Game On: Phoenix Suns @ New Orleans Pelicans

Published: November 22, 2015

Fresh off of their most impressive victory of the year (I know, there were a bunch to choose from), the Pelicans remain at home in the Blender for a match-up against the 7-5 Suns. Phoenix ranks in the top half of the league in both offensive and defensive rating, but they have made a living feasting off of inferior opponents so far this season. Check out their wins so far:

vs. Portland
@ Portland
vs. Sacramento
vs. LA Clippers (without Chris Paul & JJ Redick, & only 16 minutes for Griffin)
vs. Denver
vs. LA Lakers
@ Denver

And there you have it. To be honest, that’s pretty much what I expected from the Suns this season looking at their roster – beat the bad teams, lose to the good teams, finish 9th or 10th in the West. Given the Pelicans’ rough start (along with a couple other struggling teams), their playoff odds look a little better right now, but they still have the feel of a .500 team.

The real danger with the Suns comes via their back court, as Brandon Knight and Eric Bledsoe are both off to red hot starts. The two are combining for nearly 45 points per game, and between them have made 53 of 133 (40%) 3-pointers. It is a huge relief that neither of the Pels’ next two games against the Suns comes on the second night of a back-to-back, because watching Ish Smith and Eric Gordon try to chase these guys around for 35 minutes would be brutal. Jrue Holiday should be able to take some serious pressure off of the rest of the New Orleans guards on the defensive end.

Apart from those two, no one else on Phoenix’s roster has been exceptionally impressive. TJ Warren has been very good off of the bench, but everyone else has, statistically speaking, been decent to below average. The defense has actually been worse with Tyson Chandler on the floor than when he is off of it. To that point, the Suns’ bench has actually been pretty good defensively, so don’t be surprised if the Pels’ second unit has a tough time getting good looks.

On the New Orleans side, Alvin Gentry will likely throw out the same starting lineup as he did on Friday night – Holiday, Gordon, Gee, Davis, & Asik (although that SF spot appears to be flexible based on opponent). Some of my pregame thoughts:

  • If I were Gentry, I’d make sure that Jrue Holiday plays every single one of his 25 minute limit when Knight and Bledsoe are both on the court. Holiday’s defense will be crucial against two guards as dynamic as those two, especially given the team’s other defensive options at the guard position.
  • Asik’s minutes are always a question mark, but having him in to keep Tyson Chandler off of the glass (especially the offensive glass) will be key.
  • Expect the Suns to give Markieff Morris some help via double-teams on AD to start, especially with poor offensive players like Gee and Asik on either side of him.
  • I’m really interested to see how the Suns guard the Davis/Anderson combo that destroyed the Spurs on Friday night. Chandler is a formidable rim protector, but he isn’t going to be able to guard either of those two outside of the paint. We’ll probably see a bunch of the Ryno/AD pairing tonight, especially since the Suns’ front court isn’t really going to kill you offensively as long as you keep them off the offensive boards.

Enjoy the game! I’ll be back with your post-game column later tonight.


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