THE SCOUTING REPORT
Brought to you by HighTops:
Phoenix is in 6th place in the West, and like the SAS had a very bad January ending the month with a 7-9 record. For the season they’re 30-21, and 12-15 on the road, but they’ve already beaten us here in Sac and in Phoenix, and have won 14 of the last 16 meetings. Their losing ways seem to be changing having won four straight with a winning margin of 8 pts and a scoring average of 110 points per game. And, they expect to sweep their current road trip starting with the lowly Kings. (Not my words, it’s from the Suns website.)
The Kings played well against the Suns in the two losses, and actually outscored them from the field but lost the games by being outscored by 11 pts and 8 pts from the FT line. The Kings also out rebounded the Suns. In the Dec 15th game in Phoenix, Kenny Thomas had 18 rebounds and Amare had 21. In the Jan. 5th game in Sac, Tyreke pulling down 11 and JT 10, while JRich lead the Suns with 9 and Amare pulled down 8.
The honors keep coming for the Suns; Amare and Nash were both named to the Western Conference All-Star starting lineup. And, Channing Frye became the league leader in made 3pt shots (92), on Jan. 6th against Houston, after posting his 5th game of the season with 6 made 3’s.
The one change since our last meeting is that Robin Lopez has started the last 10 games at Center, and Frye has moved to the bench. As a starter, Lopez is averaging 13 ppg, 6 rpg, and 1.2 blks in 25.6 mpg while shooting .654 FG% and .784 FT%. The other starters remain the same. Nash is averaging 16.8 ppg and 11.3 apg on .453 FG% and .468 3P%. JRich is scoring 12.2 ppg & 6.5 rpg on 42% shooting from the field but only 21% (8-37) from 3pt range. Grant Hill is still putting up good number, .494 FG%, .462 3P% and .893 from the FT line, but only averages 11 pts/4 rebs per game. And finally, Amare who is making sounds like he may not opt out of his contract at the end of the season, but is playing like a man looking for a big payday. He is averaging 23 pts, 9.2 rebounds, and 1.4 blks on 53% shooting.
With JT out for personal reasons, the Kings are woefully undersized and can’t match up with Phoenix’s big man rotation of Lopez, Stoudemire, Frye, and Amundson. I have to believe that PW told Thomas to start warming up right after the SAS game, so the only question is who will be in a suit, Hilton or May. Beno is listed, as day to day, so hopefully he’ll be available. The Kings could use him if Martin starts to lose his stroke as he did in the end of the Spurs game. Our one ray of hope lies with Tyreke who has averaged 24.0 points, 8.5 rebounds and 7.0 assists in two games against the Suns.
After the horrible way the Kings defended the pick & roll in the Spurs game, the site of Nash entering Arco doesn’t bode well for the Kings in spite of the fact that Nash has been hampered by an abdominal strain. Add to that an offense that has dropped to 21st in the league, and a defense that’s rated 24th and giving up 107 ppg; and it paints a pretty bleak picture. For the Kings just to compete is going to take some of the best performances of the season from our young core, and probably the career game from someone like Armstrong or May. Let’s hope Westphal can come up with some of his rotational magic, and find a couple of line ups that can compete with another opponent that’s likely to go far into the post season.
Thanks to HighTops, as always. His Key Points should be in the comments shortly.
THE KEY BATTLE
Evans vs. Nash. The Kings figure to lose the battle between Amare and J.T.'s replacement (likely Greene), so it's vital the difference is made up in the backcourt. And there, you have to pray Evans can get to the line frequently. Phoenix fouls infrequently relative to the league, despite rather poor guard defense. But Reke has shown a real skill in drawing fouls, and knocking Amare out of the game early would be divine.
Channing Frye will miss more three-pointers than Sean May.
That tank of lobsters never stood a chance.
7 PM tip. Game Threads at 7 and 8:15, a post-gamer at 9:45.