Slowing the run and gun

The Phoenix Suns know what it’s like to have those ups and downs.

Beat the Lakers, lose to the Grizzlies. Blow out the Celtics, lose a shootout to the Pacers. Head coaches with vacant stares at post-game press conferences. With all of that, the Suns are 24-15, a record fairly close to that of the hawks, and good for fifth place in the West. Atlanta meanwhile, stands at fourth place in the East, at 25-13. And now, the two teams meet for the first time this season.

 

Tale of Two Teams

In regard to personnel, the Hawks and Suns have gone in different directions. Gone from Phoenix is Shaquille O’Neal, arriving was Channing Frye, making the Suns what they once were: smaller and faster, with more perimeter capability. Has it worked so far? A winning record would indicate that it has. And the Suns are back to doing what they’ve had the most success with in recent years: outscoring and out-assisting opponents. Phoenix didn’t make the playoffs last season. This season, they figure to be in the postseason if all keeps going as it is now, and they can stay healthy.

Meanwhile, the Hawks added speed and firepower of their own. Gone is the hard-nosed Flip Murray, along with little-used point guards Acie Law and Speedy Claxton. In is Jamal Crawford, possibly the top candidate for Sixth Man of the Year. In also is Joe Smith, giving the Hawks a legit power forward off the bench when Josh Smith is out of the game.

So while the Suns won’t bring as much size as they did last season, in which they won both meetings (Shaq had big games both times), they will probe the Hawks’ defensive weaknesses elsewhere, namely from the three point arc, where they are shooting nearly 42%. On the other hand, Phoenix is giving up about 107 ppg game to opponents, meaning they are facing a more offensively potent Atlanta squad than they did last year, with a less defensively capable squad. And speaking of opposite directions, it’s now the Hawks who have a winning record on the road, with the Suns losing more than they win away from home.

 

Irresistable Force vs. Immovable Object….er, not exactly

The Suns score like there is no tomorrow (roughly 110 ppg), but they aren’t exactly unstoppable. With that high point total comes a turnover average of  15.3 per game. Interestingly enough, the Hawks are forcing 14.9 turnovers per game from opponents. Phoenix will not be able to maintain a high pace of scoring if they keep losing the ball, which is the one obvious flaw in their offensive armor.

The Hawks are limiting opponents to 97 points per game, but when their defensive intensity and execution is off, they are highly susceptible to giving up points in the paint, and/or getting torched from the arc. Either way it makes for a tough game. But with the Hawks, it’s not a matter of “can’t” nearly as much as it is a matter of “didn’t.” Both teams will try to impose their will in this game, and must do so to win. Will it be the Suns, dictating the pace on offense and bombing away from the outside, or will it be the Hawks, dictating the pace on defense by creating turnovers that lead to fastbreak opportunities?

 

Matchups

 

Steve Nash is playing about as well as he ever has in his career, and it’s a large part of why Phoenix is back in the thick of things in the West. With averages of 19 ppg, 11 apg, and shooting nearly 55% from the field, he looks to be in the form that he had back when he was getting MVP awards. Nash is still a sieve on defense, however. Can Mike Bibby expose him on defense and slow him on offense, or will Nash continue his nearly-20-and-10 nights? If he does, the Suns have a great chance at winning. However, if the Hawks are smart, they will run Bibby off of screens to tire Nash out and even the odds a bit. It won’t be easy, as Nash is only averaging 1.2 fouls per game, meaning he is either playing no defense at all, or he is careful to avoid being baited into foul trouble. Off the bench, Jamal Crawford figures to get the bulk of the minutes, (particularly if the Hawks offense struggles) though Teague may see some. Nash won’t be the fastest guy on the court, but he’ll likely be the most deadly with the ball in his hands. Limiting him means limiting Phoenix’s offense. Between Atlanta’s three guards (not counting Joe Johnson), somebody has to slow him down. Who will get the job done?

Nash may be the firestarter on this squad, but Amare Stoudamire is the finisher. Enjoying another all-star caliber year, Stoudamire puts up nearly 21 and 9 each game. Of course, this isn’t the best we’ve seen of him, but hey, who are we to complain about that? Stoudamire has few weaknesses, but defensive effort is certainly one. Add to that a 3.8 fouls per game average, and already there is a formula for slowing him down. Amare can block most shots that he can get to, but he either doesn’t have the instinct for it, or doesn’t care. When you’re far and away the team’s best big man, averaging .87 blocks per game is a downright travesty. To put that into perspective, Louis Amundson (1.03) and Channing Frye (.95) are doing better than that. Say whaaaaat? All the same, Stoudamire is not to be ignored, and will prove to be a bear to deal with down low, whether it’s Al Horford or Josh Smith who gets the task of guarding him. And along with Channing Frye, he gives the Hawks something to think about, as tall guys who can shoot from the outside are never an easy matchup for them.

The Strategy

Simply put, the Hawks should go inside to Horford and Smith early, often, and all game long. The Suns’ only hope of stopping them is to play a heavy zone and force a bunch of turnovers. But that’s not really their game. Or, they can try to impose their will on offense and keep the Hawks on their heels. That is more likely Phoenix’s strategy. Either way, getting into a jumpshooting contest with a jumpshooting team is not the way to go. That’s not to say that the Hawks shouldn’t shoot jumpers, or keep the guards from getting scoring opportunities. But if the Hawks go inside first, where Phoenix will have a tough time stopping them, it should open up good looks for Joe, Bibby, and Jamal. And while Marvin Williams is not part of the guard contingent, his recent play and inside/outside capability would suggest that getting him the ball early is also a good idea.

 

Our Sixth Man is Better Than Yours Is!

What sounds like a sandbox challenge just happens to be the truth. Leandro Barbosa was once the cream of the crop in this segment, but no longer. It’s not that he has fallen off the map. He’s still zipping up and down the court, shooting when he can. But his minutes have gone down, and so has his production. With Raja Bell gone and Jason Richardson in town, this is not entirely unexpected.

 

Watch Out For This Guy

My pick for “danger guy” is Jason Richardson. J-Rich isn’t putting up the numbers he used to, but the ability is still mostly there. If the Hawks don’t clamp down on him quick, he could have one of those nights where he’s 6 for 9 from the arc, and throws down 2 or 3 high-flying dunks.

So who is the “danger guy” for the Suns? Which Hawk do they have to worry about the most?

74 comments Add your comment

westurd

January 15th, 2010
11:06 am

Nice Read…………love the breakdown.

This will be a good match up and a 4th quarter game!

See you in the Factory tonight!

westurd

January 15th, 2010
11:07 am

………and only losers call “First”

westurd

January 15th, 2010
11:07 am

richbrave

January 15th, 2010
11:16 am

wordsmithtom:

A sports franchise in a small market can’t afford to carry “bad boy” “gangstas” on its books. Too many families don’t want their kids emulating this crap. Maybe Boston can get away with it, but it won’t sell in Atlanta.

D.C. also by the evident slippage in current attendence and advance season ticket sales for the 2010-11 season.

Fundamentals

January 15th, 2010
11:25 am

The run and gun style of Phoenix should be a test for our team defense. They know how to run plays and score in a hurry. Hopefully Teague will get a shot at PG to show his speed on D. We’ll need solid team D against Nash & Amare.

Gotta hope Richardson didn’t watch the Denver game. We don’t need a repeat of the sorry perimeter defense we put on Denver & JR Smith. Tonight will be a definite test of our PG & Perimeter defense. Good to see Phoenix reemerge after losing the Shaq virus.

I’m excited about seeing a great game tonight.

Big Ray

January 15th, 2010
11:35 am

westurd ,

You made my day with that one, LOL…

Fundamentals ,

Dang if you aren’t right about that one! Hopefully we don’t lose track of Richardson and let him get hot the way we did with JR Smith.

Sautee

January 15th, 2010
12:19 pm

Nice piece, Ray.

It’ll be interesting to see how Woody wants to play it. Will we dare run with them and prove we’re more athletic?

Or will he have us walking it up to force them to play at “our” pace?

Either way, I don’t think Channing Frye can handle Big Al in the paint. Let’s start there.

O'Brien

January 15th, 2010
12:26 pm

Good breakdown Ray,

My danger guy is Channing Frye, because he is capable of hitting them 3’s too, and will pull our bigs away from the basket (we will need Marvin and the guards to be on rebound alert). My Hawks danger guy is Crawford, because of his crossover and ability to get to the rim (which he does better than JJ).

I think Mario will get some minutes at PG, and he will have 1 job. Slow down Nash (we dont need Mario to handle the ball). I think we’ll go Mario at PG, Crawford at SG, and JJ at SF for parts of the game.

Sautee,

I dont think Frye can handle Big Al either, but the key will be how often will the Hawks go to Al. If I’m the Hawks, I’m going to Al Horford and Josh Smith early to see if we can get fouls on Amare. If I’m the Suns, I would probably play some zone just to throw the Hawks off guard.

Big Ray

January 15th, 2010
1:04 pm

Man, Channing Frye couldn’t stop Al Horford if you gave him one of Gilbert’s…..wait, that’s not funny…

:twisted:

Big Ray

January 15th, 2010
1:10 pm

O’brien,

I think that scenario is every bit as plausible. We can’t give the man free looks.

Tony from Stone Mountain

January 15th, 2010
1:30 pm

I really enjoyed reading this blog. Great work!

Big Ray

January 15th, 2010
1:58 pm

Thanks, Tony ! Stick around, we have a good time here!

KevinA

January 15th, 2010
2:43 pm

With Frye camping out on the 3 pt line it might be up to Josh, Marvin and JJ to get rebounds. I sure hope Bibby is hitting because it is rare for Nash not to torch us. We have been getting our butt kicked by this team for years. Time to break the cycle.

Melvin

January 15th, 2010
4:23 pm

I willing to bet that Josh will guard Channing on defense and AL will have the task of stopping Amare..

Big Ray

January 15th, 2010
4:36 pm

That’s how I’d pick it too, Melvin ….

vava74

January 15th, 2010
6:00 pm

The switching defense will probably negate any set man to man situations.

Frye will get open looks from 3 with Bibby watching from below.

This should be a very difficult match up for us.

Key? Be very physical and disrupt the Sun’s game with fouls and pounding their inside defense.

O'Brien

January 15th, 2010
6:53 pm

I am looking forward to seing how the Hawks execute Woody’s “Nash Rules”.

And I’m sure the ESPN announcers will continue to talk about the Hawks jump shooting and ISOs.

Trainwreck

January 15th, 2010
7:12 pm

Looking forward to this one. I think we have a great chance of winning because we do play better defense than they do and we are capable of scoring with anyone especially at home. Of course, anything can happen but if we do the little hustle things like get offensive rebounds and loose balls, we should come out of this one on top.

niremetal

January 15th, 2010
7:27 pm

This is the ideal game to ditch the switching defense. Horford should always stick with Frye and Josh always with Amare. JJ probably will have to cover Nash, but that’s ok because Bibby guarding J-Rich isn’t going to keep me up nights.

Teague, by the way, should NOT see much burn tonight. Nash ironically is not that fast or quick relative to other NBA PGs, but every movement he makes has a purpose and he is incredibly creative. I could be wrong, but I just don’t think Teague is ready for Nash yet.

O'Brien

January 15th, 2010
7:33 pm

niremtal,

I think Woody can use Mario on Nash for brief periods too (instead of Teague).

And I agree about Woody changing up the switching. Unfortunately, we switch every game, regardless of who we’re playing.

Man, I’m ready for this game.

Big Ray

January 15th, 2010
9:18 pm

Huh. Well, just got in and see we’re down by 5 at the half. Could be worse. Could be better.

We’ll see what the second half has in store.

Switching defense isn’t killing us, but bad shooting/shot selection/offensive execution is….

Big Ray

January 15th, 2010
9:39 pm

I take that back. Switching defense is beginning to kill us. Either that, or the execution thereof. Ah heck, just flip a coin…

Big Ray

January 15th, 2010
9:57 pm

Josh and Al are looking pretty good out there. I don’t like that Stoudamire has gotten it going though.

vava74

January 15th, 2010
10:08 pm

the refs and poor shot selection got PHO back in the game…

Big Ray

January 15th, 2010
10:24 pm

Okay, that’s game, I think.

Joe into a double team that even that kid in Uzibekistan saw coming.

Bibby with another brick.

Another foul on us.

Yeah…we shot ourselves out of this one again. Amongst other things.

Big Ray

January 15th, 2010
10:34 pm

This is just nuts. Seriously nuts.

We play our “undersized” center for 44 minutes, then make him chase Steve Nash around on defense at the end of the 4th quarter.

Big Ray

January 15th, 2010
10:36 pm

Backcourt determined to lose it for us, I swear….

Big Ray

January 15th, 2010
10:41 pm

Tell me that was not a blatant, obvious, determined attempt to successfully exploit the switch defense.

Dawgs Man

January 15th, 2010
10:43 pm

Another 4th Quarter CHOKE for the Hawks. They just cannot do it.

Dawgs Man

January 15th, 2010
10:48 pm

Maybe they can.

Big Ray

January 15th, 2010
10:49 pm

Yesssss!!!!! I was hoping they’d give it to him!!!

Jamaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaal!!!!!

Big Ray

January 15th, 2010
10:51 pm

Oh man, what a game. WHAT A GAME.

So glad Jamal hit that shot.

On the other hand, look at the stats by Al and Josh. Yeomen….

vava74

January 15th, 2010
10:58 pm

what a shot… my goodness…

…but what poor prep coming out of the timeout…

vava74

January 15th, 2010
11:05 pm

man… when Jamal lost that ball on the double team (maybe people now understand that if he gets double teamed he also can be boxed in just like JJ) I thought that we were done…

I was shaking like a guy with Alzheimer… man… what a thrill… one of the happiest and most thrilling moment as a Hawk fan in a long time… and in national TV!!!!

vava74

January 15th, 2010
11:05 pm

missing one word: “then, what a thrill”

Melvin

January 15th, 2010
11:11 pm

Josh and AL combine for 44pts, 24rebs and 5blks… 1 less reb and I was ready to sign Sean Williams off the streets….Not, LMAO….

vava74

January 15th, 2010
11:15 pm

LET US ALL GIVE A VERY HARD FELT ROUND OF APPLAUSE TO……

ALVIN GENTRY!!!! For taking Lopez and Stoudamire out of the game and putting in Amundson and Dudley….

WHHOOAAAAA!!!!! And he was doing such a nice job…. :-)

Kiki

January 15th, 2010
11:16 pm

In this game i saw 2 unreal things: Crawford huge shot and Horford guarding Nash one-on-one.

niremetal

January 15th, 2010
11:54 pm

Jamal has that Horry swagger in the closing seconds. He went into our last two possessions shooting 4-13, including 1-6 on 3s. Didn’t matter one damned bit when the ball got in his hands for the last shot.

vava74

January 16th, 2010
12:32 am

it’s 5.30 AM over here…

I fell asleep at half past midnight waiting for the game and woke up at half time… now I am so pumped up that I simply can’t go to sleep…

I must force myself to, though…

richbrave

January 16th, 2010
1:01 pm

My bad sports fans. It’s not the GLOCK CENTRE here in downtown D.C. afterall. Turns out none of the guns ARENAS displayed included one. A 9mm BROWNING was the runt in the litter. A customized DESERT something or other was in the mix as well as a .500 something. Whatever they are. RAY, if you’re still talking to me, what are these weapons about?

richbrave

January 16th, 2010
1:20 pm

richbrave

January 16th, 2010
1:18 pm
And thanks GEORGIA for sending the UNIVERSITY of RICHMOND one DARRIUS GARRETT by way of Powder Springs. He had 14 blocks against UMASS wednesday night and gets the start tonight, his first as a soph. We now have three of five starters on our men’s b-ball team from GEORGIA to wit: KEVIN ANDERSON, pg; DAVID GONZOLVEZ, sg; DARRIUS GARRETT, pf. And NIKITA THOMAS on the women’s starting five. Thank you again GEORGIA. Keep ‘um coming.

Big Ray

January 16th, 2010
11:32 pm

Richbrave ,

The weapons you speak of are a Browning Hi-Power 9mm (most likely that model, anyway).

The second would be a Desert Eagle. It is manufactured by a company called Magnum Research. Basically, the Israelis designed it, and quite well at that. It is a semi-automatic, single action handgun of enormous size and weight. It is available in .357 magnum, .44 magnum, and .50 Action Express, the last one being the most popular in movies and amongst those who have no common sense or practicality. For an explanation on that, simply go to Youtube and type in “girl shoots Desert Eagle .50″ You will find a video of a scantily clad white female (she’s wearing a bikini top and a pair of shorts/pants) whose boyfriend hands her one of these monsters. Due to the lack of strength and ability to control the weapon, she fires it and basically breaks/hurts her nose, despite using both hands to hold and fire the weapon. I’ve fired one. It is not at all for the faint of heart, the timid, meek, or mild. I enjoyed the heck out of it.

The third is the Smith and Wesson .500 Magnum. Quite simply the largest, most powerful production revolver cartridge in the world. Fired by the largest revolver. It produces more power than many rifle cartridges. If the Desert Eagle scares you, then THIS will make you do smelly things in your pants at the very sight of it. If you think the world would be a safer place if all people (and criminals) had was revolvers, your delusion just went up in smoke. However, it is not intended for anti-personnel use. It was designed to provide outdoors-enjoying folk a weapon with which to defend themselves against the more dangerous and aggressive animals in this world. It’s also designed for hunting. The idea is to have something more maneuverable and easier to carry (even in thick brush areas) than a rifle. Have a bear problem? This thing will take down Grizzlies, browns, blacks, and polar bears. Wild hogs get turned into pork nuggets. Moose, elk, water buffalo, you name it.

Now that I’ve given Vava74 a coronary on top of apoplexy, I’ll stop talking….

;)

doc

January 17th, 2010
4:18 am

great munitions work there ray.

wordsmithtom

January 17th, 2010
10:29 am

More on the “Desert Eagle” than you probably want to know:

http://images.search.yahoo.com/images/view?back=http%3A%2F%2Fimages.search.yahoo.com%2Fsearch%2Fimages%3Fp%3Ddesert%2Beagle%2B.50%26b%3D55%26ni%3D18%26ei%3DUTF-8%26rd%3Dr2%26pstart%3D1%26fr%3Dyfp-t-701-s%26fr2%3Dtab-web&w=750&h=600&imgurl=pookaplex.com%2Ffunny%2Fdeseagle50.jpg&rurl=http%3A%2F%2Fforum.pafoa.org%2Fnational-11%2F64369-powerful-weapons-found-northwest-drug-raids.html&size=101k&name=deseagle50+jpg&p=desert+eagle+.50&oid=cbc59daae6872066&fr2=tab-web&no=68&tt=8665&b=55&ni=18&sigr=12pmo03ia&sigi=112csd11n&sigb=13tks0ijf

A favorite of the redneck meth cartel. Note in the above article it “will blow a hole in you big enough to drive a Mack truck through it.” Makes me think of a sawed off 306.

It first came to my attention in a song about meth done by James McMurtry, son of Larry McMurtry(Lonesone Dove and Last Picture Show). James called it: “One Baddass Handgun; sold by Hebrews who no longer need them”. It is a military assault weapon. Bet your ass the meth guys love them. This is no weapon for sissies….NO SHITE!

And Gilbert didn’t know it was illegal? He must be dumber than a sack of doorknobs.

vava74

January 17th, 2010
10:46 am

Big Ray,

I only read this today… I can only smile in disbelief! You are a gun junkie!

Along with the fact that I do not particular like guns, I am also an animal lover… so you post really hit me like the .500 would… :-)

vava74

January 17th, 2010
10:57 am

Big Ray,

I think you will like this one better: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xB7iz1HTh9U

wordsmithtom

January 17th, 2010
12:39 pm

Desert Eagle 50 is a favorite of the meth trade, for what it’s worth. James McMurtry, son of Larry McMurtry(Lonesome Dove & Last Picture Show) sings of the Desert Eagle in his “Choctaw Bingo”, an anthem to the Southern redneck meth trade. Makes me think of a sawed-off 306. One round can put a hole in you large enough to park a Mack truck.

Anyone who owns more than one gun and doesn’t know the Desert Eagle “might” be illegal must be dumb as a sack of doorknobs.

Saw a piece on Yahoo yesterday that lay much of the blame on Washington management for abetting this madness. Knowing it was going along, but turning the other cheek. If I owned stock in a company that poorly run, I’d sell and short it.

richbrave

January 17th, 2010
12:55 pm

BIG RAY:

Thanks for the info man. I thought you might have come across pieces like this in your meanderings about SAVANNAH. We still friends I hope.

wordsmithtom:

“Saw a piece on Yahoo yesterday that lay much of the blame on Washington management for abetting this madness. Knowing it was going along, but turning the other cheek. If I owned stock in a company that poorly run, I’d sell and short it.”

That would have been me except I’m just a regular blogger on WIZARDS INSIDER and others. Been saying that for years, literally. Now they trying to distance themselves from the stink. They should be in court right along-side ARENAS and potentially, CRITTENTON, and be held equally responsible. Reminds me of some old lines from the movie “GLORY” when the colonel [MATTHEW BRODERICK] asks “TRIP” [DENZEL WASHINGTON] to carry the regimental flag, and TRIP answers, “[this] whole business stinks, and we’re all wrapped up in it too. Ain’t nobody clean”

richbrave

January 17th, 2010
1:04 pm

RAY:

I understand the EAGLE was the .50 caliber Action Express limited edition either gold or silver plated. That’s right about the 500 as well. I guess the .44 magnum is no longer “……the most powerful handgun in the world, and will blow you head clean off.”