Phoenix Suns guard Steve Nash (13) drives against Atlanta Hawks guard Jeff Teague (0) during the second quarter of an NBA basketball game at Philips Arena, Sunday, Nov. 7, 2010, in Atlanta. (AP Photo/Gregory Smith)

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6 days ago: Phoenix Suns guard Steve Nash (13) drives against Atlanta Hawks guard Jeff Teague (0) during the second quarter of an NBA basketball game at Philips Arena, Sunday, Nov. 7, 2010, in Atlanta. (AP Photo/Gregory Smith)

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And we thought our Suns would be much different than last year's team! HA!

In one respect, the Suns looked like the '09-'10 squad, blowing an 18 point lead in 5.5 minutes in the third quarter. What's more, in the waning seconds, it was looking as though the Suns were primed to lose the game the exact same way they did in Atlanta last year as they clung to a 2 point lead with 8 seconds left and the Hawks in possession.

But this is 2010, people. This time the Suns defense swarmed at a driving Joe Johnson who missed a floater in the lane. It was a free throw shooting contest from there, Suns 118-114

The Suns once again played a strong game with everyone contributing. Steve Nash tallied a season high 15 assists while chipping in 19 points and 5 rebounds. Jason Richardson led all scorers with 21 points, and the Suns bench dropped 46 points while the Hawks reserves managed only 19.

Early on it was a game of runs. The Suns scored 11 straight en route to a 17-8 advantage in the first.  The Hawks responded with a 7-0 run of their own to close the lead to 2. In the second, Hedo Turkoglu keyed a 19-6 run with 8 points, including two 3's and the Suns went up 12, closing the half 61-50.

The Suns defense had been active, and although allowing the Hawks more than 50% shooting, had managed to keep anyone not named Al Horford in check. But in the 3rd, the slumping Joe Johnson exploded for 14 points, while Mike Bibby, and Jamal Crawford joined the 3-point party, draining 6 in the quarter, and erased an 18 point Suns lead.

The 4th was tightly contested. 7 straight Josh Childress points put the Suns up 104-98. But the Hawks scored on 6 consecutive possessions to tie the game at 108 with a minute left. After a Jamal Crawford bucket with 42 seconds left (he missed the 3 that would have given the Hawks their first lead since early in the opening quarter), the Suns called a timeout. Steve Nash found a mismatch with Channing Frye guarded by  Mike Bibby. Frye hit a bank that put the Suns up for good. 

Props

Hedo-11 points, 4 rebounds, 4 assists, 3 3-pointers

Grant-14 points 6 rebounds

Frye-8/2/2, 2 big 3's and a big 2 over Bibby in crunch time

J-Chill-11 points, 6 rebounds, 2 assists in his return to the ATL

Dudz-15 points, 6 rebounds

Commentary

Can you feel this team growing stronger and more confident? The word Chemistry was murdered in the preseason, but I think it's clear that Alvin Gentry and every one of the Phoenix Suns weren't only talking about whether the guys went out to eat together after a game or whether Nash and Hedo could play the two man game. Chemistry encompasses much more. This team is growing more confident individually, but most importantly, they are gaining faith and trust with one another. These past two games have been against non-elite squads, and that certainly helps. Yet the Grizzlies and Hawks are not bad NBA teams. 

 

  • Hedo is starting to put it together, his legs seem less tired, and he isn't worrying so much about getting out of Nash's way. 
  • Nash had 2 TO's against 15 assists. If he had tired legs, he found a way to get them energized. Tonight he wasn't forcing things the way he was in the first 4-5 games. Further, if you dish 15 assists out, there's a good chance you and your teammates are on the same page. 
  • The WarMachine is making a difference. He only dropped 6 tonight but he is playing a vital role, his 2 man game has been excellent, and his athleticism is certainly needed. 
  • Remember when we were worried about Jason Richardson? No longer. He is playing All-Star caliber basketball and has been since midway through last season. 
  • Channing Frye played an excellent defensive game against Memphis a couple nights ago, and tonight he hit a couple of big 3's. His shot will continue to improve, and while we probably won't see 150 3's this season, his early showings on the defensive end and ability to play in the paint are arguably more important than his normal stand at the top of the key and wait for Nash to pass from last season, not to mention '09-10's obvious shortcomings on the defensive end. 
  • Dragon is very, very good. Playing confident, energetic. Did you see him early on in the game get the ball in the corner, look down to make sure his feet were beyond the arc , then calmly fired up a 3? That's some serious confidence if you're asking me.

And lastly, if you were on the thread tonight, you probably read Seth's comment on Robin Lopez. The reports are that Robin is struggling in main part due to his back. I'm paraphrasing obviously, but it makes a lot of sense, and if you have  a condition with your spine (I do), you can understand that overcoming an injury like this is both mental and physical, not unlike Amare returning from his knee issues. Even if you are playing without pain, there is a hesitance that comes with attempting to move in a specific way. You doubt you can do something, so you do not try to do it. It's probably a poor explanation, but if you've been through it, you know what it's like...

Next up tomorrow, the Grizz again. Get some sleep, people it could go to two overtimes again.

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Phoenix Suns Fill Up Box Score In Win Over Atlanta Hawks, 118-114 - SB Nation Arizona
The Suns offensive formula is starting to take form this season with the secret sauce being a nice blend of balance from both the starting five and the bench five. Every one of the ten Suns players that were on the court scored at least five points and Phoenix had six players in double figures lead by Jason Richardson's 21 points. Richardson leads the Suns in scoring this season with a 22.8 per game.

Steve Nash, who had been shooting the ball poorly thanks to self-described "tired legs", found the range in this game. He finished with 19 points on 7-of-11 shooting and had a season-high 15 assists. The Suns bench once again was a big part of the Suns' success as they out-scored the Hawks' reserves 46-19 and as a group were 50 percent from the field.


 

 

Phoenix Suns 10-11 Season Game  #6




 

 

 

@

 

Atlanta-hawks_medium

2-36-0
Phillips Arena
November 7, 2010, 5:00 PM
TV: AZ 45, Radio KTAR 620
Probable starters:
Steve Nash PG Mike Bibby
Jason Richardson SG Joe Johnson
Grant Hill SF Jason Collins
Hedo Turkoglu PF Josh Smith
Robin Lopez C Al Horford

Today your Phoenix Suns play in Atlanta against the undefeated Hawks. The Hawks are 6-0  while their opponents combined record thus far has been 8-25. I am not hinting that the start is a fluke. Er, maybe it is. But the Hawks have brought back a nice core of players:  Joe Johnson (18/5/4), Josh Smith (13 and 9),  Al Horford (15 and 10), the declining Mike Bibby (11 and 4), and 6th man Jamal Crawford (17 ppg, 41% FG, 35% 3pt).

The Suns are coming off a hard fought W against the Memphis Grizzlies which saw some improbable occurrences (all involving Jason Richardson) coupled with some excellent team play. Today the Suns will need to bring the same kind of effort to keep the active Horford and Smith off the boards, while working the perimeter D to keep Johnson and Crawford in check.

In all honesty I would like this matchup much more if it wasn't an early start. While the Suns biological clocks will be at 2 PM, the 5 PM EST start may prove to difficult to deal with. I expect a slow start, but I've been wrong before. Very wrong. Some key questions:

 

  • Can Hedo put two strong games together back to back? Can he play PF? Can he play PF? I mean really.
  • Will Robin Lopez be a non-factor as he has been for arguably most of the 5 game season?
  • Has Steve Nash overcome the TLS (tired leg syndrome?)
  • Will J-Chill get some extra minutes and dominate his former employer?
  • Does J-Rich have a sore right arm from hoisting up 29 shots 2 nights ago?
There are no doubt more questions to be answered, but this is a very winnable game for PHX.

 

And onto the game....Check some ATL news

ATL to Deal Josh Smith (Peachtree Hoops)? 

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Suns 118, Hawks 114 PHOENIX — The Phoenix Suns knew they would likely be taking a November road trip to face the best team in the Eastern Conference. They just figured it would go down in a...

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Amare who?  (Photo by Christian Petersen/Getty Images)

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Amare who? (Photo by Christian Petersen/Getty Images)

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It's only been 5 games, but we can start to see trends even this early, at least in terms of how the Suns have started the season vs. the rest of the league.

An important component of effective offense is shot distribution. As a general rule, the closer you are to the rim, the more likely you are to make the basket. This resulted in a rim-oriented league where size mattered more than anything else.

In an effort to open up the game, the NBA instituted a rule a couple decades ago whereby the lowest-% shots can be worth 50% more points. Now, if you can make a shot 23+ feet away from the basket, it's worth 3 points whereas a shot 22 feet away is worth only 2 points.

As a result, the best offense employs a preponderence of their shots "at the rim" and 23+ feet away from it.

And conversely, the best defenses force the opponent to shoot somewhere in between. 

The Suns are actually doing pretty well on both fronts.

Check it.

Here's a pretty picture from hoopdata.com, followed by an easy-to-follow summarization.

Suns-efg-2010-2011-aft-5-gms_medium

(click on the pic to make it bigger)

Okay yeah, the column headers are loaded with fancy dancy acronym/abbreviation mumbo jumbo. Don't let it give you a headache.

Here's what it means:

Phoenix Suns Offensive Summary: this picture says that, after 2 weeks of the NBA season, the Suns' offense should be the second-best in the league behind Denver. And the only reason the Suns are not 2nd is because half a dozen other teams are shooting way above average.

This statistic is determined by comparing the Suns' shot distribution (Effective Field Goal Percentage, or XeFG%, on shots based on distance from rim) to the rest of the league.

  • 30.9% of their shots are right at the rim via dunks/tips (%Rim) vs. league average of 27.5%
  • 12.3% of their shots from 1-9 feet away (%Short) vs. league average of 16%
  • 10.5% from 10-15 feet away (%Mid) vs. league average of 9.2%
  • 18.0% from 15-22 feet away (%Long) vs. league average of 24.9%
  • 28.4% from 3-pt range (%3P) vs. league average of 22.4%
  • Overall, 59.3% of the Suns' shots are the best value on the floor (at the rim, or from 3-pt range)
Phoenix Suns Defensive Summary: Conversely, the Suns are forcing their opponents into lower-value shots. The right half of that fancy picture shows how the Suns' opponents have distributed their own shots, which are much more in line with the league average distribution. 

In fact, if the Suns can keep this up ("this" being their opponents' shot distribution) over the course of the season, the Suns should boast the 6th-best initial defense in the league (the OXeFG% column). The Suns are enticing their opponents to shoot more mid-range shots than 3-ptrs (28.8% of their opponents' shots are from 15-23 feet away vs. only 20.9% from 3-pt range).

At the moment, the Suns are somewhere between 19-23 on defensive efficiency. this is partially because their opponents are shooting above average on those mid-range shots (which will likely regress in the Suns' favor). And other comromising factor is the sheer volume of offensive rebounds surrendered (which won't regress in the Suns' favor).


How does this team compare to last year?

Not bad, actually. Look at last season here:
Suns-efg-2009-2010_medium

Last season, with he-who-must-not-be-apostrophied, the Suns took roughly the same number of shots "at the rim" and a bit fewer from behind the 3-pt line. 

Defensively, the Suns allowed more "long 2s" than 3-pointers - again pretty much in line with the league average.

Bottom line
The Suns are not as bad as some people might think. They take better shots than their opponent, which should result in a lot more wins than losses over the course of the season.

So far this season, the Suns' opponents have shot a lot better than they should (51.8% actual effective field goal percentage vs. 48.3% Expected). That won't last over the course of 82 games.


One final interesting stat:
Look at the league average on shots "at the rim" (%Rim) between this season and last season. For some reason, the entire NBA is attempting fewer dunks and tips (27.5% vs. 32.5%).

Is this a trend, or an anomaly? Who knows. It's interesting nonetheless. You'd think that at the start of the year, blown defensive assignments would be rampant and dunk attempts would be higher than normal, rather than lower.




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