Open Thread: Regular Season Game 50

The Essentials:
Wizards (24-25) at Suns (35-15)
9:30 p.m.
U.S. Airways Center
ESPN

This year:
December 7: Suns 122, Wizards 107

Notable Suns numbers this season:
3rd in expected winning percentage (.720).
4th in pace factor (95.4 possessions per game).
1st in offensive efficiency/offensive rating (115.0)
14th in defensive efficiency/defensive rating (107.5)

Key Links (drop any others in the comments)
Bright Side of the Sun
Born and Raised
The Rising Suns (they might be in need of a new banner)
Boris Diaw reacts to the trade
TAI's  rundown of the Wizards

Starting Lineups:
Suns
PG: Steve Nash
SG: Raja Bell
SF: Grant Hill
PF: Boris Diaw
C: Amare Stoudemire

Wizards
PG: Antonio Daniels
SG: DeShawn Stevenson
SF: Caron Butler/Andray Blatche
PF: Antawn Jamison
C: Brendan Haywood

Tonight's Lines:
Wizards at Suns: Suns by 12
Over/Under on Total Scoring: 210.5

Another week, another trade:  For the second Sunday in a row, the Wizards are facing off against a team that just pulled off a major trade.  Pau didn't suit up for last week's game and it doesn't look like Shaq will be playing tonight.

Where last week's trade was almost universally praised, the reaction to the Shaq for Marion & Banks deal is all over the board. More that any other trade of the last decade, this has more people scratching their head than any other deal I can remember.  There's been worse trades this decade, but I can't recall another trade that has more people going "Huh?"  It's like one of those trades that you'd play around with NBA Live just to see what's it like, but you never think that you'd actually see it happen in real life.  When you factor in how fast the whole thing went down it just left everyone in a state of bewilderment.

More than anything, I'm surprised at the ballsiness of Steve Kerr.  He's only been the GM of the Suns for 8 months and he's already making the move that will either make or break his career.  If it pans out and Shaq brings a ring to the desert, Kerr will have a statue right beside Shaq and Nash for making it happen and if the Suns are playing .500 ball next year, he'll never be forgiven for it.

Don't party too long: The Suns will absolutely kill you if you don't get back on D as soon as you make a basket.  But don't take my word for it, just ask Vanilla Gorilla:

Our transition defense was even worse than our general defense. EVERY time the Wiz threatened in the first half, the Suns scored -- and they usually came back with a layup in the first five seconds of the shot clock because the Wiz didn't make it back on defense. Keep in mind that this was off of MAKES -- not steals or long rebounds. The Wiz would score to cut the Suns' lead to one, and Barbosa or Stoudemire would instantly be laying the ball in at the other end. Frustrating. Maybe we didn't realize that the Suns like to run and score early in the clock. It's not like there's a book about it or anything.
If that doesn't spark the Wiz into getting back on D after a score, maybe Ryan Bowennnn will.

Keys to the Game, in bullet form:

  • As was mentioned previously, limit easy baskets after made shots.
  • The Wizards are going to need big stuff out of their starters.  Blatche, Young, and Mason all had strong games in first meeting coming off the bench, but it was negated by poor games from Butler and Jamison.  The bench is going to have to have a big game tonight if they have any shot.  Of course that could end up being a moot point if Daniels (ankle) and Butler (hip) both sit this one out, which appears likely.
  • Put a restraining order on Carmelo Anthony to ensure that he can't get within 50 miles of Phoenix.
  • They're going to have to find some way to stop Amare.  In the first two games since the Marion trade he's averaged almost 30 and 15 and he went 12-14 from the field back in December against the Wiz.
This is an open thread, so talk about where you land on the Raja Bell Curve here.
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