Suns 103, Kings 89 PHOENIX — It’s hard to classify the eighth game of an 82-game schedule as crucial. But after glancing at the Suns’ upcoming schedule, that’s exactly what...

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1 on 1 with Goran Dragic and some cool stats


YO! HAPPY FRIDAY! 

So tonight the Suns are back in action after a 3 day vacation facing the Sacramento Kings here at home!  Both teams are coming off of tough losses to teams that you almost don't want to admit you lost to... but ya'll know that this is the NBA, where "Unpredictable" happens - just ask Chad Ford... or anyone at the mothership or any other national media outlet who predict and prognosticate to no avail year after year.

The Suns turned the ball over abundantly and showed sloppy offense in their loss to the Memphis Grizzlies and the Kings did the same in their 'L' to the T'Wolves.

Anyways, I know we're talking about the 3-4 Sacramento Kings... but believe it or not we are the 3-4 Phoenix Suns and this game tonight means more than you would think.

Not only is this going to be a gritty match between two struggling teams trying to find cohesion and wash bad-loss tastes out of their mouths, but there is a little more riding on this game tonight - find out what the heck I'm talking about and more after the jump!


"Scheisse!"  - Jump it comrades

HERE'S THE DEAL...

This game is so important because starting Sunday, the Suns will play 4 games in 5 days - 2 sets of back-to-backs - against 4 of the leagues best teams, The Lakers, the Nuggets, the Heat and the Magic.  It is going to be brutal week, and the tough schedule continues for the Suns.  This is why tonight's game is soo important. 

Captain Obvious says,

"A poor showing and a loss tonight will put the Suns at 3-5 heading into a potential 4 game disaster,  but a good showing and a win would bring the Suns back to .500 and make whatever happens over the next 'death-week' not seem so bad."

It could be the difference between having a 5-7 record or a 3-9 record by the 19th... but then again, monkeys could fly out of my butt too. The truth is, it's really not that big of a deal because the season is so young and our schedule has been so tough. But I needed to grab your attention somehow right?!  Now let's continue with the usual notes, predictions and beautifully inane yet pertinent random junk from yours truly.

THE MATCH-UP

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Rebounding - It has become standard that we address rebounding as an issue for each game... and tonight is no different especially with wide bodies like Landry, Dalembert, and Jason Thompson coming off the bench - the Suns will again struggle to clean the glass and prevent 2nd chance points for the Kings.

Stop Evans - with fouls, crowbars, fast cars... or we can just try Grant HIll, Jared Dudley or Josh Childress. The kid is a minotaur.

Impose our will - With active hands - full court pressure and frequent fast breaks we need to impose our style of play and take the Kings out of their element.   This is what has hindered the Kings so far this season and Paul Westphal mentioned this a little after their loss on Wednesday,

"We've got big guys dribbling when they should be passing and letting little guys dribble up the floor," Westphal said. "We've got people going one-on-one into a crowd rather than seeing the defense and passing … We're just not playing together and playing to our strengths the way I see us doing in practice or the way we did in the first few games."

Here's a little more testimony as to the Kings woes from Jason Jones of the Sacramento Bee on his Twitter.  

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They're pretty much struggling with the same type of problems our Phoenix Suns team is facing, so again Captian Obvious reminds us all that the win will no doubt go to the team that executes better!  Ha! Imagine that. 

It does help that the Suns haven't lost a divisional home game to a team other than the Lakers since 2006-07 when they lost to the Clippers on April 17, 2007.  It also helps that the Suns swept the Kings last year (4-0) and has won 9 straight home games against Sacramento.  The numbers are on our side.

BENCH PRESS

One of a few clear advantages the Suns do have in this match-up is our improved bench. Goran Dragic is playing out of his mind to start the season (Please see this again... and again, and again...), J-Chill is finding his niche, and Warrick is turning into the finisher the Suns need him to be.

In fact - the Suns bench is playing so well that it's actually out-shooting the Starters.  The Bench so far this season is shooting 47.4 percent form the field while the starters are shooting 47.2!  Another crazy fact is that with Warrick (12.3) and Dragic (9.4) this combo is nearly the first pair of full-time Suns reserves to average double-digit scoring since 2001-02 when Rodney Rogers and Tony Delk did it.  

The concern on the Bench for me is Channing Frye's shooting.  I'm going to leave it at that becuase he has stepped up and played pretty good D and has been rippin' down boards at a satisfactory rate.  I'm hoping he gets out of his 'slump' soon, tonight might be a good night since he always shoots better at home.

A REUNION OF ALL SORTS

Something interesting (and yes trivial) that I noticed while writing this is the fact that when the Suns face the Kings there are all kinds of reunions and connections going on - here are a few I can think of:

  • Head Coach Paul Westphal - This one is obvious and rings familiar, why?  He coached for the Suns during the beloved 1992-93' Finals season and for 3 years after that.  He also played for the Suns to end his NBA career as a player in 1983,  what's interesting is that also as a Suns player he helped them get to their only other NBA Finals appearance in 1976!  He's a Suns legend.
  • Assistant coaches Elie & Robinson - Both Kings Assistants Mario Elie and Truck Robinson played for the Suns - Elie in 2000-2001, and Robinson from 78-82.
  • Slovenian Slumber Party - This is another reunion that happens every time these two teams have met for the last 2 years or so - fellow compatriots Beno Udrih and Goran Dragic snuggle up in snuggies and spoon while telling stories of 'back home' ... okay I made that up but these two are always happy to see each other and usually go out to eat at the Cheesecake factory when the Kings come to town.
  • Baby Hedo - Way back in the day when a young Hedo Turkoglu emerged from the uterus of Euroball - it was the Sacramento Kings that gave birth to his NBA career by drafting that fool in the first round.  That's kind of a reunion too right?

Okay enough of this - family reunions and high school reunions are always awkward and boring so lets move on...

THE 09' J-RICH RULE... ABROGATED

A little VOCAB for you high-school Bright Siders,ABROGATE [ab-ruh-geyt] –verb (used with object), -gat·ed, -gat·ing. 1. to abolish by formal or official means; annul by an authoritative act; repeal: to abrogate a law. 2. to put aside; put an end to.

Jason Richardson has started the season right where he left off during the Playoff run last year.  EN FUEGO. He has scored 15 or more points in 7 straight games to start the season and has posted a total of 152 points.  These are career bests for J-Rich, bettering his 143 point 7-game start to the 2005-06 season with the Warriors and he is just 1 of 10 NBA players this year to have scored 15 or more in every game this season, joining the ranks of mind numbing scorers Kevin Durant, Monta Ellis, Pau Gasol, Rudy Gay, Jeff Green, LeBron James, Kevin Martin, Derrick Rose, and Russell Westbrook.


Out of those 7 high scoring games Rich has posted more than 20-points in 4 of them... now following the rules of the J-Rich Law found in the Codex of Laws of the Basketball Kingdom of last year, that should account for 4 victories for the Phoenix Suns right? Wrong.  We're 2-2 when Rich scores 20+ this season. 

A little legal lesson for those unfortunate souls who are unfamiliar with the Codex of Laws of the Basketball Kingdom 2009-10,
League: NBA
Region: Western Shire Division: Pacific District: The Honorable Phoenix Area Suns
Title 75 - Chapter 1 - Article 1.1:
§ 75-101.  (A.) There is a SG named Jason Richardson  (B.) The above mentioned SG will be named herein after J-Rich and plays for the Phoenix Suns (C.) When J-Rich scores 20 or more points the Suns will have an 86% chance at victory (D.) This approximation is based on the 31-5 record in 09-10 when J-Rich accomplished such feat (E.) Given such high % Layman's terms shall be - "When J-Rich scores 20, the Suns will win"     

You see there's just one small problem with this law...  it's outdated, a lot like the Arizona law still on the books that says you can't keep your donkey in a bathtub.  Jason Richardson is now one of the top 2 scoring options on the team.  No longer are his 20 points a compliment to the heavy work of Amare Stoudemire.. they are the heavy work of the team and that is why this rule shall be striked.  Someone else needs to step up and add some extra 'complimentary' points (HINT HINT ROBIN LOPEZ HINT STEP UP YOUR GAME HINT HINT) for the Suns truly to be successful like last year.

Mash it up now my peeps - if there's something else you're looking for in this game let it be known in the comment section!

LINKS, ZELDAS & RUPEES 

Well.. mostly Links

Paul Coro's Orange Slices Blog - Nash envisions playing beyond this contract but how much losing would he be willing to endure in Phoenix at this stage? Nash has been blunt with his frustration that the Suns were a step away from the NBA Finals last season, only to have the team made over  in the summer and the reliance fall on him to make it work.

Paul Coro in the AZRepublic - Phoenix Suns center Robin Lopez starts, rarely finishes - "I think Robin still is trying to get back to his best physically," Nash said. "He's not moving the same as he did last year. He's not covering the same amount of ground. It takes time. Backs are difficult and what he had is not a joking matter.."

More Coro - Phoenix Suns' first priority - limit turnovers - "For a team that has been competitive in each game of a 3-4 start, taking a few extra shots instead of turnovers and not trying to defend a fastbreak on many of those turnovers could reverse their fortunes."

Check out Sactown Royalty Opposing Small Forwards Feasting on Kings- "The Kings have several problems leading to these three straight losses and an awful 1-3 home record. In today's column, The Bee's Ailene Voisin blames a lethargic, confused and ineffective offense. The offense certainly hasn't been creative during the homestand. But to me, the glaring problem is still defense. Specifically, it's perimeter defense. And it's hard to ignore what opposing starting small forwards have done to the Kings."

Kings vs Suns coverage - SBNation coverage

[Note by Seth Pollack, 11/12/10 11:50 AM MST ]

Not to much from shootaround today. Gentry called the Kings a "good team" which is pretty much what he says about every team unless they are a "great" team. 

As for the Hedo/Warrick thing, it doesn't sound like he's ready to make the change but will adjust rotations based on what happens.

"I don't know, we'll take a look at it. One of the things I talked to Hedo about is that to have him guard a Zach Randolph or something like that is a little unfair so there is a possibility. We'll see how it goes. I don't want him in foul trouble, so if I think it's a situation where he's going to get in immediate foul trouble then we'll change our rotations and it could be as early as two or three minutes in the game."

Here's the full shootaround audio from Coach Gentry:

Gentry shootaround 111210

 

 


Memphis Grizzlies' Marc Gasol drives to the basket by Phoenix Suns' Hedo Turkoglu. (AP Photo/ Mark Weber)

More photos » Mark Weber - AP

Memphis Grizzlies' Marc Gasol drives to the basket by Phoenix Suns' Hedo Turkoglu. (AP Photo/ Mark Weber)

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It seems that Alvin is ready to play the matchups game already.

Gentry said he is considering bring Turkoglu off the bench to keep him from mismatches against bigger post players, following his depature from Monday's game after 2:23 due to fouls he picked up against Zack Randolph and Marc Gasol.

"I will not play Hedo against a guy like Zack Randolph," Gentry said. "It's unfair to him.

"I'd rather have him in the game five minutes later where he has no fouls than to take him out in the first five minutes."

Turkoglu has said he would be open to coming off the bench.

I thought Alvin would wait a little longer on this, especially since he said earlier in the week that he wouldn't mess with the lineup yet. But a few days to think about it might have done the trick.

Of course, Hakim Warrick - at 6'9" and 219 pounds - is going to get eaten up too, but at least he's played PF his entire career.

Don't expect Hedo to eschew his PF responsibilities entirely though. There's still no one else in the current rotation ready to step in. Some have mentioned Hill or Childress or Dudley, but that's grabbing at leaking straws. None are big enough to handle the banging inside. But at least the defensive rebounding has a chance to improve there.

Channing Frye next to Lopez in the starting lineup, or against bigger foes? I've said many times that won't work either, because neither Lopez nor Frye has the lateral footspeed to defend the dribble-drive from 10+ feet out, meaning they have to back off which opens up an easy 10-15 foot spot up.

The other problem with starting Frye is you weaken the C rotation. Until Lopez improves and can handle 30 quality minutes a game, the Suns still need Frye to play the bulk of his minutes opposite Lopez in the pivot.


Ball!

More photos » Mark Weber - AP

Ball!

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The Suns practiced again today. It went kind of long. That's about all I can tell you about that.

The after-practice sessions included Lopez, Lawal, Frye and Siler working on individual post offense and defense against each other in a round-robin sort of  fashion under the watchful eye and scratchy voice of Bill Cartwright, with an assist from Mark West.

The one thing that stood out -- aside from Frye participating in the post moves stuff and not his usual three-point shooting drills -- is just how competitive these guys really are. I know it doesn't always come across on TV and from the stands, but watching them battle against each other up-close, you can't help but notice how much effort these players put into their work. Some pro players might sleep-walk through their careers and not work hard, but in my experience, most of them aren't like that.

Practice, people. Practice.

Strength of Schedule

Nobody likes a whiner, but damn, did the the Suns get the shaft from the league in the early season schedule department or what?

According to our old pal John Hollinger (who really should stick to stuff like this and stay away from asking Gregg Popovich obvious questions*), the Suns have the second hardest schedule in the league so far behind only the LA Clippers.

Hollinger's SOS formula: SOS = Season win/loss percentage of team's opponents, expressed as a decimal (e.g., .500)

The Suns' SOS is .680, just behind the 1-8 Clippers (.684) and ahead of the 1-6 Rockets (.630). Anyone want to guess what the Lakers SOS is? .464 which is 21st in the league. By the way, the Warriors (6-2) have an SOS of .404) and the 3-4 Kings have the lowest SOS in the league at .380.

Numbers, they never lie.

And while it is perfectly acceptable for us to whine, bitch and moan about how unfair life and the NBA are, Gentry (at least on the record) wants no part of that.

"We also go back to the old thing -- we're going to play 41 home games and 41 on the road. I don't know if it matters very much when they come; you've got to be prepared."

Gentry said they've switched practice a bit to get the scrimmage done first to try and get Nash more rest, but at the same time, the team needs to work to cut down on the turnovers, which are the thing bugging the coach most right now.

The Suns are 25th in the league in turnover percentage (.155), which is a big reason they are last in the league in defensive efficiency (111.8 point per 100 possessions), despite being a decent defensive team when you watch them play. The bottom line is, if you are going to give up both offensive rebounds and turn the ball over, you are going to give opponents too many good looks. The Suns are also last in opponents eFG% allowed (.525) thanks to that deadly combination. 

Gentry might not be an advanced stats guy, but he knows darn well that you are shooting yourself in the foot when you defend the team's attack well only to give them too many second chance opportunities and too many fast break points off turnovers. The rebounding is what it is, but the turnovers can and must be fixed.

A TV reporter asked Gentry again about the Nash trade rumors. He's less than amused at the media types who are making that stuff up.

"I didn't even see a reliable source quoted. I don't know where they get these from. I guess you got to sit around and come up with something to think about. I'm going to start making rumors about TV stations and newspapers and magazines closing down."

 

* Not to rag on John. Everyone's been on the wrong end of a Popovich question, but damn, right after a loss, you have to know better than to ask him that!

 

[Note by Seth Pollack, 11/11/10 3:55 PM MST ]

Check this out about our old pal Amare. Fun stuff and a great read. Resist the urge to go over to Posting and Toasting and stick your tongue out and say "ha, ha"

Fixing the Knicks' Pick-and-Roll - Posting and Toasting
Though it's early (and any comparison to a Steve Nash-led team is brutally unfair), a Synergy Sports comparison of the ways Amare scored last year with the Suns to this year with the Knicks are telling: with the Suns last season, Amare scored 19 percent of the time on Post-Ups, 18% of the time as the Pick and Roll man, 15% of the time in Isolations, and 14% of the time through Cuts to the basket.

With the Knicks so far this season, a whopping 35% of his scoring has been through Isolations, 12 % through spot-up jumpers, and only 10 percent of the time has his scoring come as the Pick and Roll man.


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