7:00 PM Pacific
US Airways Center, Phoenix, Arizona
TV: CSN Bay Area // Radio: KNBR 680
Blog Buddy: Bright Side of the Sun
The Suns should be thanking their lucky stars that Golden State is on the second game of a back-to-back tonight. That way, Steve Kerr just might rest some of his starters, including Andrew Bogut. The Suns need every edge they can muster as they hope to make the Western Conference playoffs this season -- a distinction that was so close but no cigar for the team last year.
Many of the key players for Phoenix's playoff push last season -- including multiple veterans -- are now gone. Channing Frye, the Suns' important stretch-four/five last year, signed in free agency with Orlando. Goran Dragic [and his brother Zoran] are gone as well, a result of Goran's broken relationship with the team's front office, replaced with two future first-round picks and fodder that will go a really long way toward helping the Suns make the playoffs this year. Yeah, right. The Suns picked up Brandon Knight in a second deadline deal, with the 76ers and Bucks, to absorb the loss of Dragic. Phoenix General Manager Ryan McDonough, a top contender for NBA Executive of the Year one season ago, also traded his prized free agent signing, Isaiah Thomas, to the Celtics.
Following the deadline, the Suns seem to be embracing a "youth movement" as they push for the playoffs. However, in the Western Conference, especially this year, I'm not sure that's the right move to make. Currently in tenth place in the Western Conference, Phoenix would need to leapfrog both New Orleans and battle-tested Oklahoma City just to get into the dance.
While the Pelicans and Thunder are both 7-3 in their last ten games, the Suns have won just four out of their past ten matchups. Dave King of SB Nation's Bright Side of the Sun writes that the team's slump "screams of [a] lack of veteran leadership." Indeed, their only starter over the age of 25 years old still on the team, P.J. Tucker, missed the team bus twice this season and lost his starting job earlier in the year.
King also blasted the team's head coach, Jeff Hornacek, for failing to adequately prepare and motivate his team: "While ... the Suns should be locked in every night [this late] in the year, they are still riding that roller coaster of mental preparation." A lack of motivation at this point in the season seems more befitting of the Knicks than a team looking to make the top eight. There's still time for Phoenix to right this sinking ship and make the playoffs this year. Looking at all the obstacles, however -- a slumping team, multiple games out behind two surging teams, with very little veteran leadership and a nine-man rotation that is "in flux" -- there seems like a very small chance of that happening.
On the other end of the floor, our Warriors are sitting pretty, up five games on the second-place team in the West, the Memphis Grizzlies. The Warriors just creamed the Clippers again, with the final score [106-98] suggesting nowhere close to the nature of the Warriors' dominance. Stephen Curry is making defenders look like hopeless idiots; Klay Thompson seemed to break out of his slump; Draymond Green was excellent in all facets of the game once again. Even if Steve Kerr rests Bogut, the Warriors still have a great shot to win. Their defense is superb, their offense -- with Stephen Curry -- is excellent, their depth is sold, and their coaching staff is prepared and adaptable.
And if Andrew Bogut plays, looking at the numbers, the Warriors are nearly unbeatable. This has been the case all season.
As the Suns look to capitalize on their unlikely chance to make the playoffs, they run into a juggernaut. Sorry, Phoenix.
- Curry goes for 20 points and 10 dimes in 31 minutes
- Eric Bledsoe scores 28 points, but on 11-26 FG
- Andrew Bogut and Andre Iguodala play under 27 minutes each
- Warriors hold the Suns to 37% shooting
- Golden State 108, Phoenix 94