Our game preview today comes from Dan at our sister site BrightSideoftheSun.com. I did a reciprocal preview for them which you can catch at Dan's site today. Here's Dan...
The thing about the Suns is their top 7 players are all key at any given point. The main player for the Suns is obviously Steve Nash. The two time MVP is garnering a lot of talk about possibly winning his third in a row. He has increased his statistics in points, assists, field goal percentage and three-point percentage over last year. Almost everyone knows about him so I'm not sure there is more that I can say.
You also have Amare Stoudemire (STAT) who is coming back from micro-fracture surgery and is getting better every week, Shawn Marion (The Matrix) who does just about everything on the court, Raja Bell (Ra Ra) who is best known for taking down Kobe Bryant and Boris Diaw (3D) who came from being the 12th man on the bench in Atlanta to a starter on the Phoenix Suns.
The guy who I think doesn't get enough credit for the Suns' success is Leandro Barbosa (the Brazilian Blur). When he comes into the game, he brings instant energy. He's considered by many to be the fastest player in the game. And he's getting to the point where the Suns run plays for him for the last shot of the game. He is doing a commendable job as Steve Nash's backup.
With Kurt Thomas going out for 4-6 weeks with an elbow injury, someone else from the Suns is going to have to step up. So far that has been James Jones. He has really enjoyed the change back to the old ball and shoots really well now.
To beat the Blazers, the Suns will need to do what they do against every team. They'll run their butts off, they'll shoot threes and they'll clamp down on defense. As long as the Suns can run, there really isn't anyone who can stop them.
If the Blazers want to have any chance to win, they cannot try to run with the Suns. Every team, except for the Mavericks, who tries to run with the Suns ends up losing by double-digit points because they can't keep up for 4 quarters. They always play well for a quarter, maybe two, and then the third quarter comes, the players are struggling to breathe during free throws and timeouts and the Suns run away with the game. Another thing the Blazers can do is be rough. The Suns are a finesse team and with Kurt Thomas out they really don't have anyone who can bang down low. Amare Stoudemire eventually will be able to do that but it seems like he is still wary of his knees and tries to avoid contact when possible. If the Blazers get a little rough with the Suns, it could scare the Suns into shooting too many outside shots and not getting Amare Stoudemire involved in the game a lot.
The main storyline in Phoenix is that the Suns are going for their 12 win in a row. They had previously won 15 in a row and set the franchise record. The hard part for the Suns is to get excited for a game where the team looks bad on paper. The Blazers are just the type of game that is hard for the Suns because they think it is going to be easy. But all of the teams are trying to be the one who knocked the Suns off the pedestal so their opponents are always coming to play as hard as possible.
Do I think the Blazers have a chance to beat the Suns? No, not really. But Dan Majerle (my favorite ever Phoenix Suns player) always says that any NBA team can beat any other NBA team on any given night. So if the Suns don't play their game, there is always a chance the Blazers can win.