The Suns will need a great game from this guy if they are going to get a win tonight.

After a disappointing start to the season, the Phoenix Suns looked like they were starting to come together after racking up two wins against the New Orleans Hornets and the Golden State Warriors. The Suns then played against the Dallas Mavericks Wednesday in a game that they lost due to lack of hustle and ability to take care of the ball.

Tonight the Suns return to Phoenix to face another likely Western Conference playoff team, the Portland Trailblazers, in an attempt to regain their momentum. This will not be easy however, as the Trailblazers are currently (5-1) after an impressive win against the Lakers last night. Portland has already notched wins against some other pretty tough opponents as well, including the Philadelphia 76ers, Oklahoma City Thunder, and the Denver Nuggets, all of whom the Suns have already lost to. If the Suns are going to get a much needed win tonight, they will have to come out firing on all cylinders from the start, and maintain their energy and hustle throughout the game.

Will the Suns have what it takes to get a win against Portland tonight? Who knows...but read on anyway as I attempt to breakdown some of the keys for tonight's match-up.

Key Match-ups:

PG - Steve Nash vs. Raymond Felton:

FG 3PT FT Rebounds Misc
G M M A Pct M A Pct M A Pct Off Def Tot Ast TO Stl Blk PF PPG
2011 - Steve Nash 6 29.0 4.5 10.7 42.2 1.3 4.2 32.0 1.2 1.2 100.0 0.7 1.2 1.8 8.7 3.7 0.8 0.0 1.5 11.5

FG 3PT FT Rebounds Misc
G M M A Pct M A Pct M A Pct Off Def Tot Ast TO Stl Blk PF PPG
2011 - Raymond Felton 5 33.8 4.8 11.8 40.7 0.6 3.2 18.8 2.6 3.4 76.5 0.4 3.0 3.4 7.0 3.2 0.6 0.0 2.8 12.8

What jumps out at me when looking at this is how Nash and Felton are performing almost equally so far at least on offense. This has been a fairly good start to the season for Felton while Nash has struggled at times. However, Felton puts forth a much more consistent defensive effort than Nash though, and his larger frame also helps him in this regard. Still, Felton has to play at his best to equal Nash's average performances. When Nash is on his game there is no way Felton can handle him. Advantage Suns

SG - Jared Dudley vs. Wesley Matthews:

FG 3PT FT Rebounds Misc
G M M A Pct M A Pct M A Pct Off Def Tot Ast TO Stl Blk PF PPG
2011 - Jared Dudley 6 32.0 3.8 9.8 39.0 1.2 3.7 31.8 1.8 2.5 73.3 0.8 3.5 4.3 1.7 0.8 0.8 0.2 2.0 10.7

FG 3PT FT Rebounds Misc
G M M A Pct M A Pct M A Pct Off Def Tot Ast TO Stl Blk PF PPG
2011 - Wesley Matthews 5 34.2 5.6 13.0 43.1 1.8 4.6 39.1 2.4 2.8 85.7 1.2 4.0 5.2 1.2 1.6 1.4 0.6 2.4 15.4

Wesley Matthews and Jared Dudley are both very similar type of players. Neither one of them is flashy or athletic, but their smart play and blue-collar hustle are very important to each of their respective teams. Unfortunately, Matthews has been outplaying Dudley so far this season in nearly every category. Dudley hasn't been able to get himself in rhythm yet while Matthews already appears to be in mid-season form. Advantage Blazers

SF - Grant Hill vs. Gerald Wallace

FG 3PT FT Rebounds Misc
G M M A Pct M A Pct M A Pct Off Def Tot Ast TO Stl Blk PF PPG
2011 - Grant Hill 6 27.2 3.8 10.5 36.5 0.0 1.3 0.0 2.0 2.0 100.0 0.8 3.2 4.0 1.7 0.8 0.5 0.7 1.5 9.7

FG 3PT FT Rebounds Misc
G M M A Pct M A Pct M A Pct Off Def Tot Ast TO Stl Blk PF PPG
2011 - Gerald Wallace 5 33.8 5.0 10.0 50.0 0.6 2.2 27.3 3.8 4.2 90.5 1.8 6.2 8.0 1.8 2.0 1.0 0.6 3.2 14.4

Grant Hill is still a valuable part of the Suns team and the best all-around talent on the roster. However, Grant has had a very slow start to the season...partly due to an injured right knee in training camp that he hasn't yet fully recovered from, and partly because of dare I say, age? Gerald Wallace is a lot like Grant Hill in that he's a younger version of the same type of player who uses his body almost recklessly at times and always competes. Wallace is off to a good start this year while Grant is still trying to get his legs under him. Advantage Blazers

PF - Channing Frye vs. Lamarcus Aldridge

FG 3PT FT Rebounds Misc
G M M A Pct M A Pct M A Pct Off Def Tot Ast TO Stl Blk PF PPG
2011 - Channing Frye 6 21.8 2.0 7.2 27.9 0.7 3.3 20.0 1.0 1.2 85.7 1.7 7.0 8.7 1.0 1.2 0.5 0.7 1.7 5.7

FG 3PT FT Rebounds Misc
G M M A Pct M A Pct M A Pct Off Def Tot Ast TO Stl Blk PF PPG
2011 - LaMarcus Aldridge 5 39.4 9.2 18.8 48.9 0.0 0.2 0.0 3.8 5.2 73.1 2.8 4.6 7.4 2.4 2.2 1.0 1.0 3.4 22.2

Channing Frye has been struggling to play a consistent role in the Suns offense while Lamarcus has been sensational. Frye has improved his rebounding, but when he's only shooting 20% from behind the arc he's more of a liability than an asset. Frye has to find a way to be more productive on offense when his shot isn't falling. So far this match-up isn't even close. Strong Advantage Blazers

C - Marcin Gortat vs. Marcus Camby

FG 3PT FT Rebounds Misc
G M M A Pct M A Pct M A Pct Off Def Tot Ast TO Stl Blk PF PPG
2011 - Marcin Gortat 6 25.2 5.0 8.8 56.6 0.0 0.0 0.0 1.3 2.2 61.5 2.0 4.5 6.5 0.2 1.3 0.8 1.5 2.0 11.3

FG 3PT FT Rebounds Misc
G M M A Pct M A Pct M A Pct Off Def Tot Ast TO Stl Blk PF PPG
2011 - Marcus Camby 5 24.4 1.2 3.6 33.3 0.0 0.0 0.0 1.6 2.4 66.7 2.8 6.6 9.4 3.2 1.6 0.8 1.6 2.4 4.0

Marcin Gortat has been one of the lone bright spots for the Suns so far this season. Despite playing with a broken right thumb, Gortat has been the most consistent player on both offense and defense throughout the first five games, and he seems to be getting the hang of playing better with his splint that should be coming off any day now. Camby has still been a very good rebounder and a good defender for the Blazers, but his offense hasn't been up to par. Gortat has to play strong inside to make sure Camby doesn't get his hands on the rebounds, and as long as he can continue to score at a high percentage, This should be an area of strength for the Suns in tonight's game. Advantage Suns

The tale of the tape shows the Blazers have the advantage in this game overall, and I would agree. This doesn't mean that the Suns can't win, they certainly can, but they will have to show significant improvements in their offense tonight if they are going to get this victory. Not only that, they definitely need to increase their energy and effort and play with more consistency in this regard.

The biggest x-factor for the Suns is their bench which has been one of the bright spots on the team; and aside from Jamal Crawford (who has played very well), the Blazers do not have much depth that they can rely on. For the Suns, the play of rookie Markieff Morris, Hakim Warrick, and Robin Lopez have helped this team win games and stay competitive even in most of their defeats. All three of these players had sub-standard performances in their last game vs. the Mavericks, and the Suns will need them to have bounce-back performances against the Blazers if the Suns hope to win tonight. The Suns should also be helped by the fact that Portland is playing a back-to-back.

So far, this Suns team has shown improved defense and rebounding at times, so they should be ok in that department as long as they are playing with energy. However, this team hasn't shown they can consistently maintain an effective, high-scoring offense yet; even though that was the one thing that this team was known for in prior seasons. The improved defense is great, but if the Suns can't get back to doing what they do best, which is scoring more than the other team, then they will have a rough road ahead of them.

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Sunscast Podcast Episode 5: Rotational Distress

Latest episode with special guest, Jon Bloom.

Subscribe on iTunes and you won't have to wait for a link to be posted.

For one night, the Suns and Mavericks played a game of inches. It wasn’t that the Mavs dominated the Suns in any one aspect of the game, and the problem in an 98-89 loss for Phoenix wasn’t any single...

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Derp!  I mean...Dirk!

The Phoenix Suns fell to the Dallas Mavericks tonight, 98-89 , in a game that was won on the offensive glass. The Mavericks have not been a good rebounding team thus far in the season, but they played like one tonight as they out muscled and out hustled the Suns all game long.

The Suns kept it close initially with the efficient play of Marcin Gortat on both sides on the ball. Channing Frye also got off to a nice start hitting his first two shots, one of which was a three pointer. However, once Nash and most of the other starters left the court the mavericks soon began to pull away. Ronnie Price and Markieff Morris both committed two quick fouls a piece and sent Dallas to the line where they opened up the lead even more.

Then the second half on if you dare.

In the second half the Suns briefly saw a glimmer of hope off the heels of some very nice play from Grant Hill who scored three quick buckets and grabbed a steal in the first three minutes. However, just as the Suns were starting to get some momentum to swing their way Nash commited a turnover that led to a fast break bucket, then Frye committed a turnover throwing the ball in-bounds, and then fouled Dirk Novitzki for the and one.

That series of mishaps that led to a quick seven points instantly put a stop to the Suns' run and things just went down from there.

Dirk Nowitzki was his normal awesome self all game long (20pts, 7ast, 6rbs), and in the fourth quarter the Mavs pulled away by as many as 20 points before the Suns decided to make one last run to cut the lead back down to 10; mostly due to the play of Nash and Gortat. Alas, it wasn't enough as the Mavs continued to hold serve from that point and closed it out the rest of the way.

The story of the game was rebounding...more specifically a lack thereof. Giving up 20 offensive rebounds just isn't getting it done. Gortat finished with 22pts and 10rbs so he certainly did his job, but most of the other players seemed slow to box out or just lacked the energy to compete for the 50-50 balls which the Mavericks ended up with. I think the Suns missed the energy and hustle of Markieff Morris who couldn't stay on the floor due to early foul trouble. He has to improve in that area of his game...The Suns need him.

The Suns need to play with more energy...We've seen flashes this season but they simply haven't shown they can do this on a consistent basis. This was a winnable game that the Suns let slip away...too bad.

Game Notes:

First Half

Gortat playing very effective on both offense and defense…Not sure if Gentry is leaving him out longer because of his play or because of Robin’s injured Foot.

Shannon Brown…Ugh

Lopez not looking quite like his usual self. Maybe the foot injury is bothering him, or maybe he’s just having a bad day

Ronnie Price plays good defense but simply does not set up the offense well whatsoever.

If Morris has a down side it’s silly fouls…It’s to be expected for a rookie, but we really need him out there.

Hakim playing “better” defense as a SF, and showcasing his new skills as a three-point shooter from the corner. I think we’ve found his ideal fit on our team

Frye seems to have his stroke tonight but he’s barely getting the opportunity to shoot the ball

Offensive rebounds for the Mavs is the difference in the first half…Dallas with 13 so far

10 Turnovers in the first half already is way too many…Luckily the Mavs have only scored on three of them

Frye quietly having a nice first half with 7 points of 3-4 shooting and 5 rebounds. He needs more opportunities to score tonight since his shot seems to be falling.

49-41 first half. Stats: Suns shooting 38.6% from the field 25% from three. Gortat only player in double figures with 10, and also the leading rebounder with 6.

Second Half

Grant Hill on FIRE to start the second half…Six quick points and a steal in the first three minutes

Frye with a terrible turnover on out of bounds pass right after a turnover from Nash that led to a fast break. Frye then commits a worse foul on Dirk for an and-one. All of this happened just as the Suns were gaining momentum. Dallas now back firmly in control

Terry doing what he does best…hitting impossible clutch three’s to dig that dagger in our chest a little deeper.

Steve hit a NASHTY three of his own to answer!

Dudley now 3-10 from the field in the 3rd quarter…Not good

Telfair getting his opportunity, probably because Price was so ineffective in the first half.

Telfair then proceeds to dribble aimlessly at the top of the key and then clanks one off the rim without ever passing the ball…Help!

Another 3pt dagger from Terry to close out the third quarter. Dallas up 77-66 at the end of the third

Yawn…another dagger from JET

Mavs briefly went up by 20 points but the Suns started fighting back to bring the score within 10

Mavs wake back up and keep the score just out of reach to close it out. Final 98-89

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49-41 at the end of the first half. Suns shooting under 40% from the field, but the real difference is allowing 13 offensive rebounds for the Mavs.

We're still very much in this game...Let's tighten it up and get the win!

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