Boston: 106.7 points/100 possessions (9th)
Phoenix: 108 points/100 possessions (5th)
Boston: 98.3 points allowed/100 possessions (2nd)
Phoenix: 109.5 points allowed/100 possessions (30th)
Probable Phoenix starters: Stephen John Nash (PG), Vince Carter (SG), Grant Henry Hill (SF), Channing Frye (PF), Robin Lopez (C)
View from the Opposing Bench: Valley of the Suns
The Celtics catch the Phoenix Suns, and any Celtics fans who adopted them on as a substitute favorite team from 2005-2007, on the brink of some difficult realizations. That the team that gave us the most interesting basketball of the last decade is long gone, for example. Or that Steve Nash finishing his career in Phoenix would likely represent a waste of his final years of productivity. Or that Josh Childress and Hakim Warrick may not be up to equaling Amare Stoudemire’s offensive production. Some tough swallowing in there.
Tonight, the Suns face these perplexities against the man who officially ushered out the Seven Seconds Or Less era in Phoenix: the one-time Big Shaqtus. But this is still a fun team of interesting players. BC’s Jared Dudley runs a NBA gossip bureau of unassailable legitimacy. Robin Lopez owns the all-time number one postgame interview quote. And also there’s Mickael Pietrus to think about now.
WHAT THE SUNS DO WELL
Score. The Suns can still totally score. Like an intelligent offensive franchise, they focus their attack on the rim (where they convert 2nd best in the league to your Celtics) and from three (where they have the 7th highest percentage, but shoot at a higher volume than anyone above them). They’ve gradually slowed down their pace over the last five years, but they’re still managing a top-five offense. Problem is, to have a winning record the Suns would need a way better offense than the league-best Lakers, because of the following.
WHAT THE SUNS DO POORLY
Defend. Wow, do they do this poorly. This is a team known for sacrificing defense for offense, but they’ve never been quite this bad at it. Here’s what’s confusing: letting Amare Stoudemire walk presented an opportunity to improve on this end. I mean, if you’re going to dump a guy who is maybe the best complement in the league to Steve Nash’s abilities but also a total ninny on defense, that kind of implies that his defense was the problem, right? But the Suns instantly obliterated that logic by spending Amare’s salary on Josh Childress, Hakim Warrick, and Hedo Turkoglu, or two below-average defenders and a replacement ninny. Dealing Turkoglu for Gortat and Pietrus (much more consequential pieces for the Suns than Vince Carter) should make things a lot better, because Pietrus can shut it down. But until then, buckets for sale.
Identify American music song.
PLAYERS WHO MAKE WE WORRY
A hot Channing Frye. He’s going to take a bunch of threes no matter what you do, and if he’s hot he can swing games. He was a barfulous 2-12 in a recent game against Detroit, but he went 6-10 from 3 last year for a season-high 26 points in a Celtics loss. That was, of course, without KG in the lineup, and KG’s certainly capable of closing out on big shooters. Just voicing my concerns here.
Channing Frye is also the author of the blog post to which all other blog posts aspire in vain. The blogging industry didn’t want you to know about it, because it could have shut all other blogs down forever if it got out, so they made it so now you can’t find it on the Internet anymore. But it was about a time he was sitting on a plane and had to fart. Know your player blog history.
Steve Nash, shooter and passer. Nash is shooting and scoring better than he has since 06-07 (with a HIGHER usage), his assist rate is high as it’s ever been, and yet most people aren’t considering him for an All-Star spot because Phoenix is losing. Hope he ends up on a good team before he retires at age 45.
PLAYERS WHO DO NOT MAKE ME WORRY
Steve Nash, defender. Rajon Rondo has gradually been reducing his own usage over the past few games, and especially his attempts at the rim. Last night he attacked a little more often, but tonight he should probably make it a first option. Steve Nash couldn’t stay in front of a glacier going uphill at this point, and the Suns are one of the league’s worst teams at protecting the rim. I want to see some selfish, me-first basketball from Rajon Rondo tonight.
Vince Carter, basketball player. It’s obviously a cliche to not worry about Vince Carter. But there’s a reason cliches become cliches, you know?
WHAT WE WANT TO SEE
We want to see the Suns try to play their game and be totally refused. The C’s are uniquely suited for this task: they defend the rim and the three well, and they get back on D fast enough to slow down the pace. Let’s hope for 75% of total attempts coming at the rim with a 75% conversion rate, and a win so decisive Nash gets traded to a contender out of mercy.
C’s 106, Suns 95