USA TODAY Sports
The humdrum Phoenix Suns come to town daring the Blazers to rise above mediocrity. Will the Blazers have the talent, gumption, and wisdom to do it?
The NBA version of tan slacks comes to town tonight in the person of the Phoenix Suns. They face your mighty .500 Portland Trail Blazers at 7:00 p.m. Pacific in a game televised on CSNNW locally and NBATV nationally.
Once upon a time the Suns sported the most dynamic and efficient offense the NBA had ever seen. Those days are gone. Watching the Phoenix offense now is the equivalent of going into a restaurant, asking about the special, and hearing, "Toast".
"Well, what comes with it?"
"A dollop of mayonnaise if you want."
"No thanks, I'll just look at the menu."
"Sorry, that's all we serve."
The Suns aren't bad. They're not good. They're average. At everything. They like long walks on the beach, enjoy all kinds of music except for country and rap, and each of them has exactly 2.5 children. As a team they're fairly decent at forcing turnovers and work in more field goal attempts than most. But that's just more possessions that turn out average. Whoooo! I got two bowls of Cream o' Wheat instead of one! What a lucky day. The other night Goran Dragic had 14 points going into the fourth quarter. "Slow your roll, Holmes," said Michael Beasley, "You know we're each contractually obligated to score between 10.5 and 15.5 points per game, no more and no less."
"What was I thinking?" replied Dragic. Then he promptly went out and hit one and a half free throws.
Everybody in their rotation plays between 17 and 32 minutes. Shots are evenly distributed throughout. Two-car garage, white picket fence, blah blah blah. This is life in the Valley of Vanilla.
When Coach Alvin Gentry said, "We need to play more mean" this is not what he meant.
But the Suns lead a secret double life on defense. They're really poor defensive rebounders. They're good shot-blockers. They allow a ton of points in the paint and super-obnoxious percentages from the field and three-point arc both. This is their wild party side. Unfortunately they're really sloppy drunks, which is why they're 11-15 instead of 15-11. But they have discovered some defensive integrity (a.k.a. "managing your disease") over the last week, propelling them to 4 straight wins and 3 of 4 games with the opponent scoring 90 or fewer points. If that trend continues, even an average offense will be enough to win games.
We must also remember a few things:
1. Last time the Suns and Blazers met Phoenix crushed the guys in red and black, a 114-87 stomping which remains the Suns' biggest win of the year.
2. Goran Dragic and Marcin Gortat cause particularly nasty problems for their Blazer counterparts.
3. Bumps and bruises could short or slow Portland's lineup tonight.
4. The game's at home for Portland which could be a big difference-maker, especially if the Blazers have revenge on their minds.
5. Despite the travel Phoenix is well-rested, having last played on Wednesday. Alternately they're rusty, having last played on Wednesday.
Mix that all together and you still have the Blazers answering a couple of questions. Can you keep an eye on the point guard and center at the same time for more than ten seconds? Are you going to play above average or below? Show up with your socks and dress shirt matching and tan slacks will be put to shame. Show up in raggedy sweats and a pitted t-shirt and you're going to get outclassed.
Bright Side Of The Sun talks about the Suns, natch.
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