The reeling Phoenix Suns can no longer focus on the playoffs, but they can focus on winning one game at a time and that starts tonight against the Minnesota Timberwolves.
Tonight's game is one of only four remaining games this season (out of 17) against a sub-.500 team, so the Suns need to relish this opportunity to notch a win. The Wolves played better in recent weeks after getting Ricky Rubio, Kevin Martin and Nikola Pekovic back from injury, but have lost 5 of their last 6 games.
The Suns, simply, need a win.
- What: Phoenix Suns vs. Minnesota Timberwolves
- Where: US Airways Center, Phoenix, Arizona
- When: 7:00 PM
- TV: FoxSports Arizona
- Radio: ArizonaSports 98.7 FM
They had a nice start after getting their injured players back, going 5-3 including a win over the Suns, but have lost 5 of 6 since then as they have come back down to earth.
Since the All-Star Break, the Wolves are 21st in offensive rating and 24th in defensive rating. That last rating should have Suns fans salivating.
After playing top defenses against San Antonio, Cleveland and Golden State, it should be nice to play a team that plays worse defense than the Suns' offense has been.
On the other side, the Wolves are 29th in Effective Field Goal % and 25th in true shooting percentage since the All-Star break.
When Rubio and Martin came back from injury, they traded away Mo Williams and Thaddeus Young (for Kevin Garnett) and lost a lot of their continuity.
Still, their only win in their last six games was over Portland a few days ago. Kevin Martin had 29 points, Gary Neal 27 and Ricky Rubio had 13 points, 15 assists and 8 rebounds.
Rookie Adreian Payne has stunk it up this year, but then put up 16 points and 15 rebounds in Monday's loss. After coming into the league with a profile as a stretch four, Payne has not taken a three pointer in his past six games and has made only 1 (on 7 attempts) in 12 career games.
Check out more on the Timberwolves at our SB Nation brother site Canis Hoopus
Since the All-Star Break, the 4-7 Suns are 23rd in offense and 18th on defense. Most of that drop in scoring has occurred in the past 5 games. For the first six games after the All-Star break, the Suns were keeping pace on fast break points (19+ per game) but over the last 5 games the Suns are only scoring 13.5 points on fast breaks (10.3 over the past 3). This shows that even post-trades, the Suns can still get out and run but are just in a running slump against good defensive teams.
Sure, the Suns can't score at all but their defense has actually stepped up a bit. Opponents are shooting only 43.3% overall (though they are making 37.7% of their threes), good for 10th in the league. Warriors coach Steve Kerr said Monday night that the game was a dogfight and that the Warriors couldn't get into any kind of offensive rhythm.
As frustrated as everyone was, it's notable that it took a Stephen Curry onslaught to put that game away.
Speaking of Curry, a new face on the Suns tonight is Seth Curry, just signed to a 10-day contract while Brandon Knight is injured. Curry appears to be a "break glass in case of emergency" player who spent the summer league with the Suns and was lauded for his shooting ability. The Suns ostensibly signed him to be an emergency point guard, in case Archie can't handle it one night. Right now, Archie is the team's #2 point guard.
Here's our writeup from the summer on Curry:
This week, the new standout player and roster hopeful is Seth Curry (the younger brother of Steph Curry, and son of Dell Curry). Curry is small for a shooting guard (6'1") and not good enough as a point guard to play for long minutes, but if he can make buckets he can play in the NBA. He played for Orlando in their summer league, and then the Suns here.
"Anytime you step on the court," Seth Curry said to our Seth (Pollack) after one game. "Especially in summer league, you are playing for all 30 teams in the league. Everybody can see what you're doing and nobody has my rights or anything like that so just going out there trying to complete and show what I can do."
Curry showed well in the early Suns games, as did the rest of the team. He teamed up with Ennis to the lead the Suns to their first win by making a bunch of big shots.
Curry realizes he needs to be able to handle an offense at least part-time to get a ticket to the NBA.
"I think that's one of my biggest weapons I can bring to a team," he said. "Handling the ball most of the game and then going in there with Tyler [Ennis] towards the end of the game and play off the ball and spread the court. I feel like that's one of my advantages that I can bring."
Curry faded in the last two games, probably worn out from such a heavy two-week schedule over two summer leagues between Orlando and Vegas.
But maybe he earned himself a shot with the Suns. Coach Longabardi said Seth Curry "helped himself" this week. Of the others, Longo said they might not be NBA players, but would find jobs somewhere (overseas).
I'm sure Curry didn't hold his breath when the Suns told him "stay ready in case we need point guard help this season", knowing the Suns had 4 point guards ahead of him on the depth chart. LOL.
They guy I'd like to see more of is T.J. Warren. Let's watch his highlights from Monday's game.
Out on a limb
I'm going to guess that Seth Curry gets some spot minutes in the third quarter as a point guard and pours in 20 points in a matter of 8 minutes to lead the Suns to vict--
Nah, just kidding. What team gets a lift from a nobody to win a game they really need to win?
Interested in playing Daily Fantasy Basketball with the chance to win money? Sign up for FanDuel here! You can bet on Eric Bledsoe rocking the stat sheet, Alex Len getting rebounds/blocks, Markieff Morris going off, or even Ricky Rubio getting 15 assists or Kevin Martin pouring in 30.
My prediction is that the Suns will find a way to win this game. It may not be pretty, but a win it will be. The Suns have been playing awful lately - way below their talent level - which means that one of these games will be a positive wakeup call. I'm saying it's tonight.
Suns by 15.