San Antonio Spurs vs. Phoenix SunsAT&T Center, San Antonio, TX
November 6, 2013, 7:30 PM Spurs Time
TV: FSSW - RADIO: 1200 AM WOAI
After playing in Denver on Tuesday night, the Spurs return home to host the new-look Phoenix Suns, a team that San Antonio already got an early look at in the preseason. It might have just been an exhibition game, but it will give Gregg Popovich and his staff a good feeling on what to expect from this young, exciting Suns team that had a better opening week than most expected.
Tim Duncan returned from injury with a 24-point performance in a losing-effort to a Portland team that tends to give the Spurs a difficult time, and followed it up with a 17-8-8-4 night against Denver. Tony Parker and Manu Ginobili are bouncing around like slightly younger versions of themselves, but aside from some impressive early play from Bori Diaw, the Spurs are still looking for better production from the supporting cast. Through the first week of the season, the two concerns for the Spurs have to be the play of Tiago Splitter and Danny Green. They'll be counted on to take some pressure off through this 82-game grind we call the NBA regular season.
The matchup will be a SEGABABA for both teams, and while the advantage might seemingly go to the Spurs who are playing at home, young and hungry Phoenix could probably play every day of the week if asked, so let's call that a wash.
The Suns will be without starting point guard Goran Dragic due to injury, and it is unlikely that first-round pick Alex Lin will be able to play. But Eric Bledsoe has become the team's pilot even when the Phoenix Suns had a healthy Dragic. Bledsoe is becoming the man on a team that needs a top dog. His numbers through the first week of the season -- a week where the Suns went 2-1 with wins over Portland and Utah -- are staggering. Bledsoe, who is between a point guard and a shooting guard, is averaging 22 points, 8.6 assists, 6.3 rebounds and 2.0 steals a game. That is All-Star level play for a guy that has been waiting his whole career for a chance to be a featured player on a team.
The shocking success that the Suns have had thus far is not just the product of Eric Bledsoe. It's been a team-effort, as P.J. Tucker (13 points a game), Gerald Green (11) and Channing Frye (10) have all been bright spots that are producing beyond their career averages. Roles have increased for Bledsoe, Miles Plumlee and Dionte Christmas, which is paying off in spades for first-year head coach Jeff Hornacek. Plumlee has been outstanding so far, averaging a double-double through the first week of the season.
Third-year forwards Marcus and Markieff Morris are still searching for consistent roles, as each has started one game. It is likely that Bledsoe handles a lot of the point guard duties with Dragic out, but Ishmael Smith will also be asked to fill-in.
The Suns are a fast, exciting and athletic team that is doing it with energy on both sides of the court. While Phoenix is only 19th in pace, the Suns led the league in the first week of the season with 26.3 fast-break points per game. The defense is fourth in points allowed per game (92.7), third in opponent's field goal percentage (.399) and first in the league in 3-point field goal percentage allowed (.246). Even in the loss to the Thunder, the Suns held OKC to just 2-of-16 from behind the arc.
When studying the Suns, the aspect of their game that is the most surprising is their seemingly Josh Smith-like fixation on the 3-point shot. The Suns are fifth in the league in three-point attempts, but only 22nd in the league in 3-point percentage, with Bledsoe, a career 30% three-point shooter, leading them in attempts.
While Phoenix may have an energy and athletic advantage in a back-to-back, San Antonio should be able to take advantage of that youth in other ways. The Suns turned the ball over 27 times against Oklahoma City. But San Antonio will have to knock down shots, something they struggled to do against the Nuggets on Tuesday night.
Matchup to watch: Plumlee is becoming an active force in the paint for the Suns, which is odd considering his track record at Duke. This is a game where Splitter can really earn his money by controlling the boards and keeping the active Plumlee from playing his game: rolling to the basket, getting cheap buckets on put-backs and Bledsoe's drive-and-dumps. Phoenix may shoot a lot from the perimeter, but it does its damage by getting into the open court and making the game as up-and-down as possible. San Antonio will look to slow that down by forcing this to be a half-court game.
Suns perspective can be found here: Bright Side Of The Sun
Game Prediction: Spurs by 5.
As always Tony must dominate Fisher, and NBA league pass is recommended for those who are willing to pony up the cash. Almost every Spurs game will be broadcast there, which is especially helpful for those of us who aren't in the San Antonio area. Please don't post links to illegal game feeds in the game thread. Links to illegal feeds are not permitted on SBNation, but you can probably find them out there on the internets if you're resourceful and desperate.
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