If this is how they celebrate against the T'Wolves, what will they do if they beat the Mavs?

More photos » Christian Petersen - Getty Images

If this is how they celebrate against the T'Wolves, what will they do if they beat the Mavs?

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Few things warm the cockles of my heart like a Suns - Mavs tilt.  These franchises are mirror images of one another; their consistency of excellence marred only by their inability to get over the top.  Probably fueled by the friendship between Steve Nash and alpha Mav Dirk Nowitzki, there seems to be a mutual respect between the teams that ends up translating into fierce and entertaining basketball contests.  Would that that was the case this season...

The Mavs sit at 20-5, trailing only the Spurs (and their ridiculous 22-3 record) in the West.  They've won 13 of their last 14 games, including a 12-game streak that ensures they will be NBA champions.  They are, as the deportes crowd would say, en fuego.

The Suns on the other hand have lost of 3 of their last 4, snapping a 3-game losing streak with a we-could've-done-a-lot-better-than-6-point victory over the Timberwolves on Wednesday night.  Sadly, snapping that streak does not come with any sort of guarantee other than ensuring the Suns did not put up their first 4-game losing streak since January of this year.  They have been, how you say... mas o menos?  Asi asi?  At 12-12, they are the definition of mediocrity.

This is the first meeting of the season for these two perennial Western Conference contenders.  The Suns have their work cut out for them.  Much like with the Lakers, the Suns will have to play nearly flawless basketball to hang with the Mavs.  This Dallas squad runs a slow, efficient offense (ranking 23rd in pace and 8th in offensive efficiency) headed up by their own well-preserved point guard, Jason Kidd.  And of course there's Dirk Nowitzki, Dirk Nowitzki and Dirk Nowitzki.  He is an unholy terror on the offensive end this season averaging 25 points a game on a Nintendo-like 56.2% from the field.  That includes a 40% clip from distance.  Thus far this season he's been virtually undefendable which is fitting as thus far this season, the Suns have been virtually defenseless.  And rudderless.  And rotationless.

And yet, here they are at .500 hanging around like they're some kind of legit NBA team.  A top-ranked offense will do that in spite of a defense more than wiling to concede open shot after open passing lane after open lay-up.  

In my heart of hearts, I expect this game to get ugly and to do so fairly quickly.  The play-by-play at times will resemble portions of Team America: World Police as the Suns have absolutely no answer for Dirk or the rest of the Maverick offense, whilst getting stifled by some impressive Dallas D.

But that is sooooo not very Bright Side of me, is it?  So here's the Suns best hope (stop me if you've heard this before): push the tempo and turn the game into a track meet.  Hit from distance.  Attack the glass on the defensive end to limit possessions and get started on run-outs.  Get timely stops.  Etc.

The Suns can win this game, but it's a longshot.  It's a rough start to a rough little road trip (next up is a Sunday-Monday back-to-back at OKC and San Antonio).  Am I playing preview Scrooge?  You think there's some holiday cheer in store for Suns fans in tonight's box score?  Sound off in the comments.

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Celebrate, Brother Jared! But don't forget the defense.

More photos » Christian Petersen - Getty Images

Celebrate, Brother Jared! But don't forget the defense.

Browse more photos »

The Phoenix Suns got off to a great start on Wednesday against the Minnesota Timerwolves. The home team raced out to a quick 14-4 lead and had held Minnesota to just 17 points through the first 9 minutes of the quarter.

But with 3:00 minutes remaining in the period and the Suns reserves on the floor, we once again saw the bench that was so good at holding leads last season (and even early this season) give up a 13 points and an 8-point lead. Here's how it happened.

The lineup for the Suns was Warrick, Turkoglu, Barron, Dragic and Richardson. For the Wolves it was Love, Brewer, Pekovic, Webster and Flynn.

 

  • Run out off turnover. 25-19
  • Webster three off Beasley screen. Beasley comes down and screens Hill while Webster flashes up to the arc. It looks like a poor switch due to a mix up between Warrick and Hill. Maybe Warrick is supposed to stay with Beasley or maybe they are suppose to switch the screen. Either way, both end up on Beasley and Webster is wide open. 27-22

 

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  • Flynn hits a well-contested fade away 17 foot jump shot. 29-24.
  • 2  free throws from Love. Barron fouled him going for an offensive rebound. 29-26.
  • Warrick bad pass leads to Wolves layup. 31-28.
  • Brewer layup of curl. Barron doesn't step over to take Brewer which JRich seems to be expecting. 31-30.

 

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So bottom line, the Wolves got 4 easy points off turnovers and 5 easy points of bad defensive communication. They hit one tough, contested shot and a couple of free throws.

 

Here's two more examples from earlier in the quarter that show how the Timberwolves were able to take advantage of the Suns strong-side zone defense (for more on this defense, click here).

1) Here you see Brewer with the ball and JRich guarding him. Frye is hedged over to prevent dribble penetration. That leaves Lopez to guard both Love and Darko. He's in between both.

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2) Darko flashes high but Robin stays with Love near the rim. The ball goes to Darko so Robin moves to close out but Darko hits Love with a nice touch pass before Hill can rotate over.

You have to credit the Wolves movement and passing here but at the same time, why do the Suns need to be in a zone to prevent dribble penetration from Brewer?

The answer is because they can't stay in front of guy on the perimeter so Gentry's been forced to use this zone which like all zone defenses has whole if the rotations aren't perfect and they weren't here.

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1) Here's another example where you see Warrick helping Nash contain Ridnour on the near side.

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2) The Wolves space the floor very well and swing the ball quickly from the near corner to the top of the arc to the far corner where Webster is wide open. Warrick ends up having to rotate all the way across the floor which is impossible. This one is tough, because the Wolves have four shooters on the court and Hill doesn't want to leave Beasley.

Best case, Barron would have been rotated to the far corner (Webster) when the ball swung high which would have let Warrick take Darko in the post.

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Only the very best defensive teams get these kinds of rotations right and the Suns are certainly not that. Again, credit to the Wolves for doing a very good job moving the ball from side to side and hitting open shots. But in both cases the open shots were the result of the Suns guards not being able to stay with their man without help.


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