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Game 10 Open Thread: Phoenix Suns @ SA

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You may have noticed that I have fallen behind in writing my game recaps. Fear not oh faithful reader, nary a single game shall go without my comments. I'll make them up if I have to.

I have some other business to attend to as well. Did you think I missed the news of Tony Parker's upcoming rap album? Did you think I did not notice Tim's voodoo chest patches? Perish the thought! I have eyes, ears and noses EVERYWHERE. Don't forget, I am the same investigative blogger who knows a guy who saw P.J. Carlesimo eating dinner at a Chinese restaurant in San Antonio. YOU CANNOT GET THIS INFO ANYWHERE ELSE.

Tonight the Spurs face off against the Amareless PHX Suns. Game time is 7:30 central.

Starting lineups:

PHX (4-4, 2-0 away)
PG Steve Nash
SG Raja Bell
SF Boris Diaw
"P"F Shawn Marion
C Kurt Thomas

SA (7-2, 4-0 home)
PG Tony Parker
SG Manu Ginobili
SF Shawn Marion's Worst Nightmare
PF Tim Duncan
C Rasho Nesterovic

Last year PHX tried to win with the best offense in the league and a sub-par defense. They decided to make some changes after allowing the Spurs to shoot 85% in the fourth quarters of the 05 playoffs. Out goes Q, Joe Johnson and Stephen Hunter, and in comes Raja Bell, Boris Diaw, Eddie House, James Jones and Kurt Thomas.

An interesting tidbit surfaced when Raja Bell signed with PHX over the summer (from SI):

When Bell signed with Phoenix over the summer, Ginobili called his agent (who also represents Bell) to complain that his defensive nemesis would be going to one of the Spurs' top rivals in the West.

I have no idea how true this is, but I know they skirmished in the past:

Ginobili and Bell waged a spirited battle throughout the game. Bell eventually fouled out when he gave Ginobili a hard shove with 9.7 seconds left. It was Bell's second hard foul on Ginobili. He was called for a flagrant foul late in the first half when he grabbed Ginobili's left arm and spun him into the crowd as Ginobili drove to the basket.

First off, I'm not so sure Raja's all that great of a defender. Mainly because NBA analysis guru Dan Rosenbaum has his doubts as well:

In my blog, I erroneously said the following: "Interestingly, [Raja] Bell who is being signed by the Suns in order to shore up their defense rates as a bad defender. What is remarkable about Bell's results is that he has played for several teams over the past three seasons and yet his defensive ratings have been consistently bad." This is wrong. Well, that might be a little harsh. It is not quite right. Bell has been an ineffective defender the past two seasons for Utah, but was effective for Dallas in 2002-03. Thus, perhaps in a new environment in Phoenix he will be effective once again.

Let's take a look at Manu's numbers against UTA last year: 21.3 PPG on 61% shooting. That's compared to 16.0 PPG on 46% shooting for the whole year. So based on what little evidence we have Raja Bell is not a particularly effective defender in general or specifically against Manu. So how do I explain what The Sickness said to his agent? Well, assuming it was actually said, it may have been partly in jest or more directed at Bell's physical style than his actual ability. I will certainly pay close attention tonight.

Long story short, I am not all that certain PHX is a significantly better defensive team this year. Joe Johnson was never awful and Hunter is one of the best shot blockers in the NBA. Kurt Thomas seems to have a reputation of a good defender, but I think that's due to the constant scowl on his face. And he's only 6'-9"! Plus he fits poorly into PHX's offensive style; he's only playing 23.5 MPG and that's with Amare out with injury.

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PoundingTheRock.com is proud to announce an official and exclusive affiliation with Matty da Blade, handicapper extraordinaire. He will be providing his plays for every Spurs game. Matty's been banned from 50% of the casinos and 75% of the strip clubs in Vegas and has been known to hit the occasional six-team parlay (if you know what I'm saying).

(Note: Picks are provided for entertainment purposes only. If you actually put real money on games based on the following you are a dumbass.)

Tonight's line: SA -10
Tonight's total: 199
My pick: SA
Matty da Blade's plays: PHX | Over
The Spurs are 5-4 ATS this year with an average margin of +0.8. I am 2-7. Da Blade is 5-3-1 ATS | 1-0 TOT.

This is an open thread. All commenters will receive a life-sized cardboard cut-out of Tootie from Facts of Life!