The Scouting Report: at Phoenix Suns #2
In an attempt to help you get to know the Blazers opponent each night, we are going to post a little bit of a scouting report of each team on the blog before each game. Tonight’s opponent are the 7-7 Phoenix Suns. Tip-off is at 6PM on CSNNW.
Projected starting line-up: Eric Bledsoe (gametime decision), Goran Dragic, P.J. Tucker, Channing Frye, Miles Plumlee
So, since the Blazers and Suns have met three times in less than a month, we are doing something different with the scouting report today. Myself and Andrew Lynch, host of ESPN’s Daily Dime Live, writer for Hardwood Paroxysm and Phoenix Suns fan, did an e-mail exchange.
You can follow Andrew on twitter: @AndrewLynch
Erik: So, it’s been not so long since the Suns and Trail Blazers last met and it seems like both teams have gone in opposite directions. What do you think has been the biggest reason for the Suns struggles since their loss against the Blazers on November 13th?
Andrew: There’s a macro- and a micro-level reason for Phoenix’s regression since these two teams last saw each other. In the larger picture, the Suns had been playing with fire for much of the season. Their first 10 games were all within 5 points with 5 minutes or less to play, and those close games beg for a bounce of the ball to go against a team and send them careening to a loss. When all of your games come down to the final minutes, it’s pretty easy to put together a losing streak.
I know the schedule is easy to point to, but have you also seen who Indiana has played on their way to the best record in the NBA? The Pacers have played two Western Conference teams and they only played one East team over .500 in the Bulls. They took the Heat to seven games last year and that likely gives them a pass but Portland’s schedule hasn’t been any easier than that, especially in a deeper Western Conference.
During the winning streak, their offense offensive efficiency has been third in the NBA and that’s what everybody has been talking about. All of a sudden Coach Stotts’ flow offense has become the talk of the league. But you know what? They’ve been 8th in the league in defensive efficiency since their last loss and Stotts deserves some love for that too.
They’re doing it on both ends and they’re tied with the fourth-best net rating (the difference between their offensive and defensive efficiencies) with Oklahoma CIty and only trailing the Pacers, Spurs and Heat. That’s pretty good company to be in, no matter who you play. I know the Suns have struggled and losing Bledsoe has been huge, but is Gerald Green being this good of a shooter here to stay?
Erik: Defensively Lopez has been fantastic. Another guy that stands out because of his pure consistency is Aldridge. He’s a better defender than he’s given credit for but he makes a positive impact on that end of the floor. Damian Lillard has improved a lot as he is doing more of the little things like consistently fighting over picks. Matthews stands out for his effort and Nic Batum has been effective in guarding point guards.