Anyone else get the feeling that this season has shades of the movie "Groundhog Day" coloring it? It seems like every time I turn around, the Suns are playing a "Must Win" game and have been since tip-off on opening day. Well, finally, we have a game that the Suns absolutely, positively cannot afford to lose. I thought hope died after the back to back losses to Utah and Sacramento. But then Dallas falls to Memphis and suddenly hope -- like a mindless zombie that refuses to die -- resurrected itself, took a nice chunk out of my thigh, and re-infected me. But, Mike, you say, that's an awful grim metaphor for something as wondrous as Hope.
To which I reply, have you been watching this team for the last 76 games? This year's Phoenix Suns have been the Warden Norton to our collective Andy Dufresne. Any time it's looked like the fans have had something to get excited about (a 6 game winning streak, collective chemistry, Matt Barnes getting hot), BAM, Tommy takes a bullet in the head. This team hasn't been able to decide if it's time to get busy living or get busy dying. And while a loss will drive a stake through the heart of my zombie called hope, a win doesn't guarantee redemption. It just means the zombie trudges on mindlessly for a few more games waiting to be eventually put out of its misery. Hope, my friends, has not been a very rewarding experience for the purple and orange faithful this season.
That said, I hope we stomp the bejeezus out of those damn Texans Sunday. I'm not ready for my bullet in the head/decapitation/death by flames just yet.
If you read Phoenix Stan's Practice Report, you'll find a mini-preview from our fearless leader. And if you read this, you'll find a much less insightful mini-preview as well. Frankly, I haven't seen enough of the Dallas Mavericks this season to have much of an opinion on keys to this game. However, ignorance is bliss. For a big dose of bliss, read on.
I expect this will be high scoring affair as neither team is known for its defensive prowess. Dirk will kill us. We have no one remotely capable of matching up with him. (Miss you, Boris! Miss you, Amare'!) That said, if our wings can even begin to frustrate Jason Terry and Josh Howard, things look pretty good for the Suns. Jason Kidd has never been much of an offensive threat which takes a lot of the pressure off Steve Nash on one end of the floor. Yes, he creates and can have big games, but he's not in the same league as Dirk, Terry or J-Ho when it comes to giving Suns fans nightmares.
Phoenix Stan brings up the excellent point that JJ Barea tends to have big games against the Suns. I think that trend stops with this game. We've seen Goran Dragic play some pretty decent defense in short stretches. I think he'll be asked to cool JJ's jets and is up to the task if he doesn't get burned and rattled early.
As a matter of fact, I actually like the Suns depth against the Mavericks. Dallas certainly has a little more size than Phoenix, but I think the Suns' Red Bull chugging second unit has the energy to outquick Dallas' second unit. In a game of this magnitude though, I don't expect they'll see heavy minutes.
I think this game ends up getting decided for the Suns by Shaquille O'Neal. He should have his way against Erick Dampier and
Desagana Diop Ryan Hollis. (Embarrassing disclosure: After Dampier had his career-making season with Golden State, I would have given my left arm for the Suns to sign him as a free agent. Reflecting on this, I realize I am in not a very good position to ever, EVER question any future decisions by NBA GMs.) I fully expect Dallas to use all 12 of Dampier and Diop Hollis' fouls (with a smattering from the rest of the Mavs) to slow him down. If he reverts to his rim-rattling ways from the line, it could be a long afternoon.
Anyone else notice that the Suns and Mavericks have sort of been bizarro images of one another the last few seasons? Both Western Conference powerhouses unable to get over the hump. Both having arguments that external forces (suspicious suspensions for the Suns, obscene officiating for the Mavs against Miami) derailed their title hopes. Both having nutty flamboyant owners. Both changing head coaches. Both on the wane. It seems fitting that they're facing each other now with whatever slim chances of glory they have resting on securing an opportunity face a fearsome Lakers squad. Two former championship contenders trying to gouge each other's eyes out for a shot at the 8th seed in the playoffs. That, folks, is as apt a metaphor for the dangers of hope as any Tim Robbins movie.
The Texans take can be found over at Mavs Moneyball. Now, go brains Suns!