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Gortat And Lopez Providing Suns Much Needed Rim Protection

The Phoenix Suns have had the "soft" reputation since before acid washed jeans were considered cool. In the past, their defense has been insulted on national TV by certain individuals and well, the proof certainly is in the puddin'. The game plan of nearly every Suns opponent has always included attacking the rim.

But this season the Suns have shown inconsistent signs of being a quality defensive team. Which is much better than being awful all the time. It helps having Grant Hill as a lock down guy whose game consistently emulates the moniker.

But what of the Suns bigs? Marcin Gortat, Channing Frye, and Robin Lopez all have some shortcomings defensively. But size and conditioning are not one of them. One would think that 3 players sizing at or north of the 6' 10'' region should be challenging and blocking shots.

Gortat and Channing Frye are both averaging over a block a game, and if we go per 36 minutes, Robin Lopez tops the Suns at 2 per game, while Gortat, Frye, and Markieff Morris average 1.7, 1.5, and 1.2 respectively.

Blocks Per 36 Minutes

Rk Player G MP BLK
1 Robin Lopez 35 415 2.0
2 Marcin Gortat 37 1239 1.7
3 Channing Frye 37 914 1.5
4 Markieff Morris 37 749 1.2
5 Grant Hill 35 993 0.9
6 Sebastian Telfair 31 401 0.4
7 Josh Childress 19 257 0.4
8 Shannon Brown 30 619 0.3
9 Jared Dudley 36 1098 0.3
10 Hakim Warrick 22 332 0.2
11 Ronnie Price 28 433 0.2
12 Steve Nash 34 1096 0.1
13 Michael Redd 23 334 0.0
Provided by View Original Table
Generated 3/6/2012.

Blocked shots helping Phoenix Suns' defense reach new heights: Paul Coro/AZ Central

"We have size, and the size can move. On the first two days of training camp, I'm looking at our (big men) and thinking, 'These guys can run the floor. They're agile. Nobody's overweight. Body fat is low.' It's all the athletic features that make up a basketball player. I knew there should be some rim protection there."

Elston Turner's defensive philosophy in the paint is what we all clamor for while watching a game. In my terms (which could be Turner's terms on the practice floor), is "knock a guy on his a**" instead of letting him have an easy shot or dunk. That's not rocket science, but it does tend to get the bigs into foul trouble when the Suns perimeter defense can't contain their men. Nevertheless, the message is loud and clear, and for the moment, being heeded by the Suns big men.

Another basic defensive concept are the rotations inside. Said Lopez: "We've been concentrating more on being there on the help side and having each others' backs on defense...I'm getting more comfortable and more rhythm."

The current defensive numbers in the past several games indicate positive trends for the Suns. Phoenix has limited their opponents to under 100 points in 5 of the last 6 games, while averaging 6.6 blocks, good for #3 in the NBA. Further, the Suns +5.40 rebounding differential in the past 5 is good for 4th in the NBA.

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