When: Tonight 7:00PM MST/ 9:00PM EST
Where: US Airways Center Phoenix, AZ
Watch: FSNAZ (Locally), NBA League Pass
Tonight, the 2-3 Phoenix Suns will take on the 2-3 Cleveland Cavaliers at home in the US Airways Center in Phoenix, AZ. After a disappointing loss to the Orlando Magic, an expected loss to the Miami Heat, and just barely holding on to win against the Charlotte Bobcats all during their first road trip of the season, the Suns need to regroup at home and pull out a win against a very beatable Cavs team.
The Suns' starting unit has been fairly consistent overall. However, the second unit has been mostly a disappointment thus far. However, Shannon Brown sprung to life against Charlotte and may prove to be just what the Suns need...a go-to scorer off the bench. But will Brown be able to do this consistently?
The Cavaliers will be anchored by the trio of PG Kyrie Irving, PF/C Tristan Thompson, and rookie sensation SG Dion Waiters, along with SF Alonzo Gee and PF Samardo Samuels making up the starting five. This is assuming that Anderson Varejao, who suffered a bruised knee against the Los Angeles Clippers on Monday night will not play.
In fact, the Cavs will likely be without both of their centers tonight. Both Anderson Varejao and Tyler Zeller were injured on Monday night against the Golden State Warriors, and neither played Wednesday night. Zeller will remain out for tonight's game with concussion symptoms, and it's doubtful Varejao will be ready to play tonight either.
Marcin Gortat vs. Tristan Thompson: If Varejao is a no go for tonight, the Cavs will likely start Tristan Thompson in his place like they did against the Golden State Warriors on Wednesday night. Although Thompson played very well at the position against the Warriors, registering 11 points and 10 rebounds, Gortat...or should I say Gor-blocka is playing at a different level right now, and should provide a very favorable mismatch for the Suns in this case. The Polish Eraser is averaging a league high 4.2 blocks per game to go along with his 15 point, 11 rebound averages. The Suns should win this match-up handily.
Jared Dudley/Shannon Brown vs. Dion Waiters: Dudley has been in somewhat of a shooting slump lately, and with the way Shannon Brown played against Charlotte Wednesday night, reeling off six straight 3-pointers during crunch time in the fourth quarter, it makes one wonder if Alvin Gentry may opt to give Brown a few more minutes with the starters as well. Either way, whoever ends up having to match up against rookie SG Dion Waiters will have their work cut out for them. Waiters is averaging 15 points per game, and scored 28 points against the LA Clippers on Monday.
Goran Dragic vs. Kyrie Irving: This should be the marquee match-up of the night in my opinion. Kyrie Irving has been everything the Cavs had hoped he would be when they selected him with the first pick in the 2011 draft. Irving is averaging 24 points, 6 assists, and 4 rebounds per game, and is dangerous from anywhere on the court. However, the Suns have a pretty good point guard of their own. While Dragic's stats aren't quite as impressive as Irving's, the Dragon's 14 points, 8 assists, and 3 rebounds per game is nothing to sneeze at, and he is a better defender than Irving. This should be an interesting match-up to keep an eye on tonight. If Dragic can keep Irving in check, the Suns should win this game handily.
Michael Beasley vs. Alonzo Gee: The Suns' reported interest in signing Alonzo Gee last off-season may have been a diversion, or a possibility that was passed over in favor of other options. Either way, it seems the Suns made the right decision, at least so far, in choosing both Shannon Brown and Michael Beasley as their free agent wings. Shannon Brown was given most of the credit for winning Wednesday night's game against the Bobcats, but Michael Beasley had his best game as a Phoenix Sun registering 21 points, 15 rebounds, 7 assists, and 3 blocks. Beasley has impressed with his progress as not only a scorer, but a play maker as well. Alonzo Gee is a fairly good defender, but either way you slice it, this should be a very favorable match-up for the Suns to take advantage of tonight.
This is a game the Suns should win, and they need to stay focused enough to do so. The Cavaliers are down two very talented big men, and the Suns' center has been one of the best in the NBA thus far; there's no reason they shouldn't dominate in the paint and on the glass.
If the Suns want to prove they are better than a bottom rung team which most analysts believe they are, they must start by winning games like this one at home. The Suns just need to get a win tonight...anyway they can.
As was pointed out in the comments of the game recap, I've been pretty hard on this team. The reality is, I don't expect them to make a lot of noise this year and am not the least bit surprised that they are struggling early. Many of us said before the season that success will be measured more in progress than in W's and there's definitely nuggets of progress buried in the poop if you're willing to dig a bit.
Before praising the good, the two most disappointing things five games in have been the inconsistent effort and the ridiculously poor bench play.
- There's really no excuse for this team not to play hard for 48 minutes. They didn't do it in the home games to start the year. They certainly didn't do it in Orlando although I didn't get that "not trying hard enough" feeling from the Miami or Charlotte games.
- The second unit led by Sebastian Telfair and Shannon Brown finished the season strong last year. It baffles me why they've reverted so far back. Brown is a talented individual -- all these guys are -- but you will never convince me that those shots he's taking are best for the team unless he...well, just never.
- And I have no clue where Bassy's game went, but I hope he finds it because I'm not ready for Kendall Marshall to take the court in meaningful minutes and fail. I'd much rather protect and develop him for a least a few more months before throwing him to the wolves to be mauled and abused.
On the plus side, Marcin Gortat seems to have adjusted his defensive approach from taking charges to blocking shots. He's now blocking many shots. He's leading the NBA with 21 blocks while the number two guys (Roy Hibbert) has 15.
I like it. He's also playing more consistently over the last few games and looks sharp.
In other words, he's playing to his strengths and up to his potential.
Michael Beasley had his best game as a Sun against rookie Michael Kidd-Gilchrist. I expect him to be inconsistent but totally agree with Gentry that he's this team's best hope both for later in the season and years to come. I'm willing to suffer through the bad games if he is willing to play consistently hard and continues to make progress. If the shots aren't falling, he needs to outwork his man on the glass and try hard on defense.
The rotations were much nicer in this game. The much-noted adjustment to put P.J. Tucker on B.J. Mullins in the fourth paid off big time. But even more fun was seeing fewer guys on the court in the first half and an abandonment of the hockey-line full sub rotations in the second and fourth quarters. We'll see if that was a matchup thing or if Gentry has changed his tune.
That was too many words from me. Here's what others are saying:
Despite having two of the most ridiculous goaltends I've ever seen, Byron Mullens has to be the player of the night for the Bobcats. He had a Kobe mindset tonight, even down to trying Bryant's jabstep move at one point. Mullens took no prisoners and apologized for nothing.
Gortat already entered the game as the NBA leader in blocks and now has 21 in five games. "I promised myself that I’ve got to be a better rim protector," Gortat said. "With my athleticism, ability to move laterally and to jump, I’ve got to block more shots. I quit kind of taking those charges. Hopefully, I get more blocks. That’s what we need."
The Suns’ defensive plan was very clear from the outset: 1) Don’t respect Charlotte’s outside shooting. 2) Pack the defense in inside the arc. On paper, this seems like a solid plan.
Some are taking great pleasure in the Suns being ahead of the Lakers in the standings and I'm certainly not going to look the gift horse that is the stuggles in L.A. in the mouth, but at the same time we all know they are going to turn it around. Enjoy it now or dread their improvement to come. That's entirely on your disposition and my amount of sleep and exercise.
2012 NBA standings: Suns tied for third in Pacific Division - SB Nation Arizona
The Los Angeles Lakers are shockingly in last place in the Pacific Division at 1-4 after falling to the Utah Jazz.