Going behind enemy lines for some insight on the game tonight...
With the help of Liberty Ballers Michael Levin we preview tonight's match-up between the Phoenix Suns (17-11) and the Philadelphia 76ers (8-20).
PG -- Eric Bledsoe v. Michael Carter-Williams
PF --Channing Frye v. Thaddeus Young
C --Miles Plumlee v. Spencer Hawes
Suns Injuries: OUT Emeka Okafor (Neck)
When we talked at the beginning of the season we were both sold on the concept of Philly and Phoenix being very bad. Instead they each started 5-5 with quality play from new point guards in town. Since then the 76ers have taken a dip, but a lot of that has to do with Michael Carter-Williams. With, they are 7-10 and look like a competitive team. Without they look like a team that relies on Thaddeus Young and Spencer Hawes for wins. Which is the Dr. Jekyll and which is the Mr. Hyde?
They are a very fun team to watch with MCW might even be in the playoff picture if he didn't get hurt. Not a common sentiment in the pre-season... --Kris Habbas
That's more of a reflection on how bad the East is than the Sixers having any talent. MCW is great, sure, but he's also got lots and lots of areas to improve upon -- notably his shooting efficiency. There's no question that they held him out as a precaution (again, why rush?), but even mostly with him, they haven't won a regulation game in almost two months. Their last four wins have been in overtime. So not only are they bad, but they've gotten lucky. That's going to normalize.
Things are going great on our end. Trades are coming, they're 8-20, and the two teams ahead of them (Utah and Milwaukee) are getting better and healthier. Hopefully a few teams in the East will turn into buyers and the Sixers can separate themselves a bit.
Think the Suns' success is gonna maintain? -- Michael Levin
The interesting thing about the Suns success, and I have talked about this before, is that it is being done with no experience. None of these players or coaches are used to playing at this level for 82 games. Channing Frye is, but that is about it. They have a good chance of maintaining their success if they keep doing what they are doing. Attacking, shooting well, and playing with great energy every night. They proved that is not a given with losses to Utah and Sacramento earlier this season before the winning streak.
What can we expect to see from the 76ers tonight? Personally I am excited to see MCW live, but what else should the Suns be worried about? -- KH
MCW on Bledsoe/Dragic should be fun. Expect the Suns to hit 45 threes. Sixers just cannot guard the perimeter. It's hysterical.
In terms of experience, the Sixers have yet to play anyone over the age of 25 for even a single minute this season. It's wildly impressive commitment. -- ML
That is an under-emphasized point of the NBA right now. Every given night there is another very good to great point guard coming to town. The Suns are going from Stephen Curry doing a little bit of everything with a triple-double to Michael Carter-Williams on back-to-back nights which posses a huge challenge.
The 76ers should at least be well rested, right? -- KH
While the 29 point loss to Golden State on Friday night is a major blight on an otherwise surprisingly good season by the Phoenix Suns, every other Western Conference playoff contender has at least one stinker this season too.
The Phoenix Suns lost in big fashion on Friday night, by 29 points to the Golden State Warriors. After entering the season with what was widely regarding as some of the worst talent in the NBA only to surprise the league with a 17-10 record through Christmas, some might think the 29-point loss is a harbinger of bad things to come.
But if you look at the schedule across the league, most importantly in the West, you'll see a lot of blowouts up and down the line. Dallas Mavericks coach Rick Carlisle said last week in Phoenix that, since the new CBA, there's a lot more turnover, less depth and, as a result, occasional lopsided wins and losses by every team in the league.
Let's look at the worst losses so far by the other Western Conference playoff contenders, in order of their current conference seeding:
While the Suns have the second worst loss now among Western playoff contenders, only the LA Clippers have not lost by at least 15 points so far this season.
The Phoenix Suns have already beaten four of the other top seeds in the West, going 5-5 overall even including last night's stinker.
Over the first 28 games, the Suns have played the league's 6th toughest schedule to date. Only five teams have played a harder schedule, based on their opponents current collective records.
And, even after that 29 point loss to Golden State, the Suns are still 10th in ESPN's (Hollinger's) automated daily Power Rankings based on statistical analysis focusing strength of schedule, performance in last 10 games and overall offensive and defensive efficiency.
Sure, last night's loss might be a harbinger of bad things to come. But the odds are in favor of last night being an aberration. Golden State is a good team, was shooting very well, and playing in front of their home crowd.
The Suns came out flat from the opening tip, struggling to hit shots from everywhere on the court and not putting up much of a fight defensively. The Splash Brothers definitely won the battle of the backcourts as Stephen Curry starred with a triple double, while the Suns only had one player in double figures in scoring. The Warriors shot 52.9 percent from the field and hit eight 3-pointers, while the Suns shot 36 percent with four 3-pointers. That right there pretty much tells you everything you need to know.
The two teams went back and forth early on. The Suns were scoring points, but the defense continued to be a problem as Golden State got far too many easy looks. Two of the best 3-point shooting teams in the NBA combined to go 1-11 from deep in the quarter, but the Warriors scored 18 points in the paint and jumped ahead 28-22 by the end of the first period.
Eric Bledsoe, who scored five points in the first but struggled both defensively and offensively in the first quarter, picked up his third foul early in the second and had to take a seat with zero assists and three turnovers.
The second quarter was nearly identical to the second, with the Warriors getting every shot they wanted and the Suns struggling to convert anything. Steph Curry was doing some of everything for the Warriors, finishing the half with a near triple-double with 14 points, nine assists and nine rebounds.
P.J. Tucker played hard and pulled down six boards in the first quarter, while Miles Plumlee snagged five himself in the second. The two combined for 12 points and 14 rebounds as one of the few bright spots for the Suns.
Splash Brothers Curry and Klay Thompson combined for 25, 11 assists and 10 rebounds, while the Suns' Slash Borthers of Goran Dragic and Bledsoe had 13, one and one. The match-up, which was so competitive and so thrilling in the previous meeting, was dominated from the start by the Golden State backcourt and was over by halftime.
Little changed after halftime, as the Warriors continued to roll and the Suns continued to sputter. Curry completed his triple-double two minutes into the quarter and continued to rack up numbers. The 3-ball began to fall for the Warriors (6-9 in the second half) but not for the Suns, and the Suns' offense completely devolved into isolation play. The lead swelled to 29 at one point, and Jeff Hornacek waived the white flag a couple minutes into the fourth by sending out an Ish Smith, Dionte Christmas, Archie Goodwin, Gerald Green and Slava Kravtsov line-up.
Smith gave the team a bit of a spark by getting to the basket and scoring, finishing with eight points, three rebounds and two assists, but even the Warriors bench group outplayed the Suns and the final margin was 29.
FINAL: Ws 115, #Suns 86. Most points surrendered, least points scored, worst deficit (29), worst loss (29), worst shooting (36%) this season— Paul Coro (@paulcoro) December 28, 2013
That's all I've got Suns fans. Let's wipe this game from our memories and move on to the 76ers. These are the times when a back-to-back is a good thing. I'm sure the Suns are happy to get right back out there as soon as possible to make up for this mess of a performance.