Portland Trail Blazers at Phoenix Suns Game Preview: More Energy, Hustle

After a disappointing start to the season, the Phoenix Suns looked like they were starting to come together after racking up two wins against the New Orleans Hornets and the Golden State Warriors. The Suns then played against the Dallas Mavericks Wednesday in a game that they lost due to lack of hustle and ability to take care of the ball.

Tonight the Suns return to Phoenix to face another likely Western Conference playoff team, the Portland Trailblazers, in an attempt to regain their momentum. This will not be easy however, as the Trailblazers are currently (5-1) after an impressive win against the Lakers last night. Portland has already notched wins against some other pretty tough opponents as well, including the Philadelphia 76ers, Oklahoma City Thunder, and the Denver Nuggets, all of whom the Suns have already lost to. If the Suns are going to get a much needed win tonight, they will have to come out firing on all cylinders from the start, and maintain their energy and hustle throughout the game.

Will the Suns have what it takes to get a win against Portland tonight? Who knows...but read on anyway as I attempt to breakdown some of the keys for tonight's match-up.

Key Match-ups:

PG - Steve Nash vs. Raymond Felton:


FG 3PT FT Rebounds Misc
G M M A Pct M A Pct M A Pct Off Def Tot Ast TO Stl Blk PF PPG
2011 - Steve Nash 6 29.0 4.5 10.7 42.2 1.3 4.2 32.0 1.2 1.2 100.0 0.7 1.2 1.8 8.7 3.7 0.8 0.0 1.5 11.5


FG 3PT FT Rebounds Misc
G M M A Pct M A Pct M A Pct Off Def Tot Ast TO Stl Blk PF PPG
2011 - Raymond Felton 5 33.8 4.8 11.8 40.7 0.6 3.2 18.8 2.6 3.4 76.5 0.4 3.0 3.4 7.0 3.2 0.6 0.0 2.8 12.8

What jumps out at me when looking at this is how Nash and Felton are performing almost equally so far at least on offense. This has been a fairly good start to the season for Felton while Nash has struggled at times. However, Felton puts forth a much more consistent defensive effort than Nash though, and his larger frame also helps him in this regard. Still, Felton has to play at his best to equal Nash's average performances. When Nash is on his game there is no way Felton can handle him. Advantage Suns


SG - Jared Dudley vs. Wesley Matthews:


FG 3PT FT Rebounds Misc
G M M A Pct M A Pct M A Pct Off Def Tot Ast TO Stl Blk PF PPG
2011 - Jared Dudley 6 32.0 3.8 9.8 39.0 1.2 3.7 31.8 1.8 2.5 73.3 0.8 3.5 4.3 1.7 0.8 0.8 0.2 2.0 10.7


FG 3PT FT Rebounds Misc
G M M A Pct M A Pct M A Pct Off Def Tot Ast TO Stl Blk PF PPG
2011 - Wesley Matthews 5 34.2 5.6 13.0 43.1 1.8 4.6 39.1 2.4 2.8 85.7 1.2 4.0 5.2 1.2 1.6 1.4 0.6 2.4 15.4

Wesley Matthews and Jared Dudley are both very similar type of players. Neither one of them is flashy or athletic, but their smart play and blue-collar hustle are very important to each of their respective teams. Unfortunately, Matthews has been outplaying Dudley so far this season in nearly every category. Dudley hasn't been able to get himself in rhythm yet while Matthews already appears to be in mid-season form. Advantage Blazers

SF - Grant Hill vs. Gerald Wallace


FG 3PT FT Rebounds Misc
G M M A Pct M A Pct M A Pct Off Def Tot Ast TO Stl Blk PF PPG
2011 - Grant Hill 6 27.2 3.8 10.5 36.5 0.0 1.3 0.0 2.0 2.0 100.0 0.8 3.2 4.0 1.7 0.8 0.5 0.7 1.5 9.7


FG 3PT FT Rebounds Misc
G M M A Pct M A Pct M A Pct Off Def Tot Ast TO Stl Blk PF PPG
2011 - Gerald Wallace 5 33.8 5.0 10.0 50.0 0.6 2.2 27.3 3.8 4.2 90.5 1.8 6.2 8.0 1.8 2.0 1.0 0.6 3.2 14.4

Grant Hill is still a valuable part of the Suns team and the best all-around talent on the roster. However, Grant has had a very slow start to the season...partly due to an injured right knee in training camp that he hasn't yet fully recovered from, and partly because of dare I say, age? Gerald Wallace is a lot like Grant Hill in that he's a younger version of the same type of player who uses his body almost recklessly at times and always competes. Wallace is off to a good start this year while Grant is still trying to get his legs under him. Advantage Blazers

PF - Channing Frye vs. Lamarcus Aldridge


FG 3PT FT Rebounds Misc
G M M A Pct M A Pct M A Pct Off Def Tot Ast TO Stl Blk PF PPG
2011 - Channing Frye 6 21.8 2.0 7.2 27.9 0.7 3.3 20.0 1.0 1.2 85.7 1.7 7.0 8.7 1.0 1.2 0.5 0.7 1.7 5.7


FG 3PT FT Rebounds Misc
G M M A Pct M A Pct M A Pct Off Def Tot Ast TO Stl Blk PF PPG
2011 - LaMarcus Aldridge 5 39.4 9.2 18.8 48.9 0.0 0.2 0.0 3.8 5.2 73.1 2.8 4.6 7.4 2.4 2.2 1.0 1.0 3.4 22.2

Channing Frye has been struggling to play a consistent role in the Suns offense while Lamarcus has been sensational. Frye has improved his rebounding, but when he's only shooting 20% from behind the arc he's more of a liability than an asset. Frye has to find a way to be more productive on offense when his shot isn't falling. So far this match-up isn't even close. Strong Advantage Blazers



C - Marcin Gortat vs. Marcus Camby


FG 3PT FT Rebounds Misc
G M M A Pct M A Pct M A Pct Off Def Tot Ast TO Stl Blk PF PPG
2011 - Marcin Gortat 6 25.2 5.0 8.8 56.6 0.0 0.0 0.0 1.3 2.2 61.5 2.0 4.5 6.5 0.2 1.3 0.8 1.5 2.0 11.3


FG 3PT FT Rebounds Misc
G M M A Pct M A Pct M A Pct Off Def Tot Ast TO Stl Blk PF PPG
2011 - Marcus Camby 5 24.4 1.2 3.6 33.3 0.0 0.0 0.0 1.6 2.4 66.7 2.8 6.6 9.4 3.2 1.6 0.8 1.6 2.4 4.0

Marcin Gortat has been one of the lone bright spots for the Suns so far this season. Despite playing with a broken right thumb, Gortat has been the most consistent player on both offense and defense throughout the first five games, and he seems to be getting the hang of playing better with his splint that should be coming off any day now. Camby has still been a very good rebounder and a good defender for the Blazers, but his offense hasn't been up to par. Gortat has to play strong inside to make sure Camby doesn't get his hands on the rebounds, and as long as he can continue to score at a high percentage, This should be an area of strength for the Suns in tonight's game. Advantage Suns

The tale of the tape shows the Blazers have the advantage in this game overall, and I would agree. This doesn't mean that the Suns can't win, they certainly can, but they will have to show significant improvements in their offense tonight if they are going to get this victory. Not only that, they definitely need to increase their energy and effort and play with more consistency in this regard.

The biggest x-factor for the Suns is their bench which has been one of the bright spots on the team; and aside from Jamal Crawford (who has played very well), the Blazers do not have much depth that they can rely on. For the Suns, the play of rookie Markieff Morris, Hakim Warrick, and Robin Lopez have helped this team win games and stay competitive even in most of their defeats. All three of these players had sub-standard performances in their last game vs. the Mavericks, and the Suns will need them to have bounce-back performances against the Blazers if the Suns hope to win tonight. The Suns should also be helped by the fact that Portland is playing a back-to-back.

So far, this Suns team has shown improved defense and rebounding at times, so they should be ok in that department as long as they are playing with energy. However, this team hasn't shown they can consistently maintain an effective, high-scoring offense yet; even though that was the one thing that this team was known for in prior seasons. The improved defense is great, but if the Suns can't get back to doing what they do best, which is scoring more than the other team, then they will have a rough road ahead of them.

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