The Phoenix Suns face the fast-paced Philadelphia 76ers on the second night of a back to back, trying to eclipse their entire win total in 82 games last season (25) by the 44th game of this one.
Where: Wells Fargo Center - Philadelphia, PA
When: 5:00PM (AZ Time)
Watch: Fox Sports AZ, NBA League Pass
Read: Get the Philly point of view over at Liberty Ballers
When the season started, the Phoenix Suns (25-18) and Philadelphia 76ers (14-30) were widely considered to be battling it out for the first overall pick in the draft. At this point, the Suns are more likely to get the first overall seed in the Western Conference playoffs as they are a shot at Julius Randle. The 76ers on the other hand are right there in the thick of the ping pong ball hunt.
The last time these two teams met, the 76ers hung tough in the first half before this Suns put them away, 115-101, with a strong second half. Thaddeus Young, Michael Carter Williams, and Tony Wroten led the way scoring 79 of Philadelphia's 101 points as leading scorer Evan Turner sat out. Young in particular gave the Suns fits, scoring 30 points on 18 shots while also pulling down 10 rebounds and snaring 4 steals. That game also featured a career night from Miles Plumlee who finished with a career high 22 points to go with 13 rebounds.
Since then, not much has changed for the 76ers. They've gone 6-9, which I suppose is better than the 8-21 pace they were on, but nothing to write home about. The Suns for their part lost Eric Bledsoe and have been playing .500 ball, winning 7 and losing 7 in the same period.
Phoenix Suns: Offensive Rating 108.5 (8th in NBA), Defensive Rating 105.2 (13th in NBA)
Philadelphia 76ers: Offensive Rating 99.8 (29th in NBA), Defensive Rating 108.2 (23rd in NBA)
Probable Starting Line-ups:
F - P.J. Tucker
F - Channing Frye
C - Miles Plumlee
G - Gerald Green
G - Goran Dragi?
F - Thaddeus Young
F - Evan Turner
C - Spencer Hawes
G - Michael Carter-Williams
G - James Anderson
Suns: Eric Bledsoe (Knee) - Out, Emeka Okafor (Neck) - Out
Keys to the Game:
Second Wind for a Second Win: The Suns are 4-5 in the second games of back-to-backs and this one figures to be a track meet. The 76ers don't lead the league in much, but they do lead it in pace. After spending a significant amount of energy overcoming a 20 point deficit in Cleveland last night, do the Suns have the legs to keep up with one of the only teams that runs faster than them?
Outbalance Their Balance: Like Phoenix, Philadelphia has a very balanced offensive attack. 6 players average double figures for the 76ers, led by Evan Turner with 18.5 points per game. It's a different hero every night for the Suns. Who steps up this time?
Do How You Do: This has been covered ad nauseum, but the Philadelphia 76ers are simply not a very good team. They have the 3rd worst record in the league and do almost nothing better than the Suns except tank. You can lay the jinx at my feet if the Suns lay an egg, but if Phoenix comes out and plays their game, this shouldn't be much of a contest.
The one thing this game should have are plenty of fun match-ups in the starting line-ups. Goran Dragic and Michael Carter-Williams checking one another should be oodles of fun. P.J. Tucker will have his hands full guarding the 76ers best scorer in Evan Turner (who missed the last Suns-76ers tilt due to injury). But I think the key to this game is the Suns' bigs vs. the 76ers bigs. Spencer Hawes is playing out of his mind this season. He not only leads the team in rebounds, but is their 2nd best 3 point shooter making 41.0% on 4 attempts per game. I doubt Miles Plumlee can have his way with the 7-year veteran again. And will Channing Frye (or Markieff Morris) be able to slow down Thaddeus Young? Young terrorized the Suns in their previous match-up and his play could be the key to Philly pulling an upset.
I'm hoping the Cleveland Cavaliers were a wake-up call to the Suns with regards to starting strong against weaker teams on the road. I think the Suns come out focused and take an early lead, but give some of that back in a tough second half. But I'm feeling a 2-game streak heading into Milwaukee. Suns 113, Philadelphia 107.