Well now, guess who has a four point lead over the Miami Heat on the road at the half. The same team that got down nine in a blink of an eye and then rallied back with a combination of strong defense, solid shooting and great bench play. The Phoenix Suns are balling.

Looking at the box score, the Suns are -10 on points in the paint (30-20), giving up 58% shooting, and have turned the ball over ten times leading to 16 Miami points. But where they are dominating is on the offensive glass with an 11-2 advantage in second chance points.

Who is this team?

18 points off the bench for the Suns with five from Michael Redd and four each for Robin Lopez and Shannon Brown and then balanced scoring from the starters (except for Channing Frye, 2 points).

Can they hold on to steal the win? Yes.

Will they? I have no idea.

Game on, folks. The game is now on.

That's exactly how I feel about this game.

The goal for the Phoenix Suns when they face the Miami Heat for the first and only time this season should be to keep the game close and wait for LeBron James to choke in the fourth quarter. Everyone knows that LeBron, who is having one of the best statistical seasons in the history of the NBA, is "unclutch" which is why his Miami team has "only" won 33 games while losing a massive 11.

James is averaging a ridiculous 27.4 points per game, along with 8.5 rebounds and 6.6 assists. He's shooting 54.3% from the field and 40% from three. He's a beast on defense and a terror in the open court.


As for the clutchiness of King James, he does seem to take a slight knee. With five minutes or less in games within five points, he's 16-41 from the field (39%) this season. So keep the game close and you might have a chance (as long as Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh have fouled out of the game).

The Heat are 3-2 over their last five games with losses coming on the road to the Bulls and Magic. They are 19-2 at home this season. They are second in the league in offensive efficiency (109 pts/100 poss) and sixth in defensive efficiency (100 pts/100 poss).

The Suns are ranked...well, let's not go there since those numbers include the first half of the season which we are all better off pretending everything before the All-Star break never happened. In March, the Suns are scoring 108 points per 100 possessions and giving up 102.7 and that's FIFTH and TENTH respectively.

That's right, the Suns have had the 5th best offense and 10th best defense in the league in the month of March. Now that's how you build a 9-2 record.

The defensive rebounding has even improved from 26th to 20th while the offensive rebounding has gone from 25th in January to seventh best in March.

WHOA!!! I had no idea!!

Ed note: At this point I broke off the preview and did a separate story on rebounding and turnovers. Read it here.

So yeah, the Suns are playing well. They are as hot as any team in the league and now they get a real test against the best. Are they up to the challenge? We'll see, but don't give up hope if they can't beat the team many expect to be this year's NBA champs. As the wise man said, be patient like old bull.

Game time is 4:30 p.m. Arizona Time (the only time that matters other than Beer Time). The game is on Fox Sports Arizona.

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Miami Heat 99, Phoenix Suns 95 PHOENIX — Only 15 minutes had passed since the final buzzer sounded and the Phoenix Suns capped off a 48-minute slaughtering of the Houston Rockets. Five minutes...

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Rebounds abound!

The Phoenix Suns are playing better. They are 9-2 in the month of March and the offense has been given a lot of the credit. But in doing some research for Tuesday's game against the Miami Heat, I came across two very telling statistics: In March the Suns were the 7th best offensive rebounding team in the NBA and had the 8th best turnover ratio according to NBA.com stats.

Rebounding and turnovers...that sounds familiar. Let's go back to February 29th and watch what Alvin Gentry had to say:

"The two things that I think have hurt us the most this year has been the offensive rebounding and obviously our turnovers."

Honestly, I could find at least 10 different times when Gentry talked about not turning the ball over and rebounding better as keys to the Suns season.

Well, turns out he's right even if he's not talked about it much during this winning stretch.

The Suns turnover ratio was 12.55 in January and fell to 9.91 in March whle the offensive rebounding rate improved from 23.4% to 28.6%. In real numbers that's a drop from 15.7 to 12.9 turnovers per game and an increase of 9.9 to 11.5 offensive rebounds per game.

As a result, second chance points up from 9.1 per game to 14.1 in March. That focus on offensive rebounding does come with a price as the Suns have also allowed an additional 2.8 fast break points per game but as you can see, that's obviously still a net win when you combine the additional put-backs with fewer turnovers.

Where are those extra offensive rebounds coming from?

An extra 1.6 OReb per game which doesn't sound like much, but offensive rebounds often lead to high percentage shots and have the added effect of taking a possession away from the opponent. And there's no denying five extra second-chance points per game. That's huge.

Here's who's stepped up:

  • Channing Frye accounts for .7 more ORebs per game in March (.9) vs. January (1.6).
  • Marcin Gortat added an additional .2 per game (2.3 in Jan vs. 2.5 in Mar).
  • Robin Lopez (who's playing an extra 3.4 minutes per game) is also up from .9 OReb in Jan to 1.7 in March.
  • Jared Dudley has added an additional .7 ORebs per game as well, up to 2.1 per game from 1.4.

Those four "bigs" have combined for an additional 2.4 of the Suns 1.6 additional offensive rebounds!

Consider also that the Suns shooting percentage increased from 44.7% to 47.4% which means on average .9 fewer missed shots per game.

That's how you go from the 26th best (total) rebounding team to the 8th best. Impressive.

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