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Game Preview: San Antonio Spurs vs. Phoenix Suns

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What strange beings will haunt the hardwood?

NBA: Los Angeles Lakers at San Antonio Spurs John Glaser-USA TODAY Sports

While we wish we could say that the upcoming game between the Spurs and Suns will be interesting because we’re just not sure which player might accidentally take the court in costume, it’s also worth watching because you’ll get the chance to observe two distinct coaching systems in action: there’s the known factor — Pop’s system — and then there’s the system of Igor Kokoškov, the head coach of the Phoenix Suns.

October 31st, 2018 | 9:30 PM CT
Watch: ESPN | Listen: WOAI
Spurs (4-2) vs. Suns (1-5)

The Suns aren’t off to a what you’d call a great start. They’re 1-5. They’re at the bottom of the Western Conference, lingering one behind the Rockets (of all teams, though this might suggest that the departure of Jeff Bzdelik from the Rockets organization might have mattered a little bit more than expected.)

But that’s not quite the point of why it will be worthwhile to watch the game: you should watch the game because Kokoškov runs interesting plays.

Consider this, a play called ‘Double Eyes’ that he ran with the Slovenian National Team (film which was flagged by Yusuf Saleem of Suns Film Room).

— and then compare it with how it played out with the Suns —

It’s an intriguing enough way to have the player playing center provide the foundation to chip into the defense, even if they don’t follow through with the entirety of the play and the team sends the ball back out to the perimeter.

But all the interesting ideas in the world don’t really matter at the moment, because — as has been established — the Suns are playing terribly. They share the ball, but they’re playing terribly.

There are a few probable reasons why the Suns are having a hard time right now:

1. Kokoškov isn’t necessarily changing the sets he runs, which is a little bit odd, given that — as Saleem pointed out on a podcast called The Timeline — he has gone from working with a player like Goran Dragic to working with a player like Isaiah Canaan (who is now out with an ankle injury.)

2. The Suns haven’t been changing the line-up around, even though Ryan Anderson hasn’t been playing well and T.J. Warren has been playing well. (Compare this with Brad Stevens of the Boston Celtics, who was quick to get Terry Rozier onto the floor when Kyrie Irving had a bit of a cold start.)

3. The team isn’t very fast: 26 other teams currently move up the floor faster on offense than them (the Rockets being the slowest) while eleven other teams are faster than them when they’re moving back on defense — with the Spurs currently the third fastest team to get back on defense in the league.

The Suns currently allow the fourth most points in the paint than anyone else in the league (the third being the Lakers) and are the second worst in allowing points off of turnovers in the league, giving up 23.7 points off turnovers per a game.

Their rim protection against OKC was non-existent: they gave up backdoor cuts again and again. They got blown out by the Memphis Grizzlies, who currently have the worst shooting record in the league.

All available evidence suggests that this game will probably favor the Spurs. That being said, it might be worth keeping an eye on Deandre Ayton, who’s playing well, T.J. Warren, who has excelled when he’s come off the bench, and Elie Okobo, who might be able to function as a point guard for the Suns going forward.


Vegas odds: 7

Game Prediction: Spurs by 9

For the Suns fans’ perspective, visit Bright Side of the Sun.

PtR’s Gamethread will be up this afternoon for those who want to chat through the game. You can also follow along with the action through PtR’s Twitter feed.