Warriors (W-L): 40-23
Suns (W-L): 42-22
Time: 7:30pm PST
Radio: KNBR 680
Coming off a solid win against the Chris Bosh-less Raptors, the Warriors hit their 40th win of the season with 19 games remaining. Let's take a quick playoff race check. Doing the math, if the Warriors can just go 1 game over .500 for the rest of the season (10-9), they'll have 50 wins. Pretty crazy right? 50 wins should get the Warriors in the playoffs - as the 8th seed. Denver, at 38-26 has played 64 games and in order to get to 50 wins needs to go 12-6 the rest of the way. If the Warriors keep winning and playing excellent ball, it'll be a second consecutive trip to the playoffs because the Warriors control their own destiny. An excellent option compared to last year where we were forced to root hard for whoever was playing the Clippers.
Tonight, the Warriors travel to the Valley of the Sun to face off against the new-look Phoenix Suns who are now only 1.5 games in front of the Warriors. This is the first time the Warriors get a chance to face the Suns with Shaq and without Shawn Marion. How different will it be?
Hit the jump.
Shaquille O'neal for Shawn Marion. What were the Suns thinking? They're now 5-6 with Shaq now that they're on a 2 game win streak after beating Memphis and San Antonio. Have they turned the corner with Shaq? Did they need about 10 games to get him in the groove? Does it take about 2 weeks for the HGH to kick in and give him his 30 year old legs back?
The Suns clearly were shooting for the playoffs with this move. The thinking was that if they could get to the playoffs having Shaq in the post to defend against Tim Duncan and Carlos Boozer and allow Amare to roam around that would be better than Marion. But defensively, this team seems to be worse off. You lose your best defensive player and replace him with an aging center, and things can't go well. I'm not saying the Suns won't win it all, I'm just saying I think it severely hurts their chances.
With Marion on the team, the Warriors could run up and down with that team and match them shot for shot. How the heck do the Warriors play them now with Shaq on the floor? The same way they've been playing every other team in the league. The Warriors have to force the Suns to play at the Warriors pace. Make Shaq such a liability on defense that Mike D'Antoni has to pull him off the floor. Your now essentially playing the Suns without Marion - I like our chances.
So how do you make Shaq a liability? Nellie's going to have to experiment and see what's working for the night. I think he'll try a lineup with Beans in there setting high screen and rolls like they usually do. Make Shaq come out and guard that pick and roll (which he used to hate in LA). Either Baron/Monta/Jax gets a wide open jumper or Beans is using his quickness in the paint to get off an easy shot. Nash-Shaq guarding Baron-Beans. Then you have Al Harrington too. If Nellie goes super small like he did in last year's playoff run giving Al the center spot and he's knocking down his long range jumper, there's no way Shaq stays in this game because he simply can't venture out to the arc to guard anyone.
But then the Suns will of course try to impose their will on the Warriors. Their Shaq-Amare tandem is quite imposing. How are the Warriors going to stop them? How are the Warriors going to grab a rebound? The Warriors simply don't have the girth to match up with those two. And Nellie won't try to. He'll simply try to outscore the Suns. The faster the pace, the better.
- Warriors win by 5
- Shaq plays under 15 minutes
- Al Harrington gets his 20-25 points
- Amare goes buck wild with 35-16
- Baron loves facing Nash. Baron loves being on national tv. He'll play so well, Phoenix fans will be chanting M-V-P for him.