The Suns look to build on their momentum as the team finally appears to be playing up to the level of their talent under the new management. Despite the brio and vim from the new look Suns, dubiety still abounds that this may just be a "jolt" instead of a perdurable change. Tonight may evince whether this is truly the birth of a renascent Suns team rising back to prominence or simply the effects of the proverbial dead coach bounce.

I know I'm intrigued.


When: Saturday, January 26, 2013, 6:30 PM local time (8:30 EST)

Where: AT&T Center, San Antonio, Texas

Watch/Listen: TV: FSAZ, Radio: 620 KTAR


Last Meeting:

This is the first meeting between the two teams this season. The teams last met at US Airways Center on April 25th in the last regular season game of the 2011-12 season. The Spurs reserves dispatched the Suns 110-106 as Gregg Popovich rested his star triumvirate.

It was somewhat fitting that Steve Nash's last game as a Sun was against the Spurs, who took great satisfaction in thwarting Phoenix's championship aspirations on multiple occasions during the Nash era.


Team Bios:

San Antonio Spurs: 35-11

Points per game: 104.1 (3rd) Points allowed: 96.0 (9th)

Injuries: Tim Duncan (knee) and Gregg Popovich (flu) did not travel with the team to Dallas yesterday... which means they will both be rested for tonight.

The Spurs are coming off of a 113-107 win over Dallas in a game that wasn't as close as the score indicates. Tony Parker led the way with 23 points and 10 assists.

The Spurs continue to steamroll at a familiar clip for a team that has won at least 50 games in 13 consecutive seasons (beginning after they won the NBA Championship in the lockout shortened 1998-99 season). The regular season has turned into a perfunctory process that exists only as an annual obstacle in the way of San Antonio's quest to reconcile recent postseason mishaps.

The Spurs have won seven straight and are pacing for 62 wins on the season, which would tie for the second most in franchise history. Tim Duncan and Tony Parker, who were both named as reserves to the Western Conference All-Star team, still do most of the heavy lifting, but the roster is deep and talented.


Phoenix Suns: 15-28

Points per game: 95.6 (18th) Points allowed: 99.4 (T-21st)

Injuries: Jermaine O'Neal (irregular heartbeat)

After a 2-13 stretch the Suns are now winners of two straight. A rare road victory (the Suns are now 4-17 on the road) over the Kings was followed up by a nationally televised triumph at home against the wounded Clippers. Even more bizarre, the Suns have won consecutive road games after losing 12 straight prior to that.

Lindsey Hunter gets to try his beginner's luck in a more difficult venue as the Suns encounter an adversary that has an uncanny knack for breaking the Suns spirit.

Goran Dragic returns to the scene of the crime and can hopefully relive some of the heroics that endeared him to Suns fans during the 2010 playoff run.


What To Watch For:

Lindsey Hunter: All eyes are still on the new guy. Until the novelty wears off Lindsey is going to be under a great deal of scrutiny.

Tim Duncan: Will Pop give his big man another night off figuring he can recruit an elderly couple from the stands capable of vanquishing the Suns? We've seen him rest players against the Suns (and other teams) for precautionary reasons (sometimes combined with the ulterior motive of insulting his opposition).



With a win, new Suns head coach Lindsey Hunter can tie Butch van Breda Kolff for 14th place in all-time Suns coaching victories with three. Next on the list would be Dick Van Arsdale with 14.

The Spurs have only one loss to a sub .500 team this year. They lost 95-88 at New Orleans on January 7th.

The Spurs 8.5 differential between ORtg (109.1) and DRtg (100.6) is the best since their last title in 2006-07 when they put up eerily similar numbers - 9.3 differential between ORtg (109.2) and DRtg (99.9).


2013 Lottery Watch

The Suns are currently in 6th place in the race for the #1 seed in the lottery. The two consecutive wins have put the Suns in risk of slipping all the way to 11th in the coming week.

Last night's big wins:

Cavaliers (12-32) beat Bucks 113-108 - Cavs have won 3 of 4.

Wizards (10-31) beat Timberwolves 114-101 - Wizards are 5-3 since John Wall's return.

!!!Congratulations!!! The Charlotte Bobcats (10-32) have taken over worst place!

Tonight's slate:

Cavaliers (12-32) at Raptors (16-27)

Bulls (26-16) at Wizards (10-31)

Timberwolves (17-23) at Bobcats (10-32)

Kings (16-27) at Nuggets (26-18)


The Final Word(s):

Although most Suns fans relish every victory against the Spurs, I will attest with certitude that most Spurs fans don't reciprocate this feeling... mostly because they've owned our ass and beat us in damn near every meaningful game over the last decade. Tonight we take our revenge! Or not.

I have actually grown to respect the Spurs. From organization, to coach, to players they are what the Suns should be trying to emulate as they reconstruct this franchise from its current shambles. If both teams were still good I'd be emotionally invested in the outcome, like I was for so many of the games in this series in recent years, but it really just doesn't feel the same anymore. It's actually kind of awkward. Like when you and your girlfriend break up and your life falls apart and then you run into her and she's happier than you've ever seen her and you go home and crawl into the closet with the lights off and cry yourself to sleep (speaking purely metaphorically, not from personal experience). That kind of awkward.

I'll leave you with this from general Phil Sheridan, who was posted in Texas after the Civil War: "If I owned hell and Texas, I'd rent out Texas and live in hell."

At least general Sheridan would rather live here than Texas. Take that Spurs!

Time: Spurs 108, Suns 99 TV: FSAZ Lindsey Hunter, 2-0 as a head coach, will likely face another undefeated coach Saturday when the Phoenix Suns play the Spurs in San Antonio. Spurs acting head coach...

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Phoenix Suns Podcast Episode 6.5


"Defense wins you championships!" James Naismith, 1898.

Ok, James Naismith did not actually say that when he invented [stole the idea for] the sport of basketball.

The only reason I suggest Naismith said this is because it seems as though this cliché has been around since the dawn of the game that Lambert Will actually created.

But does that fact make this cliché true?

If you asked Mike O’Antoni [because there really shouldn't be a "D" in his name], that is hogwash. The Lakers next casualty, along with a bevy of new wave "AAU" style coaches would have you believe the opposite. Their claim would be that the object of the game is to outscore your opponent.

Thus the cliché, "the best defense is a good offense!"

We either are at a crossroads with what to believe, or simply that you can find a cliché for anything, especially in sports.

So which is it? Does defense win championships as Charles Barkley suggests, or does outscoring your opponent get the job done, as Paul Westhead would have you believe?

What about both? Some would suggest that the simplification of combining both ideologies is obvious. Well, you know what William of Ockham said after he shaved…

The fact is, you can make good arguments for both philosophies, and you might even be able to prove them and disprove the other. That’s the problem; both arguments can be proven and dis-proven to a degree. That is why they call it philosophy, and why a lot of people drop that class due to the migraines from over-thinking.

So in regards to basketball, which is correct, because nobody likes being wrong and everyone likes being right? Any answer that lies in the middle is just not acceptable.

Let’s oversimplify then, shall we?

If you could score 1 point, and keep the other team from scoring, you win! What does that mean? It means you need to, at the very least, score a point, so you need to be able to score. Yeah Offense!

But wait a second! Don’t you also need to ensure that the other team does not score more than you, requiring you to stop the other team? That would be defense. Yeah Defense!

Some argue that it isn't about winning or losing, but about being fun to watch. Certainly an offensive onslaught is a lot of fun, especially compared to a grind it out defensive juggernaut. Yeah Offense!

Yet others would say, who chants "Offense! Offense! Offense!"? Nobody, that is who. Yeah Defense!

Does the truth lie somewhere in between?

I have coached somewhere around 28 teams [not really sure of the exact number, have to count] and have had offensive oriented teams, defensive oriented teams, teams that could do both well [i like those teams] and teams that couldn't do either [ugh!].

Looking back at my experience from those seasons helps me develop my thoughts on the philosophy of offense versus defense. Certainly teams that could play on both ends of the floor were very successful teams, while those that were not particularly skilled on either end struggled mightily. Taking those situations out of the equation, what can we learn from the teams that leaned one way or the other?

My teams that played well on offense, but not so on D, could at times blow opponents out in spectacular fashion. When we were rolling on the offensive end, it would seem we were unbeatable. Shots were falling and forced teams into scrambling around trying to focus on stopping us, which would prove the adage that our offense was our best defense. Making a high percentage of shots allowed us to avoid getting beat in transition, put the opponent on their heels, and frankly demoralized them which also played into their lack of confidence on the other end of the floor. YEAH OFFENSE!

Unfortunately, at times those teams would also get blown out of the gym themselves. When our shots weren’t falling, we would start to force the action, resulting in easy transition opportunities by our opponents. We were on our heels trying to get back to stop the other team from getting easy looks. Our heads were down and we were demoralized. There were games against inferior teams we shouldn't have lost, and then games against superior teams we probably shouldn't have won. You never knew which team would show up, and were inconsistent in terms of wins/losses and frankly effort. They were also frustrating teams.

I have also had teams that were not offensively proficient, yet were defensively skilled. While looking at it from a pure wins/losses perspective, I am not sure the record of the defensive team was that much different than the offensive team [although I think on the whole, my defensive teams did win slightly more games]. Yet from a competitive standpoint, one thing was very clear; my defensive oriented teams competed much better than my offensive oriented teams, and it was not even close. Sure, we would lose games, but I don’t think we were ever blown out. In fact, in many of the games we lost, we had chances to win, but couldn't pull it out [ironically enough due to our lack of ability to score].

From game to game, it was much easier to predict outcomes based on the level of our opponent. Unlike the offensive oriented teams, our ability to defend was consistent. There weren’t games where we were not effective on that end of the floor, and that allowed us to stay close with superior teams. Our inability to play well offensively would certainly be the blame for the losses, yet we competed on a much higher, more consistent level. While there were frustrations, these teams were much more enjoyable to coach because they players put in great effort and you can’t get too down when your players do that.

The conclusions I draw from these experiences have shaped my philosophy. If you have a team that is good enough to compete for a championship, it is impossible to do so without proficiency on both ends of the floor. Sure, a very skilled offensive, but mediocre defensive team may compile a very daunting record [or vise versa]. However, my experiences with those teams showed that at the point where you are in playoff competition, teams have weeded the weaker element out of the tournament and your team will face only very good basketball teams from that point on. If you are deficient on one end of the floor, regardless of the fact you might have handily beaten almost every opponent that regular season, the top two or three teams in the league will challenge you because they are probably equal to you or better on one end of the floor or the other.

So, all of that and you say "Both!" Jason?

Well, yes!

But I will say this… Defense may not necessarily win you a championship, but it will absolutely allow you to compete. Offense may make your games fun and exciting, and you might even blow some people out.

CLICHÉ WARNING: William Osler said, "What is the student but a lover courting a fickle mistress who ever eludes his grasp?" I think the mistress he was talking about is offense.

There are many things that can affect your ability to score. You can be having a good or bad night. Your confidence can be diminished. The defense might match up well against what you do. Any number of things can cause your offensive game to tank from one game to the next.

Defense is constant. It is a mentality of competing. Sure, you might physically be tired or injured, but from a mental standpoint, defense relies less on confidence and feel, and more on aggression and effort. Those two things allow teams to compete at a high level.

When it comes to a team that is bad at both, it is much more appropriate to focus on the defensive end of the floor, because watching a team consistently compete hard every game is better than watching a team that looks good one night and is embarrassing the next, when record-wise there is not much difference in wins and losses.

For a better part of the last decade, Suns fans have endured this debate. Charles Barkley was proven correct, as he noted so boisterously on last night's TNT telecast, about the fact that an all offense, little defense philosophy is fun but gets you nowhere. While nobody brought up the fact that all defense and little offense is no fun and gets you nowhere, it does illustrate exactly why the Suns front office deems it important to inject defense into their culture.

But doing so takes more than saying so. It will be interesting to see the ongoing changes that will be made to begin the transition into a more defensive mindset. Part of that means forgoing players that can score in favor of player that defend. It remains to be seen whether that philosophy will actually translate onto the court and into rotations. Certainly guys like Beasley, Brown, Johnson, Morris and Marshal, all not known to be even adequate defenders, would likely see less floor time than guys like Dudley, Dragic, Tucker, Scola and O'Neal, who all have shown a tendency to put more effort to that end of the floor. Alvin Genrty finally figured that out by going to a lineup of Dragic, Dudley, Tucker, Scola and Gortat. We shall see whether that lineup dominates and holds it's rightful spot under the Hunter regime and whether they are going to be true to their word about defense, or if it is all just words.


For all the hoopla about the melodrama in the Valley the Phoenix Suns took care of business on the court winning back-to-back games in Lindsey Hunter's debut week of coaching in the NBA.

The Phoenix Suns (14-28) finally got some good news to mix in with all of the negative backlash this week both local and national. They took their show on the road knocking off the Sacramento Kings 106-96 for only their 4th road win on the season and now they come right back just 24 hours later to host the Pacific Division leading Los Angeles Clippers (32-11).

In the long arguous marathon that is an NBA season every team has their fair share of back-to-back situations.

This is one of those situations after being on the road last night. On the season the team has played in eight total back-to-back games going 1-7 overall on the back end. If I looked at every team in the league I am sure there are very few that win the second game on a back-to-back especially with travel involved. The only win was at Chicago to end their last road trip.

Granted this is a new coaching staff with an energized team that may come together in the aftermath of all of the moves and drama that was this past week, a back-to-back doesn't get any easier.

To a finer point this is another game against a divisional opponent. Through the first six games (2-4) the Suns fared well against the Kings (2-0), but have dropped every game to the other three who have winning records. Looking at the schedule -- including tonight -- there are 10 more games against their divisional foes. An opportunity to salvage some pride from one of the worst seasons in franchise history.

The last time the Suns finished under .500 in the Pacific Division was the 2003-2004 season. At this point they would need to go 6-4 or better to avoid that dubious distinction this season.

(Recent) History Lesson

This season the teams have locked up twice. Once in Los Angeles (99-117 loss) and once in Phoenix (77-103 loss), both with very similar results.

In each game Griffin and Crawford scored over 20 points while Paul directed the offense with a double-double. Those three combined with great defense, causing turnovers, and running up-and-down the floor were the Suns demise.

Head-to-Head (past four seasons)

Suns: 103.57 PPG (10 wins)

Clippers: 100.28 PPG (4 wins)

Head-to-Head (career)

Blake Griffin vs. Suns: 21.7 PPG 10.0 RPG 52.1 FG% (10 games)

Jamal Crawford vs. Suns: 16.6 PPG 4.2 APG 43.4 FG% 31.7 3PT% (25 games)

Michael Beasley vs. LAC: 20.2 PPG 5.2 RPG 53.8 FG% 51.6 3PT% (11 games)

One thing about Michael Beasley is that he has always played well against the Clippers, including this year when he came out like a house on fire torching the Clippers in the first half of the first meeting. He tapered off in the second and the Suns lost, but he has the ability to put up points against this club.

Starting Line-Ups

PG - Goran Dragic v. Eric Bledsoe

SG - Jared Dudley v. Willie Green

SF - P.J. Tucker v. Caron Butler

PF - Luis Scola v. Blake Griffin

C - Marcin Gortat v. DeAndre Jordan

Potential Suns Inactives: Jermaine O'Neal (Undisclosed Injury/Illness)

Potential Clippers Inactives: Chris Paul (Right Knee), Chauncey Billups (Left Foot), and Trey Thompkins (Left Knee)

Key Match-Up

Luis Scola vs. Blake Griffin

This season Blake Griffin has become a much better all-around offensive threat and it has showed in the two games this season as he scored 23.5 PPG on 62.1% shooting from the field. He is not going against the best defensive front court in the league, but in Luis Scola he faces a frustrating opponent.

Scola is an aggitator that can get under his opponents skin. Just ask DeMarcus Cousins, Carlos Boozer, and, well Blake Griffin.

In order for the Suns to have a competitive edge in this game Scola has to use his fouls wisely, not allow Griffin to score as easy as he has, and put him on the free-throw line where he is shooting 60.3% (59.9% on the road) career. This season he has improved to 65.4% (63.8% on the road) career, which is a improvement, but still very low for a contact player like Griffin.

I wanted to go with Luke Zeller and Ryan Hollins just to get them in the preview, but this did the trick just the same.

Interesting Stat: 17 and 12

The Clippers speed up every team and get them out of their comfort zone, that is why they are so good this season. With the Suns in particular they force an average of 17 turnovers per game and rack up 12 steals along the way. Both are above the season average for the Clippers so those perimeter defenders lick their chops when the Suns come up on the schedule.

Meaningless Stat: .500

For his career as a head coach Vinny del Negro has been .500 (7-7) dating back to his time as the head coach of the Chicago Bulls. There is that.

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