The Phoenix Suns trip through the dredges of the Eastern Conference continues with tonight's game in Washington, DC against those poor Wizards who at 12-28 are a full seven games behind the Suns. Wait, what? Seven games in front of the Wizards? Ugh.
The good news, possibly, is that the Suns are playing better these days, albeit against one of the easier stretches of schedule this season. But coming off losses to the Clippers, Kings and 76ers just a few weeks ago, this is still improvement. Some times you have to hit rock bottom before you can admit that you have a problem. And the problem that the Suns seems to have owned up to and corrected over this stretch of five wins in six games is the rotation and lineups.
Alvin Gentry has gone with a shorter bench and the same starting five in every game (not including the two Grant Hill missed due to injury). It seems to be working as the starters are coming together as a unit and while the bench is still a hit-or-miss proposition, they are showing some signs of life, especially Hakim Warrick.
Over this stretch, the Suns are +3.33 in rebounding differential which stands in sharp contrast to their league-worst record of -4.75 on the season. Credit for the improvement on the glass goes to slight improvements across the roster. Channing Frye is up .8 rebounds per game over the stretch. Vince Carter is up 1.1 per game. Steve Nash is up 1.6. Those smaller individual increases are the result, we argue, of playing Robin Lopez more so he can box out and create space for his teammates. Plus effort. Effort always helps when it comes to rebounding.
On the other side of the floor are John Wall and the Washington Wizards who's starting lineup includes only one guy who was an NBA starter last year and that guy is the rapidly declining Rashard Lewis.
Wall himself has shown flashes of brilliance but as the number one overall pick in the draft, hasn't come out and dominated the game like he will in years to come. Partly due to various foot and ankle issues and partly due to a natural adjustment to the NBA game. And partly due to playing on a bad team.
Wall is averaging 15.3 points and an impressive 9.3 assists per game this season but is only shooting 39.7 percent from the field and is 28th in the league in PER among point guards with 15.72. Steve Nash is third with a PER of 24.01.
The match-ups for the Suns to exploit in this game are on the wings with Vince Carter needing to bounce back from a three-point showing in Cleveland against Nick Young and Grant Hill taking Rashard Lewis to the wood shed on both ends of the floor. Nash will struggle staying in front of Wall but the rookie hasn't shown that he understands the game well enough to bother Steve either.
The game tips at 5:00 p.m. local time and will be broadcast on My45 locally. This game previously slated to be on ESPN but was pulled in favor of the more compelling Knicks vs. Spurs contest. Join fellow Suns fans during the game at the live thread hosted at Bright Side of the Sun.