The Phoenix Suns are fresh from three days off where they finally found some time on the practice floor to work on climbing out of last place in rebounding and defense. If talk and focus is any indication, the Suns will come out tonight against the Golden State Warriors and drop the NBA equivalent of a no-hitter. The reality, though, is it will take time for the Suns to slowly work their way out of the hole they've dug themselves.
The Warriors tonight aren't nearly the same pushover they've been in past seasons. When under Don Nelson, they had one way to beat you: run and shoot bad shots and hope they went in. Now, with Nelson resting comfortably somewhere on a beach in Hawaii with a Bud Light in his hand, the Warriors under coach Keith Smart have changed their approach.
They are still fast (fourth in the NBA in pace), but they no long only play isolation ball and with the front line tandem of Andris Biedrins and David Lee -- they also rebound the ball. The Warriors are a full four rebounds per game better than the Suns in the all-important rebounding differential category.
Defensively, the Suns have been allowing dribble penetration down the lane instead of playing disciplined in their coverage and forcing ball handlers towards the sidelines and baseline. With speedy guards Stephen Curry and Monta Ellis in the back court, the Suns will have a big test in that area.
"We'll get testing right away (with dribble penetration from Curry and Ellis) and you've got a guy, Biedrins, who's already had 21 rebounds this year and had 18 (Tuesday) night against San Antonio. They're a good basketball team. They've got guys that can really score, guys that can rebound the basketball," Alvin Gentry said about tonight's opponent.
The Suns do have a couple of distinct advantages in the game. While Monta Ellis at shooting guard is a handful for the Suns, on the other end he's been unable to contain the bigger Jason Richardson in the post. Richardson averaged 21 points, six rebounds and shot 54.5 percent from the field against his former team last season.
The other big advantage for the Suns is depth. The Warriors regularly ask Ellis, Curry and Lee to play over 40 minutes in games. Ellis played all 48 in a win over Minnesota on Saturday. The Suns bench is averaging 37.4 points per game while the Warriors reserves are only scoring 25.7 and are 27th in the league in bench minutes played.
Warriors forward Brandan Wright is questionable for tonight's game (lower back strain) and Grant Hill is a "we'll see" for the Suns (foot). Hill limped off the Suns practice court on Wednesday after Garrett Siler reportedly stepped on his foot, although Coach Gentry said that Hill might have a toe infection.
The game tips off on TNT after the big LeBron James in Cleveland game, with a scheduled start time of 8:30 p.m. Arizona time. Check out Bright Side of the Sun for more game preview and live game thread.