The Golden State Warriors (30-38) will be looking to bounce back tonight from their loss at the hands of the Dallas Mavericks on Wednesday night. The one problem? They are playing a Phoenix Suns (33-33) team that has defeated them three times in a row this season. Should we expect a different result this time around?
On offense, Phoenix scores 104.7 points per game (fourth in the NBA) on 47.0% field goal shooting (sixth in the league). Their offense is predicated on spacing, good ball movement and making open three point shots, which invariably opens up the interior.
The Suns are averaging 23.5 assists per game (fourth in the association), 22.9 three-point field goal attempts per game (third most in the league) and 40.8 points in the paint per game (18th in the NBA) this season. However, when Phoenix’s offense is paired up with the Warriors defense, the Suns look better than usual.
Indeed, Steve Nash routinely breaks down the Warriors defense off the dribble and thus feeds his teammates either at the rim or on the perimeter for an open shot depending on how the Dubs defense rotates defenders towards him. In their previous encounters this season, the Suns have manufactured 107.7 points per game on 50.0% field goal shooting.
In addition, Phoenix has converted 31-of-70 three-point field goal attempts (44.3%) thanks in large part to their spacing and ball movement (27.3 assists per game in three head to head match ups).
In their most recent encounter, the Warriors tried to play zone against the Suns to protect Monta Ellis from getting posted up by Vince Carter; however the problem it caused was that Suns players were often open from deep but Nash also was able to get his wing players to go back door on the zone and throw passes over the top for spectacular finishes. This partly explains how the Suns have been able to score 38.7 points in the paint against the Dubs defense. Although that figure is somewhat unimpressive, it merely helps balance out for all the perimeter shots the Suns take.
On defense, Phoenix allows 105.3 points per game (26th in the NBA) on 47.0% field goal shooting (23rd in the league). The Suns woeful defense stems from the fact that they fail to defend the paint and do a poor job of challenging shooters when opposing teams share the ball.
Phoenix surrenders 23.0 assists per game (26th in the association) and also yields 44.5 points in the paint per game (24th in the NBA). Teams that consistently move the ball and attack the basket will have success against the Suns defense because of their inability to adequately defend the paint. Also, the more interior baskets they allow, the more they will suck defenders into the lane thus giving shooters open looks.
However, Phoenix’s defense seems to turn itself into a juggernaut against the Warriors, allowing a mere 93.7 points per game on 44.3% field goal shooting. The Suns defense is successful against the Warriors because of the mindset of Golden State’s players. Indeed, the Dubs are an offense that likes to shoot three point shots to set up interior baskets. They struggle against the Suns though, because Phoenix extends their defense to the perimeter and dares them to drive the ball as opposed to making extra passes to set up open players.
The end result is that Golden State has attempted on average 18.7 three-point field goal attempts against Phoenix this season (on the season they average 21.4 attempts), but have only managed to convert 30.4% of their tries (39.4% shooting from deep on the season).
Further helping their cause on defense, they have been able to protect the basket area fairly well. Although they have surrendered on average 46.7 points in the paint to the Dubs, they have limited them to 21.0 shot attempts per game directly at the rim and also just a mere 20.0 free throw attempts per game. Consequently, the Warriors have had to beat this Suns team from midrange and have had trouble in doing so.
In order for Golden State to be victorious, they will have to do a better job of sharing the ball and getting into the paint to set up open shots for teammates. The better the ball movement, the easier it will be for them to get to the basket and also to set up open shots from downtown.
Phoenix game notes: In three games against the Warriors this season, Grant Hill is averaging 16.0 points, 2.0 rebounds, 2.0 assists on 58.6% field goal shooting.
Golden State game notes: In three games against the Suns this season, Stephen Curry is averaging 12.0 points, 5.7 assists per game and 4.3 turnovers on 44.4% field goal shooting.