November 05, 2008
(I love working for Yahoo!, and love all the information that the boys at the desk throw into these preview pages, but click on that link above. Up near the top, it's telling you the weather in Indianapolis. For an indoor game. Cracks me up for some reason.)
The season is over a week old, and the Pacers have only played twice, losing a close one to the Pistons and toppling the Celtics by 16.
Phoenix is playing its fifth game, and although they were held at bay by the Hornets last week, the Suns looked fantastic in wins over the Spurs, Trail Blazers, and Nets.
All signs should point to Phoenix holding off the Pacers in Indiana (which is a blue state now, apparently), but I'm not so sure. Even with Mike Dunleavy Jr. on the shelf, the Pacers are playing well. They like to run, and the Suns played last night out in New Jersey. This could be a tired Suns outfit.
Meanwhile, here's a shocker: Phoenix is 22nd in pace this season. 22nd! They haven't been the fastest team in a few years, Golden State and Denver took that top seed, but 22nd?
Still, don't listen to the pundits when they prattle on about Phoenix's scoring going down; because though the raw numbers may be lower this season, this is still the best offense in the league. Phoenix leads the NBA in offensive efficiency with 116 points per 100 possessions.
And though the Pacers traded an all-world defender away in Jermaine O'Neal, Jim O'Brien's team is second in defensive efficiency. Having Rasho Nesterovic around helps, he's long been an unheralded defender, but this is a team-wise thing. It's only been two games, but these guys cause turnovers, and they like to move their feet.
Phoenix hasn't exactly shot to the top of the defending charts with "defensive-minded" Terry Porter at the helm, the Suns are 18th in the league in that area, but that likely won't stop mainstream guys from getting it wrong again. Because the pace is down, the raw numbers will be down, and commentators will laud Phoenix's newfound approach to defense. And they'll be wrong, just as they were when the team was using 10-15 more possessions per game, but getting more stops per possession under Mike D'Antoni.
This isn't a shot at Porter, far from it, and it is likely that the Suns will continue to get better defensively as the year moves on. Just prepare for the wrongness, and know better.
Beyond the complaining, this should be a fun game. And, as it is one of 13 on the menu for tonight, feel free to comment below on any of them in the comments area.