But don't count your chickens before they are hatched, Suns fans.
After an 0-8 start, the Pistons have won four of their last seven including their last two home games. Greg Monroe is having a great season with 17 points and almost 10 rebounds a game with a 20.3 Player Efficiency Rating (PER), but no other Piston getting more than 20 minutes per game has a PER at league average (15.0).
Rodney Stuckey, once considered the future at point guard for the Pistons, has been really bad this year but he has been playing better than the Stuckey who went 0-7 against the Suns in game two. Marcin Gortat contributed 16 and 16 with 3 blocks in that game while Goran Dragic has 15 and 10 assists.
Despite Stuckey's troubles, the Pistons had the early 11-point lead and kept the game close against the Suns by hitting timely shots like a three-pointer by rookie Kyle Singler with seconds left. But the Suns got the win, and should be able to do so again tonight.
Luis Scola was very prophetic post-game:
"There's only one way to win games and that's playing focused for forty-eight minutes and play hard and hustle and do all the little things," [Scola] said after [the November 2 game] in which he led a second quarter effort that turned an 11-point deficit into an 8-point halftime lead.
Scola was reacting to the Suns second consecutive game allowing the opponent a double-digit lead before coming back to tie or take the lead. Unfortunately his starting teammates never got the message and, after allowing double-digit leads in all but one of the first 11 games, Gentry shook up the lineup.
The Suns have won three of their last four games with the new starting lineup; their only loss being on a missed layup with seconds left against Philadelphia. In last night's game, Goran Dragic and Luis Scola helped the Suns go on a 34-12 run from late in the third to late in the fourth to put down Cleveland for good.
The third quarter was the Suns' undoing in those games, but it appears that things have changed in some ways. From the inimitable Vince Kozar in the Suns Communications Dept after last night's win:
After allowing double-digit deficits in 9 of the first 11 games, the Suns new starting lineup has gotten down by 10+ points only twice in four games. Hey, it's a start right?
Suns with the ball: PHX O-rating 105.7 (12th of 30), DET D-rating 107.6 (27th of 30)
Pistons with the ball: DET O-rating 102.0 (21st of 30), PHX D-Rating 107.5 (25th of 30)
Detroit is bad at pretty much everything except that they can hit threes better than most (36.3%) while the Suns give up a league high percentage shooting. If Detroit goes off from distance, they can stay in the game.
The only other real threat on the court is C Greg Monroe, who plays below the rim much like Marcin Gortat. The Polish Hammer outplayed Monroe in the first game, putting up 16/16/3 vs. Monroe's 10/6/0. Let's see how that plays out on Wednesday night, but it could bode well for Gortat's potential resurgence.
"We'll take it," Gentry said about the win over Detroit on November 2. He would love to say that again on Wednesday night.
The Suns really should win this game. No one is tired after the Cavalier beatdown - the starters played enough to rest the bench, at least. And Micheal Beasley has come to life as well.
After seeing how they took care of business in Cleveland, look for the Suns to do the same against Detroit. Even if the Suns' starters fail, the Suns' bench is light years better than the Pistons bench.
But still, the Pistons are playing at home so the game should stay close.
Suns by 10.
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I know, the Suns are set at point guard for now. Goran Dragic has been impressive in his return to the Suns and Phoenix just drafted Kendall Marshall. Sebastian Telfair has also been a serviceable point guard off the bench, making point guard one of the areas on the court that the Suns aren't actually lacking in.
Enter: Jahii Carson, a talent that could possibly exceed the guard depth that the Suns currently have.
It's still early in the 2012-13 NCAA basketball season, but it has become clear the Carson has potential that made him one of the top guard recruits in the nation in the class of 2011.
We're not the only people who have noticed the potential either. Jeff Borzello of CBS Sports ranked him fifth in his Freshman of the Year rankings after Carson's impressive showing at last weekend's Las Vegas Invitational (most notably the 30 points and seven assists he dropped against No. 11 Creighton).
Ryan Bafaloukos from House of Sparky has also noticed Carson's talents in his piece about the Las Vegas Invitational:
Through five games Carson is averaging 21 points and five assists per game. Former Sun Devil star James Harden averaged 17.6 points and two assists per game in his first five games in Tempe. Carson has shown the ability to score in different ways and he is able to set up his teammates with easy shots.
Worried about his size? Why shouldn't you be, it is a valid concern since Carson only measures in at 5-foot-10. It is not impossible, however, for small guards to succeed in the NBA. Nate Robinson, Spud Webb, Muggsy Bogues, Earl Boykins and others have proved doubters wrong in the league before. It also doesn't hurt that Jahii can jump out of the gym and has explosive athleticism. Take a look for yourself:
Now I am not advocating for the Suns to start making room for him right away and have him on top of their draft boards come next summer. I am simply saying Phoenix should keep track of him. Having a player like Jahii, a hometown product out of Mesa High School who could captivate the local market, would have the potential to be something special.
Here's the scene. The game was tied 59-59 with 2:55 to go in the third quarter. The Suns then went on a 12-0 run to end the period and never looked back. I went back and watched the stretch of play a few times and is often the case, some things that weren't apparent while watching live stood out.
Suns lineup: Dragic, Dudley, Beasley, Scola, O'Neal
Cavs lineup: Pargo, Miles, Gee, Zeller, Varejao
It's worth noting that Waiters was on the bench. While he didn't shoot the ball very well (7-20) he did have seven assists on the game and ALL of them came during the 9:52 he played during the third quarter. Five of those seven assists were to Varejao on pick and pops.
When Waiters left the game, the Cavs offense fell apart completely. Pargo was ineffective in all aspects of play. He went 0-2 and had a horrible pass. The missed shots and turnover allowed the Suns to score half of those 12 points in transition. C.J. Miles contributed his own three bricks to the cause. And while the Suns (Scola) did a better job staying with Varejao, the Cavs had no one on the floor who could break down his man and draw help. In other words, with Kyrie Irving and Dion Waiters on the bench, Cleveland was hopeless on offense and the Suns pounced.
You can read the play-by-play of how the Suns scored during that stretch here.
As stated, six of the 12 points came in transition. The other six were as follows:
- Side pick and pop with Dragic and Scola. The Suns ran the same play in their previous half court set and Scola missed. This time, he was money from his money spot.
- High pick and roll with Dragic and O'Neal. The Cavs rotated to cover J.O. which left Dudley open at the high arc. The defender closed hard and Jared did his little escape dribble thing and penetrated into the lane which drew another defender. Dudley dished off to O'Neal for an open shot. This was classic read and react, pick and roll basketball. Beautiful.
- High pick and roll with Dragic and O'Neal. Goran reads the defender cheating over to hedge the screen so he craftily "denies" the screen and drives the lane. Scola's man has to help to stop the ball and Dragic delivers a sweet little pass in traffic to Luis who catches and finishes at the front of the rim. Another very nicely executed play that's mostly just letting your best player do smart things with the ball.
As you might imagine with a 12-0 run it was a combination of factors that led to the stops and makes. Most impressive to me where the three buckets in the half court although all three transition finishes were nice as well.
The Suns also went on a big fourth quarter run to put the game to bed and they did that with an entirely different style of play -- a low post, inside/out game. This kind of offensive versatility is very encouraging.