I won't mince words. Sunday we faced the top team of the Western Conference and lost badly. Today, two days later, we play the top team in the Eastern Conference and if I were a betting man I would bet that the result will be similar.
Two teams heading in opposite directions - the Chicago Bulls (56-20) are now favorites to win the NBA Championship this year as they head into the playoffs and they tote a deep and talented roster with a convincing MVP candidate running the show. Our Phoenix Suns (37-39) on the other hand are destined for the draft lottery and tote a wishy-washy roster that is for the most part having a hard time finding the motivation needed to finish out the season with effort and heart. Oh yeah, and our former MVP is injured, physically sick - and probably mentally sick of having to try and carry his team on his back for the last 70+ games.
The ironic thing about today's match-up is this - the Bulls have won the past 4 of 5 meetings with the Suns and the last time the Suns beat the Bulls was on March 30th of last year. It was a 111-105 victory in Chicago - and it was the game that clinched a playoff birth for the Suns last season... now they face Derrick Rose and a healthy Carlos Boozer and Joakim Noah only a game removed from being officially eliminated from the playoffs this year.
That sucks. What doesn't suck is that Steve Nash is back with the team and will attempt to play tonight despite battling an extremely painful injury and the flu.
Hit the jump to explore the game a little more in depth.
The Game is on MY45 (TV) and Sports620 (Radio), 5:00p.m. AZ Time
Just to re-emphasize my despondent mood (in case you weren't picking up my vibe), I've got to point out something that Paul Coro wrote in his preview of today's game (link below).
Discussions regarding the Suns in recent weeks often revolved around comparisons with New Orleans and Memphis. Now they are more in the same conversation with teams such as Cleveland, Minnesota and Washington.
Steve Nash - Derrick Rose
Jared Dudley - Keith Bogans
Grant Hill - Luol Deng
Channing Frye - Carlos Boozer
Marcin Gortat - Joakim Noah
Key Subs: Kurt Thomas, Ronnie Brewer, Taj Gibson, Kyle Korver, C.J. Watson
DISCLAIMER - I don't know about this inserted stats chart... it only has 56 games played for these dudes... for a more accurate stat-eval of the Bulls head to Basketball Reference here.
There's no stopping Derrick Rose. The kid is in some kind of zone this season, he's averaging MVP numbers - and even when his team has lost key players (like Boozer or more recently Noah) due to illness or injury Rose steps up, puts the team on his back and gets the job done.
The last time we saw the Bulls Derrick Rose came up big in the 4th quarter and exploded to help erase a 23 point deficit and eventually win the game in double-overtime with 35 points 12 rebounds and 7 assists. So what's the strategy? Maybe put Grant Hill on him - we tried that last game and it worked okay as it took Rose 33 shots to earn his 35 points and he turned the ball over 4 times... but seriously it was more about Kyle Korver and Luol Deng having 24 and 26 points respectively. Oh yeah, and Carlos Boozer didn't even play in the game.
Look - here's the bottom line. We know Grant Hill will bring the defense. We know Jared Dudley will do the same. But will the other guys step up?
Let's play a game.
- Can Gortat, Frye, and Lopez play efficient defense against Boozer's post game or Noah's lanky everywhereness or Kurt Thomas' crying and cheap-shot-veteranizing?
- More importantly in my book - can Frye and Gortat stay out of early foul trouble?
- Can Vince stop pretending like he's injured? I know the answer to that.
- Will Steve be healthy enough to run the offense and bring some equilibrium back to the team?
- Can Aaron Brooks do something?
- Which Hakim Warrick will we see? Good Hak or terrible Hak?
- Will Josh Childress be more productive alongside Steve Nash now that he's getting some consistent minutes?
- Will Jared Dudley continue his double-digit scoring streak?
- Will Robin Lopez be blocked by Noah or Asik trying to dunk?
- Will Zabian Dowdell get PT if Brooks or Nash can't produce?
- Will our game-thread have more than 800 comments?
- Will Scott Howard or PanamaSun have tweets worthy of postgame recap display?
- Can Channing knock down open shots tonight (assuming Boozer will be guarding him)?
- Can Grant Hill give Rose a hard time tonight?
- Will Grant Hill's offensive game be 'on' tonight?
- Will Bogans explode for 34 and emerge a newborn SunKiller?
- Will Boozer at some point be fouled for an AND1 and look into the camera yelling something inaudible while clenching his right hand in a fist?
- Will Derrick Rose produce a 'Dunk of the Night' when Brooks is forced to guard him?
- What will Gortat say in his post-game interview given another bad loss to a great team?
- What will Gortat say in his post-game interview given a surprising victory over a great team?
- How many tweets will @stuff_ej_says produce tonight? (Since EJ is going to be in his home-town - I'm expecting him to be on his 'A' game tonight)
If you can answer any of these questions please do.
Or maybe you have your own list of questions you'd like answered for tonight's game?
In either case - blow up this comment thread below now and prime yourself for a good game thread and recap session tonight!
Let's hope I don't have to turn this game off like I did to last night's NCAA championship game. If that's the case my recap will be very brief. Unless something cool happens in my neighborhood then I'll write something awesome about that.
- Seth's preview at the mothership (SBNationAZ) - here's a few guys on this team who will, or will not, be back next year based on what kind of toughness they show over these final few games. We're looking at you Aaron Brooks, Robin Lopez and Hakim Warrick.
- Vally of the Suns Steve Nash Injury Break Down Video - a good video look at the injury that has hobbled our dude.
- Paul Coro Writes about Gentry's Demand for More Effort - "We have to have all our guys playing hard," Gentry said. "It can't be just a selective few. The only thing I am obligated to do is to have the team prepared to play, and the only thing they are obligated to do is compete hard. They owe that to (Suns Managing Partner) Robert (Sarver), to every fan that has come to our games. We owe that to Phoenix, and we owe it to everyone in the locker room. That has to be our goal right now, to compete hard and do the best we can."
- Blog a Bull - They don't have a preview up yet... but I'm sure they'll post something like, "The Suns are roiling and turning in their grave - this game is a walkthrough..." and they wouldn't be far from the truth.
- Jared Dudley on Sports620 - "Steve Nash is more valuable than a Kobe Bryant"