After losing in LA Friday night to drop to 12-19, the Suns get another crack at the Lakers in Phoenix tonight. Struggling teams who want to get well always have a team to play in the Suns, and Friday night's game had the LA Times celebrating the Lakers improvement on offense as they scored a season-high 111 points led by Kobe Bryant's 36. The Lakers' bench, also a problem area for them, came to life with 34 points.
As for the Suns, they're simply not a good basketball team, having lost 5 of their last 6 games and languishing in the #13 spot in the West. The reasons are many:
- Poor bench play, especially at point guard.
- Improved, but still below average defense.
- Subpar spot up shooting from wing players.
- Lack of go-to plays/players in crunch time.
That list isn't comprehensive but it's enough to start with. For the Suns to win games against quality opponents will take all the breaks falling their way and lots of open outside shots to fall. We could say that the Suns have a puncher's chance, but their punching abilities are more on the welterweight level now, as opposed to the Mike Tyson knockouts this team used to be able to deliver.
To be a rivalry, each team has to win from time to time, right? How about tonight, Suns?The last time the Suns beat the Lakers was November 14, 2010. Jason Richardson led the way with 30 points, Hedo Turkoglu chipped in 17, Channing Frye hit for 20 off the bench and the Suns made 22-40 3-point shots in a 121-116 win. The win gave the Suns a winning record (what's that??) at 5-4 and provided one of the few high points of last season.
Richardson and Turkoglu are gone, of course, and Frye's shooting has run hot and cold this season but, as Alex astutely noted, the Suns need to improve their spot up shooting to have a chance to win games. To win tonight, they'll need big performances from Jared Dudley, Michael Redd, Frye, Grant Hill and even Shannon Brown. Those players combined for 4-18 3-point shooting in the Suns 111-99 loss Friday night.
The Lakers are still all Kobe, all the time and Grant Hill will be working hard on defense to at least make it difficult for him. He'll get his points anyway, but the Suns held Lakers big men Andrew Bynum and Pau Gasol to only 27 points combined on Friday and it will be an achievement if they can replicate that.
Marcin Gortat played another strong game Friday night with 21 points and 16 rebounds. Nash and Gortat's pick and roll game is working just fine but the Suns have too many other flaws for it to carry them to wins. What fluky, freak occurrence can the Suns get to pull out a win tonight? A terrible Kobe shooting performance? An explosive scoring night from Shannon Brown? A Robin Lopez sighting?
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Bill Cartwright Tribute at USF
Suns assistant coach Bill Cartwright was honored at the University of San Francisco versus Gonzaga game in SF last night. The leading scorer in USF history was in attendance at War Memorial Gym, fans wore replica #24 Cartwright jerseys, and the Dons beat a ranked Gonzaga team in a thrilling 66-65 upset. USF's other legendary basketball alum? BIll Russell.