The Phoenix Suns will play hosts of the San Antonio Spurs tonight as they seek to remain perfect at home. Playing the Spurs is always fun and painful at the same time. Whenever I see their uniforms I can't help but to remember all the times they have broken my heart.
I've been bitter for days because of them. I've punched the wall, yelled at my friends, fought with my significant other, fought with my Mother In Law for fighting with my significant other, screwed up reports at work, I've forgotten important appointments and I've even kicked my dog... and I love my dog.
Interesting enough, I don't have any bad feelings towards them. I've tried to hate them, I've tried to channel my anger and convince myself that they are the bad guys. Nothing. All I feel is respect and admiration. They are disciplined and deadly accurate when running plays on both ends of the floor and all you can do is just shake your head and wish your team would execute in crunch time just like they do.
But this year the Spurs are struggling. They have been playing better as of late but their season has not started the way everyone predicted. Their off season moves looked very good on paper but they have had a hard time adjusting to Pop's system.
I wanted to ask a few questions to the enemy so I contacted Austechspur, fellow blogger from our brother SBN Blog Pounding the Rock, and he was kind enough to answer my inquiries.
His responses after the jump!
P-Sun: The Spurs are 12-9 as of today. You guys are used to a slow start and then picking it up in the middle of the season. Do you feel confident it will happen this year or do you have reasons to be concerned?
AustechSpur: I feel that we have a very good team and that we will get better, but I would be lying if I didn't say I was a little concerned as well. We all thought we would be better at the start of the season and then turn into a juggernaut, which is what you have to be in order to have a chance to win it this year. We have a rather pedestrian 12-9 record with a pretty easy schedule. I think we will pick it up during the season, but we have LOT of picking up to do to get to the top.
P-Sun: It's early in the season but do you feel the off seasonn moves (Richard Jefferson, Antonio McDyess, Keith Bogans) have improved your team?
AustechSpur: It's really hard to say. We are different this year and we are different in two ways. We are different in that we have new faces for a change. It's been several years since we have had to new players in the top of the rotation. We are different in that the team is a little more athletic with less defined roles. I'm not really sure how the three new guys fit into the offense and I'm not sure they know how they fit into the offense. Athletically, we should be much better than the last few years. But, until that translates into guys knowing where they need to be and shutting down opponents and making shots, I'm reserving judgment.
P-Sun: DeJuan Blair is playing really well for you guys. How important is this kid to the Spurs franchise and what are the areas you feel he needs to improve?
AustechSpur: DeJuan Blair is an absolute beast. He brought tremendous skills with him and he's getting better very quickly. He's learning to use his giant body on defense. I have no doubt that he will be a very good player. If he can learn to hit the mid-range jumper, he will be a border line all-star in the league for the next 10 years. If you watch one thing with him, check out his feel for the game around the rim. He has TREMENDOUS touch.
P-Sun: Have you had the chance to watch the Suns play this season? What are your thoughts about our team?
AustechSpur: No, I haven't seen them at all.
P-Sun: It seems that no one can stop Steve Nash this season. Now that Bruce Bowen is no longer a Spur, what do you think Pop will do to try to slow him down? Who's the "stopper" on the team now?
AustechSpur: Do you remember this joke? Q: Who is the only person that could keep Michael Jordan under 20 points per game? A: Dean Smith. Replace Jordan with Nash and Smith with Porter. Steve Nash is just fantastic in space. It's his game. We don't' really have a replacement for Bowen who is the one-stop shop for all defense from Steve Nash to Dirk Nowitzki. I expect Steve will see a whole lot of George Hill. George has the perfect attributes to deal with Steve. He's quick enough to stay with him and he has ridiculously long arms to harass passes. That's all you can do with Steve anyway.
P-Sun: What is it about the Spurs system that it takes so long for new players to learn it?
AustechSpur: I'll refer you to this article by DK Wilson for FoxSports.com http://msn.foxsports.com/nba/story/10471634/Spurs-not-yet-jelled,-but-could-still-turn-into-force and this quote from Antonio McDyess "Everything here is so exact; every play there's so much detail." Apparently, the Spurs are VERY particular about every little detail and where you should be. I think this causes players to think instead of play for a while. I get the sense that Pop rarely says, "Just go out and play your game."
Let's take a look at the key match-ups for tonight's game
Everyone that plays the Suns try to do different things to slow Nash down. They try guarding him with a small but pesky player, they try switching to a big man, they try double teaming him. Nothing works. Truth is that Steve Nash is playing amazing basketball and I don't even remember if he has had a bad game all season. Pop is smart and he might try different things to keep Nash under control. Like Austechspur said, we might see a George Hill on him. He might bother Steve with his quickness and length. Good luck George, you are going to need it.
On the other hand we have Tony Parker. In the last two games he has had assists in the double digits but has also been a turnover prone. The Suns need to keep him under control and limit his baskets in the paint. We can afford him scoring but the Suns can't let him get his teammates involved. Depending on how he's playing, I expect to see different defenders on him.
Manu Ginobili is still dangerous. He has had very good games this season and when he plays up to his talent the Spurs are almost unbeatable. He has been slowed down by injuries and this has taken a toll on his defense. Once a feared and hated defender, Ginobili has noticeably lost a step. The Suns should take advantage of this and drive to the hole on him.
Amar'e has been playing really well. He continues to be very efficient from the field but everyone has noticed that he's not as explosive as he once was. That's what recovering from an eye surgery will do to you. I expect him to continue making those jump shots to keep the Spurs defense guessing. This is a big game for him.
Timmy Duncan has been playing out of his mind. Just like with Nash, everyone doubted he would have an excellent season. He's knees are holding up quite well but that doesn't mean that Spurs fans don't cringe whenever he goes down on the hardwood. Channing Frye will get a chance to defend him and if he get's in foul trouble Robin Lopez will have his hands full with him.
Richard Jefferson is averaging 13.7 point per game. He has struggled offensively and I expect Hill to be on his grill. We need to keep him under control. We already have our hands full with Duncan and Parker.
The fact that the Suns are at home, where they have played really well, gives them an advantage over a Spurs team who's still working on their on-court chemistry. The Suns are always fired up to play against them and they'll come out firing. They just need to be consistent throughout 48 minutes of basketball and not throw away any early leads. I feel confident that the Suns will win this one.
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azcentral.com blogs - Coro's Suns dish - PaulCoro - The Imperial March
The magic number is 100 for most teams. For Phoenix, it's fittingly higher at 104. When the Suns score less than that this season, they are 2-8. When they score at least that, they are 14-0.
Will Hill and Billups Receive Hall Passes? -- NBA FanHouse
Hill looked to have a sure-fire Hall pass when he came out of Duke in 1994 and starred for six seasons for Detroit. But Hill, after signing with Orlando in 2000, had numerous ankle problems that nearly wrecked his career. Between 2000-04, he played in just 47 of 264 possible games.
Game Preview #22: San Antonio Spurs @ Phoenix Suns - Pounding The Rock
Preview for Spurs-Suns, complete with Nash-photoshopping link.
[Note by Phoenix Stan, 12/15/09 3:31 PM MST ]
Video's via Suns.com from today