Court Report: Working Out the Kinks
Going into the 2012-13 season, Suns Head Coach Alvin Gentry publicly emphasized continued improvement on defense. He did so because the team is working nine new players into the rotation, and the offensive efficiency Suns fans are used to might take a little bit of time to form. In the first two games, both at US Airways Center, the Suns responded by defending well. That kind of effort nearly allowed for a win over Golden State in the season opener, and led to a win over Detroit in the second game. But on the first road trip of the season, Phoenix ran into a pair of teams that shot the lights out leading to losses at Orlando and Miami. If the Suns are to get back on track on the East Coast, a return to defensive stinginess and these other influences will play a large part in the 5 p.m. game at Charlotte on Wednesday:
1. Smooth Transition: As the Suns’ offensive chemistry begins to form, players like Marcin Gortat, Shannon Brown and Markieff Morris have to learn to play with Goran Dragic at the point. But one person Gentry has not had to worry about in terms of learning to play with Dragic is power forward Luis Scola. The duo has recorded the numbers to back up why it was a smart move to reunite the two former Houston Rockets. Scola leads the team with 16.8 points per game, while Dragic is second on the squad with 14.3 points per game. The point guard has maintained that scoring average while also dolling out 8.8 assists per game.
2. Shooting Spark: Maybe that spark already occurred at the shooting guard position. Reserve Shannon Brown led the Suns with 18 points in just 20 minutes against the Miami Heat on Monday. That kind of performance accurately illustrates just how explosive the athletic guard can be. Brown nailed 3-of-6 3-pointers, but he also was aggressive enough to get to the free-throw line seven times. Meanwhile, fellow shooter Jared Dudley has cooled from last year’s shooting pace, which is a surprise and the reversal of a much larger trend of improved field goal percentages during each of his first three seasons as a Sun. If these two guards both get going at the same time, watch out for the entire Suns offense to open up.
3. More from Marcin: The Suns have asked for more from their big man, and Marcin Gortat has responded so far this season. Yes, his scoring average has gone down from a season ago, when Gortat led the team with 15.4 points per game, but he has made more of an impact defensively and on the glass this season. The center has hauled in over 12 rebounds per games – which is one more than he averaged over the course of last season – and he has upped his block total to 3.5 per game. All the while, Gortat has also continued to score in double digits every game.
4. Due for a Cool Down: Two games ago against the Magic, the Suns were following the defense-first model Gentry wanted. Tempo was being controlled and the team’s defense was leading the way against the Magic. Then Orlando erupted for 40 points in the third quarter. Next, Phoenix rolled into Miami and found out how lethal the defending NBA champs are with even more shooters this season. That buzzsaw the Suns ran into has to be running out of time, and against Charlotte – a team that is shooting under 40 percent from the floor and under 30 percent from 3 – the Suns could find themselves on more stable footing during tonight’s game.