I have to take a break from the story for a minute and get something off my chest.
The Suns must win tonight. If they don’t, I fear their season is over. I’ve been going over this in my brain and in conversation with fellow Suns fans and they have to put some pressure on the Pelicans. Right now, the team from New Orleans is playing with house money and they need to be reminded that they aren’t supposed to have a chance. What I saw the Suns do in the second half of game one and most of game two has me worried.
First, the Suns had a chance on Sunday to destroy the Pelicans and they let up. Instead of coming out in the second half with the same defensive intensity and ball movement, they coasted. I was sitting at home hoping they would get up by about 30 so they could get the bench some time. They are going to need those guys, I hope, at some point and they need their legs under them. Kicking the snot of the Pelicans on Sunday would have given them this opportunity and gotten the starters some rest.
Tuesday nights game was just trash. Sure, Booker had an amazing first half, but they needed that to have a five-point lead at the end of the second quarter. I was feeling, early on, that they were going to lose the game based on the effort differential between the two teams. The Pelicans played as if they had nothing to lose (i.e., house money) and went after every rebound, every loose ball, and let it all hang out. The Suns couldn’t match any of it.
Outside of Booker, who is not going to play tonight or Sunday, most likely, due to a hamstring injury, none of the Suns played with any fire. I want to see Deandre Ayton, at least occasionally, not settle for that little jumper and take the ball at Valanciunas, the Pelicans bigger, stronger, tougher center. I know that is not really Ayton’s game, but he’s got to get some fouls called on Valanciunas. The Suns have almost thirty points a game to make up with Booker out and Ayton needs to take more than six shots tonight and Sunday.
Jae Crowder needs to get his feet set and make a damn shot.
Cameron Payne needs to play under control and stop throwing up wild lay ups hoping for Javale McGee to get the rebound. That hasn’t worked for months. Teams figured that strategy out back around the time McGee and Bismack Biyombo were manning the center position while Ayton was out. Speaking of McGee, the Suns need to take advantage of the match up between him and Larry Nance Jr. and punish the shorter, lighter opponent. I read or heard someone say that McGee should get some minutes to bang with Valanciunas and I must agree.
The rebounding has been awful. I don’t care what anyone says, if they Suns get out rebounded by New Orleans in every game, they will lose the series. They have to find a way to get some damn defensive rebounds. On Tuesday night, New Orleans had offensive rebounds on their first four possessions of the game. That’s a fucking joke, pardon my French. If it is necessary, play Biyombo for a few minutes here and there and have him beat the shit out of whoever is playing in the post for New Orleans. Send a damn message!
Right now, New Orleans feels like they can get any rebound and do anything they want against this team. Can you imagine if Zion Williamson were to suit up and play? This thing would be done in five games. The Suns should know better than to give a team like that the belief they can win, but I’m afraid they have done just that.
This is why the Suns need to come out tonight and show that they are the best team in the league, even without Booker. They need to start strong, play hard, and move the ball. They will get open shots if they don’t start playing hero ball. I’m guessing they will start Cameron Johnson at the two-guard position and go big. This seems to be the popular consensus. It gives the Suns an opportunity to go big against big, in a way, but they’ll need CamJo to show up, hit shots, and stay out of foul trouble.
My biggest concern about the game tonight is that the Suns don’t get any of the same love the Pelicans have been getting in terms of getting away with being physical. The Suns just don’t have that reputation and when they play hard, they get a lot of foul calls. If Ayton, Johnson, or Crowder get in foul trouble, they are in some serious shit. The Pelicans are going to double down on their up-tempo attack and try to run the Suns out of the gym, beating them at their own game.
It might just work, too.
I’ve been watching the Suns since as long as I can remember. I’ve seen them blow opportunities like this before, but this would be the worst of them all. They have seriously looked like the best team in basketball for much of the year, but maybe the pressure is getting to them. Maybe they have started to believe their own press clippings? It really doesn’t matter at this point. They need to get a win tonight, plain and simple.
I think they can do it if they play their game. I really do, but if I had a gun to my head and someone said I had to lay down a bet on either the Suns or the Pelicans, right now I would bet Pelicans in six. I would bet that the Suns lose both games in New Orleans, based on how they have played, then come back and win game five in Phoenix with Booker playing on one leg. Booker won’t play in game six and they will lose the series back in New Orleans. The main reason I feel this way is that New Orleans is playing like a team that believes they can win, and the Suns played Tuesday night like a team hoping not to lose.
See you tomorrow.