The Phoenix Suns have to be considered the surprise team of the early season. With a 6-1 record, including a road win in Boston, they're in driver's seat in the Pacific Division, tied with the Lakers but getting road games in the win column early on. Nash is playing at MVP level again, Amare is back. Channing Frye is suddenly an offensive weapon. This is a tough matchup for the Sixers, without a doubt. There are a few buts, we'll get into them after the jump.
- But #1: The Suns aren't young. Steve Nash and Grant Hill are on the wrong side of 35 and the team depends on both of them to play 30+ minutes every night.
- But #2: The Suns played last night. Nash played almost 35 minutes, Hill played just over 33. Amare played over 40.
- But #3: The Suns play at a break-neck pace (2nd in the league at 98.4 pos/48 min. This should play into the Sixers hands, since they won't have to maintain defense for the entire shot clock.
- But #4: The Suns turn the ball over a ton. 5th-worst in the league at 18.1% of all possessions end in turnovers.
- But #5: M16 owns the Suns. Last year, amid Amare trade rumors, Speights ran all over the Suns in a win at the Wach. 24 points in 24 minutes on 11/16 from the floor. He then dominated them in the preseason less than a month ago, twice. I think he likes playing against Amare.
Nothing in the Sixers play indicates that they will even make a game out of this. They've been horrible on both sides of the ball, they've let their opponents dictate the pace in every single game. They've been neither efficient nor inspired. Home-court advantage seems like a bit of a misnomer when you're playing in a half-full arena. Something needs to give for this team. We knew the road would be bumpy in the early going as the team tried to grasp the nuances of the Princeton offense (or maybe even just the basics), but I definitely didn't expect to see basketball of this sort.
Perhaps a win tonight will would energize the team. Maybe tonight is the night they wake up and start playing as a unit on both ends. I'm not optimistic, but I suppose it could happen.
One last note, Jrue Holiday has been ignored, for the most part, since the beginning of the preseason. Only once has he played more than 22 minutes in a game. That game was played on October 16th against these very Suns. In that game, Jrue played 30 minutes, finished 5/9 from the floor for 14 points with 7 rebounds, 6 assists, 1 steal and only 2 turnovers. If the team was playing well, I'd probably be less concerned with Jrue's minutes, but honestly, they can't play much worse. The kid had enormous success vs. the Suns in the preseason, so I'm hoping he gets another opportunity tonight. I don't see what damage giving him Royal Ivey's 10 minutes could do.
- Frye guarding Brand. (Huge strength advantage to EB, they need to capitalize)
- Williams vs. Nash, Nash vs. Williams (both dynamic offensive players, both phantom defenders. My money is on Nash to do a better job exploiting it on the offensive end)
- Thad Young guarding Grant Hill (the wily veteran has more sneaky moves than you can shake a stick at. I think Thad will have a problem sticking with him)
Keys to The Game: Nothing shocking here, three-point defense and cleaning the defensive glass.
If _______________ the Sixers will win: Elton Brand attempts 15 shots.