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Shot Location Analysis: Guess Who's The Better Interior Defensive Team?

LaMarcus Aldridge likes to take mid-range shots. The Suns are fine with that. (Photo by Max Simbron)
LaMarcus Aldridge likes to take mid-range shots. The Suns are fine with that. (Photo by Max Simbron)

That's right, the Phoenix Suns are holding teams to 59.8% at the rim and 41.9% shooting in the paint ( >10 feet) while the Portland Trail Blazers are at 61.9% and 46.2% respectively. Who's the tough guys, now?

Of course, those numbers are totally bogus since they the factor in Robin Lopez for the Suns who won't play and only partial season for Marcus Camby who will. But still, they are nice to look at.

Offensively though, the shot location story is a bit more true.


If you click on the above chart and open in it to a readable size in a new window, you will see that the Suns attempt 5.1 more shots in the paint and at the rim than Portland while the Blazers take 5.6 more attempts from mid-range.

These numbers reflect the fact that Portland is a jump shooting team, mostly because LaMarcus Aldridge (according to takes 64% of his shots from outside and is connecting at an eFG% of .417. LMA is second on their team in field goal attempts (15/gm) behind Brandon Roy (not playing).

Amare Stoudemire on the other hand is taking 15.5 shots per game but only 55% are considered jump shots and by the way, his eFG% on those is .445. For those that are mathematically challenged, that means that Amare is a better shooter than LaMarcus.

With no Oden to feed the ball to in the post (not that the Blazers were giving him many touches anyway) they really have no choice. Coach Nate McMillian said today that he wants his team to play inside-out, "We want to attack the paint and not become a perimeter team."

Clearly, he's seeing the same numbers.

His problem is that he doesn't have the horses to do it. Andre Miller can penetrate but with focus and preparation the Suns can deal with him by going under screens, trapping and occasionally bringing weak side help. Aldridge can't suddenly change his game and become a low post threat. Camby has no post offense to speak off. Webster, Batum and Fernandez are perimeter players and occasional slashers. Even the bench bigs, Howard and Cunningham only can finish if they are properly set up. Those guys are not going to consistently create their own post offense.

The only chance the Blazers have of getting more points in the paint is to pick up the tempo and let Bayless and Miller run. You think the Suns would mind that? Nope.

Meanwhile, Phoenix will continue to give the ball to Amare both in the low block and high post in isolation and take advantage of mismatches created by the switching defense of the Blazers. Look for the Suns to run a high screen immediately to get the switch and then quickly either attack the big off the bounce or swing the ball and find Amare or even Frye in the post.

Teams have been trying to slow the Suns pick and roll with switching since mid-November. It was effective for awhile but Nash and the Suns are used to it and in a series where there's plenty of time for preparation and planning, it is as much of a gimmick defense as the Suns zone. Effective is small doses but highly beatable in the long run.

The Suns will also seek to take advantage of the Blazers focus on the offensive glass. This is one holdover from the D'Antoni era that still holds true. Teams can either play good transition defense or they can crash the glass but they can't do both. So, Phoenix will give up some second chance points but can negate those with fast break buckets as Grant and Jason leak out for easy layups.

The Suns ability to push the ball and strike quickly off the defensive rebounds is the reason I am not overly concerned with the Blazers offensive glass work. In theory, those two will be a wash and the game will come down to the half court execution where the Suns statistically and positionally have the advantage both in the paint and from three. As long as they don't turn the ball over - that's the key.

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