Warriors (0-1), Game 2
Tonight, 7 p.m., CSN Bay Area
Opponent: Phoenix Suns
Points scored: 109.0
Points allowed: 107.0
Probable starting lineup
PG-Steve Nash (24.0 points, 8.0 assists)
SG-Leandro Barbosa (17.0 points, 3.0 3-pointers)
SF-Grant Hill (19.0 points, 13.0 rebounds, 2.0 steals)
PF-Amar’e Stoudemire (16.0 points, 5.0 rebounds)
C-Channing Frye (12 points, 4 rebounds)
Key bench players: F Jared Dudley (6.0 points, 7.0 rebounds), F Early Clark (6.0 points, 5.0 rebounds)
Here’s a look at what a rival scout reported about the Suns in Sports Illustrated’s NBA preview:
They’re just a really weird team. They have old guys like Steve Nash and Grant Hill; they have a bunch of young guys who have no start potential; and they may lose Amar’e Stoudemire as a free agent this summer. Instead of trying to go old like Boston or young like Portland, it looks like they’ve taken the middle ground–but I would argue that it has left them nowhere … Nash is more efficient than just about anybody out there. It wouldn’t surprise me if we saw him in the NBA for four more yars … There’s no question Stoudemire’s original spring and bounce hasn’t been there over the last couple of years following his knee surgeries. With his aggressiveness he could be a dangerous scorer inside, yet he still uses a lot of drives and spin-backs and fadeaway jumpers. The problem for him is that it’s hard to go inside when you haven’t developed the moves, and it’s even harder when you don’t want to take the banging because you’re already banged up. … Channing Frye is a soft guy who likes to shoot perimeter jumpers, so this is not a bad team for him. The only way he can play center is in this up-and-down style, which keeps him from having to go in the trenches on every play.
The Suns aren’t what they were a couple years ago, but they’re still a talented team that can give any defense fits. At home, they’re particularly difficult, which doesn’t bode well for the Warriors, who were pretty lousy away from Oracle Arena last season. It remains to be seen if this current team can compete better on the road, but considering their youth and lack of on-court chemistry at this point, I would doubt it. The one constant for the Suns is Steve Nash. The rest of the lineup has question marks: Will Amar’e Stoudemire ever be really healthy and the player he used to be? Will Jason Richardson bounce back from a subpar 2008-09 season in Phoenix? Can Grant Hill coax another full season out of that 37-year-old body? Is Channing Frye a legitimate option at center? Can the bench provide any meaningful relief to the starters? But, at point guard, Steve Nash, even at age 35, is still a wonder. In the Suns’ season opener, a 109-107 win against the L.A. Clippers, Nash had 24 points and 8 assists. He was masterful in the decisive fourth quarter, hitting 5-of-5 shots and scoring 15 points in the final frame. He’s a matchup nightmare and the kind of player you can only hope to contain, because you can’t stop him.
That said, the Suns and Warriors play very similar games. Both play an up-tempo offense and both are pretty lousy on defense. The Suns allowed the Clippers to shoot 56 percent from the field, which makes the Warriors’ defensive performance in their season-opening loss to the Warriors appear medal-worthy. So, this should be a shootout. I expect the Warriors to compete, and I expect this to be a very exciting, fast-paced game. The Warriors are catching a little bit of a break with Jason Richardson out of the Suns’ lineup (he’s serving a two-game suspension for off-the-court issues from last season). In his place at two guard, the Suns are starting the smaller Leandro Barbosa, a high-scoring, speedy guard. This at least matches up well with the Warriors’ small backcourt. I think you have to give the Suns the edge here because they’re playing at home and because they have Steve Nash. But crazier things have happened. It should be fun to watch either way.
KEYS TO THE GAME
Make your shots: The Suns aren’t likely to challenge the Warriors defensively, which means Golden State has to shoot well, which can sometimes be difficult on the road. I think the Warriors have to shoot better than 50 percent from the field to win this game.
Rotate on defense: A major problem in the Warriors’ loss to the Rockets was their inability to close out on 3-point shooters. In this game, it’s crucial that Golden State learns from that mistake and corrects it. The Suns have a lot of long-range specialists, including Nash (43.9 percent), Dudley (39.4 percent), Barbosa (37.5 percent), and even Grant Hill (31.5 percent) and Channing Frye (33.0 percent). The Warriors have to get a hand in their face before they let it fly.
Let Stephen Curry loose: The Suns and Warriors both like to run, and I don’t think the Warriors can intentionally slow down the pace and beat the Suns in a low-scoring affair. So the Warriors have to let Stephen Curry run to his heart’s content. He has already shown an ability to run this offense at a higher level than anybody the Warriors have had since Baron Davis. Nash is 35, he’s not a great defender anyway, so give him a taste of his own medicine. Get everybody running and see if the Warriors can come out on top in a track meet.
On the road against the Phoenix Suns — that’s not a game I expect the Warriors to win. What really hurts is the loss to the Rockets two days ago, which was really inexcusable. The Warriors could easily start 0-2 with a loss tonight, and though there is so much season left, you don’t want to tread too heavily on this team’s fragile psyche so early if you can help it. The Warriors would really benefit from a win tonight, or even a loss in which the team plays well.
Prediction: Suns 112, Warriors 105