Preview: Kings at Suns, Preseason Game 5

THE OPPONENT

The Phoenix Suns did not make the playoffs last season, despite a good record, three All-Stars (with numerous MVP awards between them), and a style of play pleasing to the eye. The roster bristled under the Kerr-induced foot-stamping of StR favorite Terry Porter, leading to a midseason dismissal and the ascension of Alvin Gentry. Gentry, an old D'Antoni assistant, got the Suns running again. Shaq got traded, Amar'e Stoudemire recovered from an eye injury, and the Suns are really running now.

But with that running attitude, the Suns have reverted on defense. It isn't that fast-paced teams can't play defense well -- Denver has an up-tempo style and a great defense -- but the Suns can't play fast and well defensively. I like to think a lot of it has to do with defensive rebounding, though I can't currently back that up with stats. But basically, the theory is that when getting into the offense quickly is the top priority, you have 1-2 players leaking out on opponent shots, hurting an already poor rebounding line-up. Rebounding is one of those categories that is unquestionably strategy-related. (The Spurs, for instance, have a mirroring problem: on a San Antonio shot, every Spur runs back on defense to prevent the opponent's transition offense. As a result, the Spurs get very few offensive rebounds.)

So what's this mean? It means that Jason Thompson should again feast on the offensive glass. He had eight against Golden State. Given plenty of minutes, he might get that again in Phoenix.

You can learn more about the Suns at the tremendous SBNation blog Bright Side of the Sun.

KEY BATTLE

Spencer Hawes needs a break after three Key Battles in the team's first four preseason games. So let's give it to Tyreke Evans vs. Steve Nash. Nash won't be the first quick guard Evans has to deal with -- he drew Monta Ellis on Saturday, after all -- but he is the best opponent 'Reke will have seen at preseason's end. Remarkably, among Kings only Francisco Garcia has had a modicum of success guarding Nash over the years. Even then, Nash has still been able to create at will. Evans is the first (post-Orien Greene) Kings point guard who stands a chance to knock Nash off his horse. But Nash is such a smart player and phenomenal shooter that he could give Evans absolute fits. It'll be interesting to see hear how well Evans can use his tools to counteract Nash's craft. I'm not terribly optimistic at this point.

INTERESTING SIDESHOW

It's not quite Key Battle-worthy, but Jared Dudley has been earning a reputation for supreme hustle this preseason. Omri Casspi has done the same. Should be fun little back-and-forth if each gets on the floor.

BOLD PREDICTION

Donte Greene will play at least five minutes, and will not attempt a three-pointer.

DETAILS

The game is at 7PM Pacific. Radio only (KHTK 1140 AM in Sacramento).

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