Preview: Suns at Kings

THE OPPONENT

The Suns remain in the jumble directly succeeding the Lakers and Mavericks in the Western Conference standings. Phoenix ended December well, beating the Lakers and Celtics consecutively in the Valley of the Sun. But the good times subsided when juggernaut Memphis visited laying a brilliant bludgeoning on the Suns last Saturday. Tonight will be Phoenix's first road venture since the day after Christmas, a road loss to Golden State. The Suns have actually lost seven straight on the road, with the last victory away from home coming Nov. 29 in Toronto. Overall, the team is 8-10 on the road, its only solid wins in travel against Miami, Boston and Houston.

Amar'e Stoudemire has rounded into form, and Steve Nash never oozed out of the mold. Jason Richardson (pictured above, catching an invisible hard-boiled egg in an invisible catcher's mitt during his imaginary game of eggball) has cooled off significantly, which is odd considering it takes invisible hard-boiled eggs forever and a day to cool off significantly. I have the mouth scars to prove it.


FG 3PT FT Rebounds Misc
G M M A Pct M A Pct M A Pct Off Def Tot Ast TO Stl Blk PF PPG
Amare Stoudemire 34 34.3 7.9 13.8 57.1 0.0 0.1 0.0 4.9 6.6 75.0 2.4 6.0 8.4 1.0 2.8 0.8 0.8 3.7 20.7
Steve Nash 34 33.3 6.9 12.8 53.9 1.7 3.9 43.5 2.9 3.1 93.4 0.6 2.4 2.9 11.2 3.7 0.4 0.2 1.1 18.4
Jason Richardson 31 30.6 5.7 12.3 46.5 1.9 5.2 36.4 1.7 2.3 75.0 1.0 3.7 4.7 2.0 1.3 1.0 0.4 2.3 15.1
Channing Frye 34 31.1 4.5 9.9 45.2 2.5 5.7 43.1 1.2 1.6 74.1 0.9 5.1 6.0 1.6 1.0 0.8 0.9 3.3 12.6
Leandro Barbosa 19 20.3 4.2 9.1 46.2 1.1 3.0 36.8 1.9 2.4 82.2 0.2 1.4 1.6 2.1 1.2 0.7 0.2 1.8 11.5
Grant Hill 34 30.1 4.4 9.5 46.4 0.4 0.8 44.4 2.1 2.8 77.7 1.2 4.3 5.5 2.2 1.2 0.8 0.4 1.8 11.3
Jared Dudley 34 24.4 3.0 6.5 45.5 1.6 3.3 50.0 1.4 1.9 74.2 1.4 2.3 3.7 1.1 0.9 0.9 0.2 2.1 9.0
Goran Dragic 34 17.4 2.8 5.9 47.0 0.9 2.2 40.5 1.2 1.9 66.7 0.6 1.6 2.1 2.4 1.7 0.6 0.1 1.8 7.6
Louis Amundson 31 15.3 2.1 3.8 54.6 0.0 0.0 0.0 1.0 1.7 55.6 1.8 3.0 4.8 0.4 0.7 0.2 1.0 2.3 5.2
Robin Lopez 16 9.8 1.3 2.4 55.3 0.0 0.0 0.0 0.7 1.0 68.8 1.1 1.4 2.6 0.1 0.8 0.1 0.4 2.0 3.3
Earl Clark 25 8.5 1.2 2.9 39.7 0.0 0.0 0.0 0.4 0.6 62.5 0.4 0.9 1.3 0.5 0.6 0.2 0.3 0.4 2.7
Jarron Collins 14 6.6 0.4 0.6 62.5 0.0 0.0 0.0 0.1 0.8 18.2 0.6 1.4 2.0 0.1 0.2 0.0 0.2 1.2 0.9


Phoenix is one of the few (read: five) teams worse than the Kings on defense. The Suns currently rank 29th on defense, ahead of only Toronto. The team's shooting defense isn't completely pitiful (only somewhat disastrous), but it's defensive rebounding and turnover forcing are completely catastrophic. (Catastrophes everywhere, is what I mean to say.) The flip side is that the Suns have the NBA's top offense, scoring a sweet 114+ points per 100 possessions. Unreal.

LAST TIME

Kenny Thomas was brilliance personified, yet the Kings somehow lost. Weird. Also, Spencer Hawes shot 4-14, missing an inordinate number of bunnies. He's fairly good at converting lay-ups, so expect correction there. Phoenix adjusted its defense to deny Tyreke Evans penetration, so here's to Omri Casspi from the wing. Swish!

KEY BATTLE

Jason Thompson/Hawes vs. Stoudemire/Channing Frye. The Kings must abuse the Suns in the paint, because there's a good chance Frye will convert a few threes and Stoudemire will drop an effortless 20. Thompson had a rough time on the offensive glass last time, so that's a key opportunity for improvement. I don't expect the Kings big men to keep Amar'e off his own offensive glass, but that'd be a nice surprise.

INTERESTING SIDESHOW

As Kevin Martin's return approaches, the battle for minutes at small forward comes into sharp focus. Remember, Martin played almost 42 minutes per game before the injury. (That includes an overtime game, but the point stands.) Andres Nocioni is already losing playing time (just 17 a night over the past 10 games) and Omri Casspi is making a brilliant case to remain the permanent starter. Unless Donte Greene grabs minutes at power forward, Sergio Rodriguez falls out of the rotation, or something unexpected happens to the rotation, Greene and Ime Udoka might be stuck to the bench soon. The jockeying began in November, but this is the homestretch.

NUMERIC PREDICTION

Kings by 14.

DETAILS

Tip-off at 7 PM. Game thread Uno then, Dos at 8. Post-gamer at 9:45, recap manana. (Sorry! I don't know how to do tildes! I mean "tomorrow" in Spanish, not a hybrid mango-French pineapple!) KHTK for the audio, Comcast on the telley.

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