The good news for the Phoenix Suns is that Steve Nash and Grant Hill are playing tonight in the last night of back-to-back-to-backs against the Atlanta Hawks at US Airways. Even more good news for the Suns is that Michael Redd and Markieff Morris are playing well, both coming off 20 point efforts last night against the Nuggets. The bad news for the Suns is they don't have Jeremy Lin, and it is doubtful that the Suns will trade Steve Nash, Marcin Gortat, and Jared Dudley for him. Bummer. Pardon the sarcasm. We all know the bad news for the Suns is_________________(insert your most favorite negative statement about your favorite NBA team).
The Suns played arguably their best game of the season in the last meeting versus the Atlanta Hawks, winning 99-90, with Steve Nash leading the way with 24 points and 11 assists while the Suns shot over 50% from the field while limiting the Hawks to 39%. It would have been a laugher except for the 15 points the Suns dropped in the 4th quarter.
Since that game, the Hawks have gone 2-2, winning against the likes of the Pacers and Magic, while losing to the Lakers and the Heat. In those last four games, the Hawks shot, 46%, 43%, 38%, and 34% from the field.
Both squads played last night, and both squads are on 2 game losing streaks. Last night the Suns chose to rest Nash and Hill, and the Hawks rested Stackhouse and Pargo. Mostly because the two aren't in the rotation. Thus, the Suns should be fairly rested and ready to defend their home court against the Hawks.
Your Phoenix Suns are currently 12-16, sitting in 3rd place in the Pacific and 13th in the conference 3 games out of a playoff spot. Many of you may have given up on watching the standings, but I bring this up because Alvin Gentry has not. And perhaps as a simple realist, or perhaps as a means of encouraging his team or the fans, Gentry has this to say to us all:
"To tell you the truth, if you look at the teams in the West, there's no one running away with this thing. Oklahoma City has 21 wins. You get past the Clippers, who have 17, and there is a logjam to the bottom of the conference. We had four home losses that are awful. You take those and make them wins and we have 16 wins."
So you're saying there's a chance?
Always. There's always a chance. And so I continue to watch and hope, albeit realistically, which is different than pessimistically, but not by much, because I cannot help but think about several things:
The Suns are 6-12 vs. the WC, including losses to, well everyone: 12th place Golden State, 8th place Portland, 7th place Houston (twice), 6th place Denver (without Nash & Hill), 5th place, LA Lakers, 4th place Dallas (twice), San Antonio, and of course Oklahoma City. In fact the only teams in the West the Suns have defeated are the Hornets, Grizzlies, and Blazers.
Where am I going with this? Nowhere, like the Suns, unless something dramatic occurs like_____________(insert your favorite positive something there). You have to defend your home floor, and you have to win in your own conference if you hope to get anywhere, yes?
But onto new and different things.
The big stat heads and sophisticated basketball types like to get into some pretty sophisticated numbers when attempting to analyze individual and team performance. One of these statistics is the very famous PER, or Player efficiency Rating. This statistic is designed to measure a player's per minute production by analyzing accomplishments, adding in good things while subtracting bad things. Keep in mind the average for PER is 15.
So instead of the same old thing, I provide you with PER, courtesy of www.basketball-reference.com:
Of course, PER has fatal flaws like most statistics, which is why you see Grant Hill at #11. You can't measure something that isn't really measurable by numbers. Grant Hill's defense for example. While he doesn't get bushels of blocked shots and steals, he is a defensive specialist who does his job primarily by moving his feet and body, staying in front of his man, getting a hand in his face, and taking charges, which, as far as I can tell, is not figured into the equation. So Mr. Hollinger, you aren't that smart, pal.
And no, I didn't include Jermey Lin's PER. You can find that on your own.
Why not a win tonight? Nash and Hill are "run down" but they at least had last night off. The Hawks are downward trending in shooting percentage, and the Suns D'd them up pretty well last time. Horford is still out, and Erick Dampier has been signed for depth. Really. It would be nice to pick up a home W before two straight against the Lakers. This is a winnable game for the Suns, and I expect a quality effort.
Check for the game thread 30 minutes before the start of the game.