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The easy part of the Suns 11-day road trip is over. They couldn't manage wins against Philly (10-7), Cleveland (4-13) or Toronto (4-13). So, what do you think the odds are the rag-tag Phoenix squad will leave Madison Square Garden (11-4) with anything other than a loss?

The odds are actually not posted yet (probably due to injury uncertainty with the Knicks...or more likely, a lack of betting interest in this Sunday game that's going up against the mighty NFL). now posted and have the Suns as an 11.5 point underdog.

The Knicks, in their first full season with Mike D'Antoni's replacement (Mike Woodsen), are playing fantastic basketball despite Amare Stoudemire's inability to yet take the floor (knee).

They are defending well (Def. Eff. 103.7, 13th) thanks to DPOY Tyson Chandler and a renewed commitment to play team defense.

With Carmelo Anthony playing the four, they are scoring the ball as well (Off. Eff. 112.7, 1st). The amazing stylings of J.R. Smith and Steve Novak help too. And Raymond Felton but down the pie and is playing solid PG ball (15 pts, 7 ast. per game).

In theory, it's a team the Suns might be able to beat in the paint with the power forward combo of Luis Scola and Markieff Morris if they are going to go small. But of course, do you really look forward to seeing either of those guys defending Melo?

Anyway, the Knicks seem like they will start with a traditional line up with Chandler, Kurt Thomas and Melo on the front line and Felton and Ronnie Brewer in the back. Jason Kidd (back spasms / old man) is listed as "doubtful".

In years past, Gentry would give Grant Hill that Melo assignment. I'm curious (only slightly) to see if Gentry goes small as well and uses P.J. Tucker on Melo and maybe even plays Morris or Scola at the five a bit.

- Start time: 10:00am local / 12:00pm ET

- TV: Fox Sports AZ / NBALP

- Knicks roster and stats

- Posting and Toasting

New theory, the balance bane

The Toronto game was interesting to me. The team looked like they were focused and determined coming off the Detroit Disaster, but I'm starting to think this roster's biggest problem (outside the lack of top flight talent, duh) is too many guys who are too good to bench but not good enough to dominate.

There are no clear roles. There are no clear patterns and predictable moves. There is no guy or guys who the team can look to on a consistent basis to deliver on either end (P.J. Tucker excluded). They are looking at their teammates and saying, "I'm the guy" instead of trusting and following each other.

As a result, Gentry seems to spend the first half the game spreading the ball around trying to find a hot hand and then the second half adjusting to what he thinks might work. The problem is that none of his "hot hands" are good enough to really dominate. No Suns player has scored over 30 this season. No one player has shown the ability to put the team on his back. As a result, everyone thinks they are good enough to do it and they all want the ball, but none of them are "the man".

It's been Gentry's M.O. early in the season to spread the minutes and the touches around and he's already "tightened" up to a ten-man rotation and benched Wes Johnson. Is it time to try cutting that back to eight?

Would it help to look at Michael Beasley and say, go get me 30 points, I don't care how many shots you take? Probably not.

The balance could be an advantage if teams don't know which Suns will bite them on a given night. But if none of them are good enough to do it, maybe there's another strategy to use.

Probably not.

This roster was always destined to be a sub-.500 team and early season struggles should come as no surprise -- we've seen it every year of Gentry's tenure including the 14-17 start to the 2010 WCF team.

One day at a time, folks. At least this game will be over early in the day.

New York Knicks 106, Phoenix Suns 99 The Phoenix Suns have been embarrassed by 40 points against a team that started 0-8 and have dropped a nail biter to a squad that had lost six in a row and been...

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In last week's player rankings, the Phoenix Suns were coming off of a two-game winning streak and the team was feeling pretty good about themselves. Oh, how things have changed...

After going 1-3 over the last seven days, this week's rankings find the Suns struggling to find their identity, and their motivation to keep themselves from becoming one of the bottom feeders of the NBA.

Make no mistake about it...this week wasn't pretty. But still, some players were worse than others. I suppose that would be this week's theme more than anything.

1. Goran Dragic

Weekly Average: 13 points, 4 rebounds, 4 assists, 2 steals in 27 minutes of play; +2

Dragic had a so-so week statistically, but the only reason he is #1 this week is because technically someone had to be there, even if nobody really earned it. This was just a bad week for the Suns all around, but Dragic was at least productive.

2.Michael Beasley

Weekly Average: 12.5 points, 2 rebounds, and 2 assists in 27 minutes of play; -3

Beasley is probably the only Suns player to have had a "good" week compared to the last one. Although Beasley missed that last lay-up that could have helped the Suns win the game against the 76ers, he was much more aggressive and a better facilitator this week as well...I'll take it. If Beasley can continue to improve in these areas, he could really help the Suns a lot this season

3. Jermaine O'Neal

Weekly Average: 7 points, 5 rebounds, and 2 Blocks in 19 minutes of play; +5

O'Neal didn't have a great week by the numbers, be he has been very solid in his minutes...especially defensively. His solid play even with a strained quad and his effort on both ends of the court is enough to earn him the third spot this week.

4. Marcin Gortat

Weekly Average: 11 points, 5 rebounds, 2 assists, and 1 blocks in 25 minutes of play; - 2

Gortat was on fire against the 76ers in the third quarter, only to be inexplicably snuffed out by Gentry in the fourth quarter when he opted to go with O'Neal instead. I'm not sure of the reasons, but Marcin seemed to take a good two games to recover from it...As he didn't play anywhere near his capabilities against Cleveland or Detroit. He seemed to snap out of his funk a little bit in the Toronto game, but he still needs to improve defensively as that may be the reason Gentry opts to go with O'Neal in crunch time over the Polish Machine.

5. Luis Scola

Weekly Average: 11 points, 5 rebounds, and 2 assists in 26 minutes of play; -1

Scola had a pretty good week coming off the bench, and was a big reason for the Suns' only victory of the past week. Luis seems to be adapting well to his role in coming off the bench, even outplaying his starting counter part over the past four games

6. Jared Dudley

Weekly Average: 10 points, 2 assists, and 2 rebounds in 22 minutes of play; +4

Dudley has continued to do much better in his role off the bench. He had another solid week overall, and is hopefully back on the right track toward returning to his normal self. However, I would like to see more of the snappiness from Dudley that earned him the "Junk Yard Dog" moniker from a couple of seasons ago.

7. Shannon Brown

Weekly Average: 8 points, 3 rebounds, and 3 assists in 27 minutes of play; -5

Shannon Brown's game continues to be schizophrenic at times...He can make a dazzling play that makes you say "OOOOOOHHHHH" and then make a terrible decision that makes you curse his name on the very next possession. Brown is at least giving the Suns some much needed athleticism in the starting unit, and if he can just cut down on the bone-headed shots and decisions, he could be a solid starter for this team.

8. Sebastian Telfair

Weekly Average: 6 points, 3 assists, and 2 rebounds in 17 minutes of play; -6

Bassy had kind of a down week. He struggled to run the second unit and defend with the type of energy and hustle that we've seen from him over the past few weeks. But as I said before, this was a bad week for the Suns altogether, so hopefully he'll get back to what he does best.

9. P.J. Tucker

Weekly Average: 1 points, 4 rebounds, and 1 assists in 16 minutes of play; -7

Tucker didn't necessarily have a bad week...He just wasn't nearly the same game-changer we had started to grow accustomed to. He still played solid defense for the most part, but did have more mistakes then usual. He also wasn't able to capitalize on his offensive touches and just wasn't around the ball quite as much. Hopefully Tucker can get back to what we saw from him last week...The Suns need him!

10. Markieff Morris

Weekly Average: 7 points, 3 rebounds, 1 assists, in 23 minutes of play; -8

After earning the top spot in the rankings last week, Markieff flipped the script completely this week and falls to the bottom. Last week I stated that the only question with Morris is whether or not he'd be able to keep up his stellar play and perform at that level consistently. Well, if this week is any indication it would seem the answer is a resounding "No". Prove me wrong Markieff...please.

So there you have it. Feel free to voice your opinion in the comments below!

ValleyoftheSuns is teaming up with Crowd Seats to offer a free ticket giveaway for the Dec. 6 nationally-televised matchup between the Phoenix Suns and the Dallas Mavericks in US Airways Center. To...

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When: Friday, November 30, 2012, 5:00 PM local time (7:00 EST)

Where: Air Canada Centre, Toronto, Canada

Watch/Listen: TV: FSAZ, Radio: 620 KTAR

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Last Meeting:

First meeting this season. The lone matchup between the teams during the lockout shortened season was a 99-96 win by Toronto in Phoenix on January 24, 2012.

Team Bios:

Toronto Raptors: 3-13

Points per game: 95.9 (17th) Points allowed: 101.5 (27th)

Offensive Efficiency: 99.3 (22nd) Defensive Efficiency: 104.1 (24th)

Toronto is a bad team. Their utter lack of ability to compete at an NBA level has only been exacerbated by a truculent schedule that has seen them play six of 16 games on the road so far. In fact, the Raptors come into the contest riding the momentum of a six game losing streak. This game is just a pit stop for the Dinos before they head back on the road for five more games on the west coast. That will put them at 15 out of 22 games on the road. That's kind of messed up...

While the Raptors probably didn't buy any powerball tickets the other night based on confronting the grisly odds that have been stacked against them, there have been a few glimmers of hope. On second thought, no, there haven't. Being a Raptors fan has been a bleak, desolate task this year. A place where basketball fans go to die.

Free agent splash Landry Fields is out indefinitely with right elbow surgery. Andrea Bargnani missed Toronto's last game and has been missing his jump shot all season. The Raptors do have players that can score the ball, with DeRozan, Bargnani and Lowry all averaging in the upper teens, but none of them has been doing so at a very efficient clip.

On paper it would appear the Raptors should be able to compete above their current record, but that's why they play the games... or as they refer to it in Toronto - lay down like dogs.

The Raptors do have some nice young pieces, headlined by Jonas Valanciunas, so they're not completely bereft of hope moving forward. They also didn't lose by 40 to the Pistons Wednesday night, so there's that, too.

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Phoenix Suns: 7-9

Points per game: 98.4 (12th) Points allowed: 102.6 (30th)

Offensive Efficiency: 100.9 (16th) Defensive Efficiency: 105.6 (27th)

The Suns have played 3,576 regular season games. Some of us were the victims of the third worst showing out of that entire compilation of games constituting the franchise's history. Funny, it seemed much worse.

Wednesday night the Suns were the little engine that couldn't. In fact, they were the little engine that was derailed resulting in the excruciating, fiery death of all its passengers. But.. the future brings new challenges, like the Suns pulling their collective head out of their collective ass tonight in Toronto.

Goran Dragic has been the most consistent and solid player on the team this year, but his constituents have only managed to provide a sporadic spark (at best). Michael Beasley's PER (9.6) continues to look like a gymnastics score. Luis Scola has been ostracized to the bench. Shannon Brown has been feast or (mostly) famine. Marcin Gortat has been hot, fetid garbage the last seven games, to the tune of 9.7 points and 5.7 rebounds, while establishing himself as a bonafide single-single threat (it would be nice if he would play up to his potential so the Suns can get something of value if when they trade him before the deadline). Even P.J. Tucker appeared to have given up during the disgraceful display in Detroit...

After tonight, the Suns close out their six game trip with a stop in New York on Sunday followed by Memphis on Tuesday. The ascending level of competition puts an even greater onus on a somewhat less putrid renascent effort tonight.

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What To Watch For:

A Pulse: If the Suns don't come out hotter than a witches tittie on fire in hell I'm going to be disappointed. That doesn't necessarily mean they will win, or even play well, but the lack of effort displayed in the last game was palpable and completely unacceptable.

Shooting: The Raptors are a pedestrian team in terms of shooting the three .344 3P FG% (19th) and just plain bad overall .422 FG% (26th). Toronto, meet the Suns defense. The Suns are yielding matador-like .423 3P FG% (30th) and .471 FG% (28th). The timeless question of what happens when a limp offense meets a flaccid defense will be answered tonight. Tune in to watch the Suns get torched see how this unfolds.

Dragic vs. Lowry: Most people would asseverate that Kyle Lowry and Goran have had very comparable years in terms of performance. Goran shoots a little better, Lowry rebounds a little better. Scoring, assists, steals... pretty much everything is very similar. This should be an interesting matchup to keep an eye on even if it doesn't pan out as the best of the night.

Somebody to Step the F$%k Up: Did you know that Dragic's 26 points against Cleveland back on November 9th is still the highest output for any Sun this season. A Suns player has only been the game high scorer in four of 16 games this season. Shannon Brown's fourth quarter explosion against Charlotte might be the only real example of a Sun willing the team to victory. We all know the Suns are absent of premiere talent, but every once in a while someone needs to go off (I'm looking at you Michael Beasley). Remember the days when a 30 point performance wasn't completely shocking?

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The Final Word(s):

The Suns need to win this game. The Suns should win this game. The Suns will win by 10 almost undoubtedly come out with more brio and vim than in the pummeling at the Palace. I think the Suns will win this game if they have even a modicum of dignity left, but we all know that home teams play better... and we all know there is no such thing as an easy W for this season's Suns.


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