After a much needed win against the Los Angeles Lakers last night, the Phoenix Suns will play the second game of a back-to-back at home tonight against John Wall and the Washington Wizards at 7:00 p.m. MST.
The Suns have lost five of their last nine home games, and had lost four games in a row prior to last night's impressive win. But just when you start to think the Suns are finished, they surprise you with a quality win against a tough opponent. The Suns have shown that they can play well together at times, but so far that has proven to be more the exception than the rule; making it difficult to say whether or not the effort and energy the Suns played with at home against the Lakers will be something they can carry forward to tonight.
One thing's for sure though, the 7-24 Wizards have been playing even worse than the 13-19 Suns. However, the Wizards have also shown they can compete with anyone when they are playing well together, as evidenced by their surprise wins against the Oklahoma City Thunder and the Portland Trail Blazers. If Phoenix wants to keep their hopes of landing a playoff spot alive, they need to play with more energy and intensity at home and secure wins against lesser opponents like Washington.
Read on for a look at tonight's game against the lowly Wizards, and what the Suns need to do to continue the success they enjoyed against the Lakers last night.
Here are the Wizards:
|Roger Mason Jr.||23||6.7||0.7||2.3||27.8||0.2||1.2||18.5||0.2||0.2||100.0||0.0||0.5||0.5||0.4||0.3||0.1||0.0||0.2||1.7|
Looking at the stats it's pretty easy to see that John Wall and Nick Young are the driving force of the Washington Wizards, but they do have other substantial contributors in Javale McGee, Jordan Crawford, and Andre Blatche who are all averaging over 10 points a game, along with Rashard Lewis and Trevor Booker who average just under that. And what happened to Roger Mason?
- Steve Nash vs. John Wall - John Wall is one of the most talented young point guards in the league who simply doesn't get much media attention due to playing on the Wizards. Sure, he still makes bad decisions like many other young players, but he's pretty darn good and also happens to be lighting fast and can score the ball with the best of them. His averages of 18.9 points and 7.5 assists a game is up there with the best of them..Well, except for THE best of them, our very own Steve Nash who is averaging 14.5 points and a league best 10.9 assists per game. Wall has the athleticism and the quickness but Steve is still the gold standard for point guards (Advantage Suns)
- Grant Hill vs. Nick Young - Nick Young is the Wizards go-to scorer, and therefor will likely face the wrath of our own Grant Hill. Young is a very capable shooter who can score from anywhere on the court, but at times he's struggled with consistency. If Hill can shut down Young or at least hold him to under his average then Phoenix should have no trouble beating the Wizards. But how will Hill respond after playing heavy minutes guarding Kobe Bryant last night? Will he also continue to score efficiently even with tired legs? Because of those questions I have to give a slight edge to Nick Young on this match-up, but that could certainly change if Grant comes out hot. (Advantage Wiz)
- Marcin Gortat vs. Javale McGee - Although Javale McGee's name is often mentioned for all the wrong reasons, the guy is a formidable opponent and a problem for opposing big men to deal with, especially at the basket where his 7'0" frame and 7'6" wingspan come in handy for grabbing rebounds and blocking shots. McGee is kind of an air-head at times, and his offensive skills (while improving) still seem fairly raw. However, his physical attributes alone have made him one of the best shot blockers in the league and a good rebounder as well, and this will make it difficult for Gortat to be as effective as he's used to around the rim. Still what Marcin lacks for in size and length he more than makes up for with skill and agility as well as a fluid offensive game and a semi-reliable jumper. Gortat is averaging more points and rebounds than McGee, and I expect him to have the edge tonight as long as he isn't too tired from playing over 40 minutes last night. (Advantage Suns)
- Suns' Bench vs. Wizards' Bench - This is one of the tougher match-ups to analyze because the bench play of the Suns has been so inconsistent. Rookie Markieff Morris is probably the most consistent player off the bench for the Suns followed by Michael Redd and then Shannon Brown. The Wizards on the other hand have the talented 6th man Jordan Crawford (whom some of you may remember from the tape of him dunking on Lebron when he was a sophomore at Xavier), as well as Rashard Lewis and Andray Blatche. The bottom line is the Wizards get more production from their back-ups on a consistent basis, so they get the edge here. (Advantage Wiz)
So other than the match-ups, what else can the Suns do to help them win this game? What worked so well for them last night in their surprising win over the Lakers?
I believe the answer to this question is scoring from the wings.
Last night Jared Dudley went off for 25 points, his highest total of the season thus far. Not only that, but in addition to guarding Kobe Bryant, Grant Hill also pumped in 15 points offensively as well. These offensive contributions from our wings were the difference in the game in my opinion, and it is one of the aspects of the game the Suns have been lacking in this season compared to past seasons where they have had more success. We know the Suns can expect consistent production from their starting point guard and center, but they need consistent production from their starting wings to knock down open shots and also open up the lane for the pick and roll, which is still the bread and butter of the offense. If the Suns can get additional scoring from Michael Redd and Shannon Brown off the bench as well, then that will help them even more, but they must continue to get consistent scoring from their starting wings in order to win games.
The Suns were determined to get a win at home last night against one of their biggest rivals; not only to keep the fans interested but also to help with the players' confidence and overall team morale. Let's hope they can ride that wave of momentum back into the arena tonight and take care of business again against a team they should beat.