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Game Preview - Suns vs Kings

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These two teams have played three times already. A close OT win for the Suns early in the season without Nash. A blow out win at home and a devastating loss last week.

Given the history of these two team what else is there to say?

Here's the core of the preview I wrote last week. It still applies the only difference being this time I expect the Suns really really really must must must win win win.

The good news is Leandro will almost certainly play tonight although Coach said he didn't know how many minutes he would play.

[Note by Phoenix Stan, 04/03/09 3:57 PM MST ]

Sactown Royalty's Tom Ziller just told me that Kevin Martin who dropped 50 in the Warriors Wednesday is out for this game with an ankle injury. The same ankle that has been bothering him all season.

[Note by Phoenix Stan, 04/03/09 5:42 PM MST ]

Seems that Andres Nocino is also questionable for this game. He fell on his wrist early in the game Wednesday against the Warriors. X-rays were negative and he played in the second half.

 

Kings Back Court

The Kings start (and stop) with Kevin Martin, who, after battling injuries and missing 23 games, is finally healthy again and putting up Martin-like numbers of 24 points per game. He is a prolific scorer who at 6'7" can create his own shot at any time. He's a tough cover for most teams. For the Suns' Grant Hill, he is just another in a long line of challenges.

If Grant is looking to redeem his performances in Utah and Portland, shutting down Martin is a great way to do it.

Stop Martin and you beat the Kings.

Behind Martin is the former Timberwolf Rashard McCants. McCants is one of those guys that seems to be able to play this game at a high level and yet never does.

UPDATE: Who knew McCants of all people would hit a clutch shot in the 4th quarter!

At point, the Kings have that other Slovenia lefty guard, Beno Udrih. I've always been a fan of Udrih and think that Kings fans' frustration with him has more to do with his being over exposed as a starter on a bad team. Udrih would always have made a perfect backup PG in Phoenix instead of that Banks character that the Suns signed instead.

Udrih will probably give a tired and perhaps disheartened Steve Nash trouble.

UPDATE: He sure did...

Backing up Udrih is Bobby Jackson who used to back up Chris Paul and whoever the point guard in Houston was, but wasn't good enough for either of those teams, who still don't really have depth at the point. That should tell you all you need to know about Bobby Jackson, but if not, you can click here and read all about him. Enjoy.

Kings Front Court

At Small Forward, the Kings run out former back up SG Francisco Garcia who is a potent scorer in his own right but now has been forced into a starting role at small forward where he's struggled done well to put up 13 ppg. Garcia is a guy that will kill you if you are playing like crap but is easily discounted if a good mediocre bad team bothers to show up.

UPDATE: Uh...we might want to pay more attention to this guy

The big men tandem of Spencer Hawes and Jason Thompson is interesting. On paper, anyway. Both have decent games but both are young and generally overwhelmed on most nights. I like these kids and look forward to seeing them improve over the next few years.

UPDATE:  Do you see know? These two young guys are good.

Today's game should be no exception, unless the Suns have packed it in and left their Give-a-Damn back on the floor in Salt Lake City at about the 25-second mark of the fourth quarter. Right, we are not talking about that.

UPDATE:  Sometimes it pains even me to be right

With no more Mikki Moore or Brad Miiller, there is simply too much pressure on Hawes and JT to carry the big man load for this gutted roster.

UPDATE:  That didn't work out so well....

Kings Bench Court

The main punch of the Kings bench is former Bull Andres Nocioni. Noc is a decent enough player. He's basically Jared Dudley with more experience and a fatter wallet, which goes to show you that giving big contracts to guys that are as prevalent as dollar bills in a strip club is always a mistake.

UPDATE:  Noc apparently didn't like being discounted and showed up big for the Kings...another guy we need to be thinking more about

The Suns bench will likely get big minutes in this game, especially if the starters once again look more interested in summer vacation plans than playing out the season.

Lopez and Swift (aka Stropez) might have to help keep the bigger Kings off the glass as they did in the 2nd half of last night's game where the Suns managed a +1 edge after getting slaughtered in the first half by 11 rebounds.

Prediction

After the Suns lost to the Mavs (and then the Cavs) a few weeks ago, I gave the Suns very little chance to make the playoffs. Mostly because they were playing poorly but also because the hole was too deep and the schedule had some nasty spots.

UPDATE:4 games back. 7 to go. That doesn't look like a good chance

The Suns came out and played by far their best stretch of the season going 6-0 and and looking great in the process. Depth. Fire. Balance. It was a joy to watch and when Barbosa went down the team showed the resilience that had been lacking all year and won a couple more, including huge home wins against the Nuggets and Jazz.

Asking this team to then go and beat Portland in Portland with no rest and Utah at home with their divine advantage was always a tall order. Despite the lost-won-lost outcome of last night's game (which we are still not discussing) I have no complaints with the 6 and 2 record since March 14 and the 2-2 record against 3 playoff teams.

Losing this game to the worst team in the league despite the built in excuses would ruin all of that goodwill.

UPDATE: You know what. It didn't. Not sure why but it didn't

Yes, it is the fourth game in five nights. Yes, the Suns lost an emotional heart-breaker in overtime last night. Yes, the Suns are old and pretty much done for the season.

The Suns are coming off a light week with only the great win against Houston on Wednesday. Instead of the 4th game in 5 nights this is the 2nd game in 5 nights. I am fairly confident that will make a difference.

It doesn't matter. This game must be won.

Suns 123 - 105