns Bench vs. Mavs Bench (Advantage Suns)

Keys to a Suns' win:

  • Feed the Beast! - Marcin Gortat has been averaging 17.6 points over his last seven games, and the Suns will need to use his match-up advantage over Brendan Haywood early and often to help get their team going on offense.
  • Defense! - The Suns have held their last two opponents to 81 and 77 respectively, and they will need to continue this trend again tonight if they hope to get a win in Dallas.
  • No Fly Zone - In the Mavericks' last win against Phoenix, Jason Terry got loose for 18 points, including 5 of 8 from beyond the arc. Without Dirk, the JET could very well be the most dangerous player on the court tonight. The Suns will need to do a better job of keeping track of Terry; both closing out on him and chasing him off the line to prevent him from becoming a factor.
  • Supporting Cast - Finally, the Suns will need to get help from their second unit tonight to help the Suns pull off a victory. While Steve Nash has been fantastic, the Suns can't overuse him before coming back home and playing again tomorrow. Ronnie Price and Sebastian Telfair will both need to do their part, along with the help of Jared Dudley and Channing Frye who have joined the second unit to help give it a boost.

This is a winnable game for the Suns who can finish off this very tough road trip with a record of 3-2, if they can defeat the Mavericks tonight! How bad do they want it? Time will tell.

More Game Links Here:

Suns vs Mavericks coverage

Mavs Moneyball

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Gortat's the man! (AP Photo/Michael Dwyer)

A week ago at this time, the Suns were slipping into darkness. They had completely fallen apart to the tune of a 4-game losing streak as of Ray's writing of last week's 'Week in Review' post. A respectable start had degenerated into embarrassing losses to Cleveland and New Jersey on consecutive nights and a 5-game east coast trip on the horizon.

After an embarrassing loss to Chicago (without Derrick Rose, even) that stretched the losing streak to 5 games, 2-time MVP Steve Nash finally found his handy dandy headlamp and carried the team through the darkness. Coach Alvin Gentry switched up the starting lineup, by moving Channing Frye and Jared Dudley back to the bench where they previously shined, and the team rebounded with gritty wins on the road against New York and Boston. The wins were by no means pretty, but wins are wins. All wins count the same.

Did I use the word 'wins' enough in that last paragraph? It's a nice word. Can't possibly be overused.

As the Suns enter a new week, let's take a deeper look into the week that was.

Record for the week (January 16-22): 2-1

Overall record for the season: 6-9

Western Conference Position: 12th

Even going 2-1 this past week, the Suns lost ground in the conference (they were 11th a week ago). It's going to be an uphill battle all season folks, so strap yourselves in for a bumpy and expectedly unpleasant ride. There are a lot of teams in the same talent range as the Suns, and too many with more talent. Read this article by Paul Coro - beat writer for the Suns - for a great breakdown of the west.

Offensive Rating: 101.8 (17th of 30); Points per game: 92.9 (18th of 30)

As you can see, the Suns are no longer an offensive juggernaut. They began to fade last season too, but not nearly to these levels. Grant Hill is slowly regaining his legs, which are key to his offensive arsenal of jump shots and breakaways. Jared Dudley and Channing Frye have been completely healthy, but haven't shot nearly as well this season as last season. And remember, this is the same top-5 as the second half of last year.

Over time, the offensive rating should improve, but the days of leading the league in scoring are gone. The Suns simply don't play fast enough anymore.

Defensive Rating: 103.8 (20th of 30); Points allowed per page: 94.7 (17th of 30)

The Suns' defense improved again this week, against New York (88 points allowed) and Boston (71 points allowed). Only the Chicago game was a real stinker (whopping 118 points allowed). If the Suns are going to win half their games this year, they need a defense in the top half of the league. A healthy Grant Hill will go a long way toward that end. He really put the screws to Carmelo Anthony and Paul Pierce last week. Plus, Ronnie Price hounded Ray Allen into a poor night as well.

As you can tell from the offensive and defensive ratings, the Suns are a bit below average. Their 6-9 record is no aberration.

Game of the week: Suns 79, Celtics 71

The Suns played really good defense in this game, as Ray told us after the win.

The Celtics "Big Three" tallied only 36 points combined as the Suns played a stifling, ball-hawking defense that is foreign to most Suns fans. Sure, the Celtics are aging and their offense was discombobulated with Rondo out, but the Suns played defense with a ton of energy.

The game was so recent, let's just hit the link to the game recap and bask in the glory.

Stud of the Week: Steve Nash

While Marcin Gortat has been stellar all week, it's the magical return of Steve Nash to his MVP form that has made the Suns a winner these past two games. Nash is hitting that on-the-run-3 from the right elbow again and driving to the basket for twisting behind-the-head layups for the first time since... well, he hasn't hit those shots with ease and regularity in a long, long time. Makes me smile all big and goofy.

Nash's week produced averages of 20 points, 10 assists and 4 rebounds. Very nice.

Honorable mention to the inimitable Marcin Gortat, with averages of 16 pts, 13 rebounds and almost 2 blocks this past week.

Dud of the Week:

Channing lost his starting job, and no one was surprised. He's been so maddeningly inconsistent. Even when we thought he was breaking out of his shooting slump in time to go on a hot streak, he didn't. And he's not producing much of anything else, either.

Channing's week: averages of 5 points, 4 rebounds and 2 blocks, along with 3 fouls in 20 minutes per game.

Not many other duds, really. Unless you count Michael Redd, who sat the last 2 games. The team had a pretty good week, overall.

Outlook

The team finally comes back home, and at worst it will be a 2-3 trip. if they can slip past Dirk-less Dallas tomorrow, I will rejoice. After that, the Suns host Toronto, hit the road to Portland and then host Memphis. Not a good sked overall. Better hope for wins against Dallas on 2 rare days rest, then lowly Toronto at home.

Think positive!


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