We need some of this Goran!  (AP Photo/Rick Scuteri)

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Derrick Rose might get 40 points. Joakim Noah might pull down 25 rebounds.

But as long as the Phoenix Suns don't allow anyone else on the Bulls roster to have a career night, the Thibodeaus can be beat. They just lost a late, hard-fought game to the Lakers less than 24 hours ago with their stars having played 40 minutes apiece. There should be a measure of letdown against a lesser team on the back end of a roadie back-to-back that the rested Suns have the opportunity to exploit.

Yes, it's come to this. Gone are the days where the Suns' fate is entirely in their own hands - that visiting teams not named Spurs were pretty certain to leave empty-handed regardless of how hard or well they played... at least in the pre-game blogosphere.

The Suns are no longer the most talented team on the court each night. They are no longer on the verge of a 10-game winning streak at the drop of a hat. They can no longer lament 'boredom' as the reason for an unexpected loss.

Now, the Phoenix Suns need to scrap, claw and shoot their way to a win. They need to fight harder than the other team, and when the game goes down to the wire they need to hope for that occassional defensive stand to seal the deal.

"We've just got to keep fighting and at least come up with the real important ones," Gentry says. "Which we did (Monday) and a couple of important stops."

That's what we've come to. The Suns are last or next-to-last in every measured defensive category. That is collective fail on a level we've never seen in Phoenix, making the past teams seem stingy by comparison.

But how? How has it gotten this bad, with a handful of defenders on the team willing to work hard on that end?

It has to be the scheme, or it's in the players' heads. When you play an overabundance of small forwards at the same time, you have the ability to switch on picks and screens which can give you an advantage.

Instead, this has bred confusion. Instinctually, these guys have all defended the same general area for their entire careers. That's okay if you're playing two small forwards at once, or one guy out of his natural position, because that player can see quickly where to go if the other four are in the right place and rotating as expected.

But if you've got three guys out of place in the same lineup, confusion runs amok. And that's what we've seen.

Guard Goran Dragic, after the Charlotte loss: "Sometimes it seems we don’t listen to him (Gentry) and do the opposite things."

Despite Goran's comment, I do lay some of this blame on Gentry. A team with this much skill should never be the worst in the league at defense. Sure, rebounding is a problem but it's ALWAYS been a problem. Gentry has to get his guys to pick their poison. You can't repeatedly call double-teams in the post or on the other team's best offensive player if (a) you know it's not effective and (b) that leaves someone else open by 15 feet.

Let's see if the Suns can right the ship.

"There's a mental lapse," said Suns forward Grant Hill, noting the straight drives they yield with no help in sight. "If you do what you're supposed to do and they score, you can live with that. But when we have those mental lapses, that's unacceptable and disappointing. You're going to have a couple of those a game but we're having too many. So we can get better."

 

Tonight's Opponent: Chicago Bulls


FG3PTFTReboundsMisc
GMMAPctMAPctMAPctOffDefTotAstTOStlBlkPFPPG
Derrick Rose 12 37.9 10.0 21.0 47.6 1.3 3.8 34.8 4.3 5.8 72.9 0.8 2.9 3.8 8.4 3.9 1.1 0.6 1.9 25.6
Luol Deng 12 38.2 6.3 15.5 40.9 1.5 4.2 36.0 3.9 5.7 69.1 1.8 4.3 6.1 2.6 2.3 0.8 0.8 2.8 18.1
Joakim Noah 12 38.1 5.6 10.5 53.2 0.0 0.1 0.0 4.1 5.7 72.1 4.3 8.9 13.3 2.3 2.3 1.3 1.7 2.8 15.3
Taj Gibson 12 28.8 5.4 10.3 52.8 0.1 0.2 50.0 1.5 2.3 64.3 2.7 5.0 7.7 1.4 1.6 0.9 1.7 3.4 12.4
Kyle Korver 12 21.4 3.0 6.3 47.4 1.5 3.0 50.0 0.9 1.1 84.6 0.3 2.1 2.3 1.5 1.0 0.8 0.3 2.2 8.4
Ronnie Brewer 12 18.1 2.3 4.3 51.9 0.0 0.1 0.0 1.1 1.8 59.1 0.3 2.3 2.6 0.9 0.8 1.1 0.1 0.9 5.6
Keith Bogans 12 23.6 1.8 4.8 38.6 1.0 3.4 29.3 0.3 0.5 66.7 0.6 2.3 2.9 1.7 0.8 1.1 0.3 1.9 5.0
C.J. Watson 12 13.2 1.9 5.1 37.7 0.3 1.2 21.4 0.9 1.0 91.7 0.3 1.0 1.3 1.9 0.8 0.8 0.0 0.7 5.0
Omer Asik 12 13.0 1.3 2.3 55.6 0.0 0.0 0.0 0.8 1.5 55.6 0.8 2.8 3.6 0.5 1.1 0.1 0.6 2.4 3.3
James Johnson 5 9.4 0.8 3.6 22.2 0.2 1.0 20.0 0.6 1.2 50.0 0.6 2.4 3.0 1.0 0.8 0.4 0.6 2.6 2.4
Brian Scalabrine 7 8.4 0.9 1.1 75.0 0.0 0.1 0.0 0.0 0.0 0.0 0.1 0.7 0.9 0.4 0.6 0.4 0.3 1.6 1.7
Kurt Thomas 3 2.3 0.0 0.0 0.0 0.0 0.0 0.0 0.0 0.0 0.0 0.3 0.0 0.3 0.0 0.0 0.0 0.0 0.7 0.0


 

Luol Deng is having a consistent season. 18 points, 6 rebounds and 2.6 assists. He's not shooting all that well, but when he's on he can be a mid-range shooting fool. And guess what? The Suns LOVE to give up the midrange shot (or the dribble-drive to the basket if the player so prefers).

In fact, the Suns are like a fast-food restaurant - they love giving up anything the other team wants. Maybe we should call them the McSuns.

But I digress. Back to the Bulls.

Taj Gibson remains a surprisely good power forward given his true skillset. Gibson, you might recall, was taken later in the Earl Clark draft. Clark has a LOT more talent, but Gibson had the combination of "ready now" skills/mentality and opportunity. The Bulls had an opening at PF last year and filled it with a PF. Sure, he doesn't win you games, but at least he represents.

Summary 

As I wrote above, Noah will probably get 20+ rebounds with the Bulls winning the overall rebounding battle by at least 10. Rose will lead the team in scoring, likely getting 40 or more (I can only hope that Goran dunks on Rose in transition).

Still, despite the talent on the Bulls, the Suns are talented too. And rested. And playing at home after a tough road trip.

Don't discount the value of embarassment, not only from the roadie results but from the derisive columns written about their record-settingly porous defense. The Suns should be tired of answering questions about 50% shooting percentages and 60+ points-in-the-paint after every game.

As long as Keith Bogans and Ronnie Brewer don't score 20 between them - which would double their collective season average - the Suns will win this game.

**Afterthought: By the way, has anyone else noticed that Hedo has hit the game-clinching 3-pointer in each of the Suns' last 3 wins, each time putting the Suns up by more than 1 possession in the final minute(s)? We're gonna love and hate that guy all season, but at least he can hit clutch shots.

 

Links

Rebounding and Defense Once Again Hurting the Suns - azcentral.com/Coro

The Suns had to stop the bleeding and Monday's victory at Houston put a bandage on the wound.

But the way they won was no cure-all for what ails the Suns. They won with better offense but still have a diseased defense and rotten rebounding.

Bulls vs Suns coverage

Blog a Bull

[Note by Seth Pollack, 11/24/10 12:31 PM MST ]

Adding to Alex's great preview with some info from today's shootaround:

One thing I love about this Suns team is they don't run away from their problems. Unlike say, the Arizona Cardinals who keep insisting they are very close to playing well and nothing's really wrong.

There was a lot of good and specific quotes from today's shootaround about the need to improve rebounding and defense, what might have caused the lack of effort in Charlotte, and an update on Nash's groin.

Phoenix Suns Schedule Eases Up (A Tad) With Chicago Bulls In Town - SB Nation Arizona
"We're going to try and grow. The more you sleep, the more you grow," Nash said before talking about how the Suns need to make up for their lack of size and rebounding ability with desire.

Here's a few more quotes that didn't make it into that story:

"No excuse for it. We've got to continue to be a good defensive team even if we haven't been a good rebounding team and hopefully improve the rebounding and get ourselves to a good place rather than not be a good rebounding team and let the defense slip." - Steve Nash.

"A big component of rebounding is just desire. Especially when we're a team that doesn't rebound the ball really well, we've got to have a lot of desire. We've got to rebound together with all the guys doing their part and just try and make up for that discrepancy in size or our rebounding ability with desire." - Steve Nash.

"It's something that we're going to have to work on every day and continue to grow at it and we're going to have to keep pointing that out because it's hurt us in a lot of games." - Alvin Gentry.

Also, you will be happy to hear that Jared Dudley stayed late working on he's threes. I didn't get a chance to talk to him but he obviously knows there's a problem and is at least working to correct it.

I got my first up-close look at Earl Barron as well. The one thing that stood out was his skinny legs. He's a lanky fellow as my pappy would say.

Actually, my grandfather was from Queens, NY would wouldn't have said anything like that but, you know, poetic license. 

Warrick and Dragic continue their reputation as gym rats, staying late once again. By the way, just because certain guys don't stay late doesn't mean they don't care or aren't trying. Guys know their bodies and what not and sometimes too much practice isn't a good thing either. 


Some quick links, stats and fun in advance of Wednesday’s rematch of the ’93 Finals…. Ian Levy over at Hickory-High conducted an in-depth analysis of how Amare and Nash have fared...

[[ This is a content summary only. Visit my website for full links, other content, and more! ]]

Gani Lawal D-league Update After 3 Games


When I say Apologetics, I don't mean to say I can apologize for how crappy the Suns have looked as of late, because we all can admit it without feeling a dip in our Phoenix fan-hood... this last week especially they have been on that absolute-garbage-hard-to-watch train. 

So if you're looking for some kind of team apology, Jared Dudley (who bless his soul is suffering from phat-contract-itis) said it best after the loss against Miami last Wednesday,

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Well said Mr.Dudley619.  BS indeed.  "Good thing about the NBA is we have another game tomorrow.."  Correct again.   Fellow Bright Siders, forget the fact that the next game he was talking about was another bad blowout with an abysmal Suns showing... and so was the game after that, and focus on the concept he's alluding to here.  Improvement and adjustments are part of the basketball season. 

Derek Definition says, "Apologetics (from Greek απολογ?α, "speaking in defense") is the discipline of defending a position through the systematic use of reason."

That's the kind of apology I'm talking about here.  Jared Dudley may say there are no excuses - but for an apologetic of a cause there is almost always an excuse, reasonably legitimate or not.  Hear me out.

Look - I like stats.  I'm a stats-guy as much as the next, I can see the numbers.  I read the box scores, I make Excel spreadsheets of random stats when I'm bored.  I also feel the same guttural cramp and dry-heave when the Suns play like they did last week, it's hard to watch.    Easily I could retreat my emotions and go to a dark place - EASILY.  That's the key word.  It's easy to give up.  It's easy to give in.  It's hard to stand by something when times are tough.  It's hard to support a team when they continually prove they can't move the ball down the field and hit wide-open receivers... wait... disregard - we were talking about the Suns right?  Investing (whether it's emotions or money) is always the same, it's stressful, it's usually risky, it could pay dividends or it can make you go broke. 

Don't go broke my friends.   Keep your monies and your emotions intact.

I will stand by my preseason prediction:  This team will finish in the top 4 of the West AND make a deep playoff push.

Call me a 'homer' or overly optimistic but I haven't jumped on the Scott Howard bandwagon yet,

2cn0_medium

(Gotta love Twitter)

Here's my reasoning.

It all goes back to the Pendulum Theory.

You see,  when I first joined this beautiful blog over a year ago - my first post took a look at this Suns team with a year by year evaluation and an explanation as to why the Suns had been so up-and-down since the 7SOL era through the Terry Porter experiment and how the deletion of Shaq was actually addition by subtraction and that the Suns would find a balance last year that would push them to 'amazingness'.  Let's just air this out there,  I was right -  don't be surprised, I'm kind of a big deal.  Nearly finding a way to beat the Lakers in the WCF when almost nobody predicted them to even be in the playoff picture was pretty golly gosh darn amazing.

My expert analysis on the big-picture level of team and style development was all based on a theory I have developed called the Pendulum Theory.  If you are too lazy to read my original post linked above, here's a short blurb as to what it entails.  *Will Ferrel voice: "Let me blow your mind"

"we as humans are caught in struggles for equilibrium constantly.  Generally, we are always moving from one extreme end of a spectrum to the opposite, seeking what is acceptable, or what is comfortable.  This process occurs on many levels, be it an ideological, physiological, or a practical level, etc. "Pendulum Adjustment" is a broad term that I've coined which refers to this natural tendency or phenomenon, the back and forth, from extreme to extreme, until equilibrium is met."  

In my scholastic adventures I have applied this idea of "pendulum adjustment" to historical events and sociological principles, and here in my recreational endeavors I have applied that same kind of 'back-and-forth' adjustment scheme to our Phoenix Suns.

They went from emphasis on too much offense not enough defense (D'Antoni) to too much change and forced focus on defense (Terry Porter) to a nice comfortable equilibrium (Alvin Gentry) where they were great on offense and maybe mediocre or less than that on defense.  But that was enough to shoot them from being out of the playoffs a year before to being a title contender in the WCF the next.  

Steve-nash-25jpg-9c7ad978aeeaba80_medium_medium

Things can change, and it's not always done through a change in personnel or coaching.  Constant pendulum adjustments happen on smaller levels all day every day, you don't have to rely solely on my season-to-season application of the idea.   We can move from that 'macro' version to a 'micro', or smaller version of the same and see that those adjustments can be applied during a season on a a game to game basis. 

Again going back to what Jared Dudley said, "Good thing about the NBA is we have another game tomorrow..".  Well obviously he's familiar with my theory - he knows that there are adjustments to be made.  Maybe he's trying to hard to showcase his off-season work by pump-faking on the three and stepping in or driving too much and that is throwing his game off.  Maybe it's Channing Frye going through one of his shooting dry spells as he takes the court the next day he changes his release point to compensate for something he saw in film.  Maybe it's Goran Dragic trying too hard to force passes and make something happen because he knows that the offense has been stagnant.  Maybe it's Grant Hill changing his pregame routine to better prepare physically for back-to-backs.  My point is - these things happen during a season.  There are ups and downs - extremes to extremes are reached as teams search and fight to maintain an equilibrium of their playing skills.   

Why did the Suns hit 22 threes against the Lakers and then miss their next 875 attempts?  

Let's go deeper - game by game.  Half by Half.  Quarter by quarter.

Just take a look at what Alex wrote last night after the Houston win  -

Phoenix's defense effort was there this game, but to no avail. After holding Houston to 43% shooting and 45 points in the first half, the Rockets exploded (err, matched a usual Suns opponent) by scoring 71 second-half points. 71 points in one half?!?!?! They had 31 assists on 49 made field goals. They had only 14 turnovers. They shot 49% for the game.

Is that not exactly what I'm talking about?  There are MAJOR adjustments going on all the time with this and every team in the NBA.  

Granthill-st_medium

Did you expect the team this year to go 14-3 again to start?  Did you think adjusting to having Nash out of the line-up would be easy?   Did you expect Goran Dragic to come in with the starters and gel immediately?  Having Nash out is a huge deal.  It messes up everything, given the goal is to establish some sort of equilibrium and he is now THE focal point of the offense.  

Though the questions are a rhetorical "of course not" from my point of view - you might have answered them in the positive.  If that's the case you might want to reevaluate your emotional investment portfolio.  Your expectations for short-term gain from a long term (at least 82 games) investment are unreasonable given the type of stock you have invested in.  Let me remind you what that 'type of stock' is - it's a team that let their #1 offensive scorer go and acquired 3 new major players in the rotation and a team that struggles to rebound and play defense.

Is all hope lost?   Heck nah.

We lost our #1 scorer...  well this team has proven already over this short season that scoring isn't the problem. 

Rebounding and Defense?  Wow, that sounds familiar.  Let me remind everyone that these are the same two concerns that last years 'lottery-doomed' team was destined to suffer as well.   Guess what?  We found a way to rebound sufficiently and we established a style of defense that worked with the talent we had and produced our desired results -> Defenseive mediocrity at best, which coupled with our explosive offense was all it took to vault us deep into the playoffs.  But it all didn't come in an instant.  It took a whole season of assuaging the schemes and balancing the skill-sets and ups-and-downs of all the players on the team.

My friends - the concerns are the same this year. Rebounding and Defense.  The schedule has been grueling for the first part of this season and the adjustments aren't being made as smoothly as everyone could optimistically hope for but get this - the pendulum is in motion. 

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[Eutychus putting the stats down and waxing philosophical]


Gorilla_ball

I've found the solution to the Suns center situation (or lack thereof)!

Comments are always welcome. Check here for more.


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