Scouting the Suns: Spurs aim to win season series

By Quixem Ramirez

Offensive rating: Spurs – 109.4 (2nd), Suns – 106.1 (8th)Defensive rating: Spurs – 103.6 (13th), Suns – 105.9 (19th)Pace: Spurs – 92.3 (8th), Suns – 92.2 (10th)Time: 8 p.mTV: CW35, ESPNRadio: WOAI-AM 1200, KCOR-AM 1350

Three things to watch

Steve Nash and the Suns’ ball movement. Steve Nash, obviously, will be an intricate part of the Suns’ offense. Nash played well against the Spurs in two games, averaging 18 points, nine assists and 48.6 percent shooting. The Spurs prevented Nash from getting a rhythm from the perimeter, though, limiting him to one 3-point attempt (which he missed) in 69 minutes. The Suns are one of the best passing teams in the league — due in large part to Nash’s gaudy 11.1 assist average — and, justifiably so, are 18-12 when they exceed their season average in assists. In their latest matchup on Mar. 27, the Spurs limited the Suns to a season low 14 assists (although they only turned the ball over eight times), in a seven point victory.

3-point percentage. In two games against the Suns, the Spurs have scored 110.1 points per 100 possessions which actually exceeds their exorbitant efficiency by about three points per 100 possessions. Given the Suns’ 19th ranked defense this is no surprise. But, surprisingly, the Spurs have done so on the strength of their midrange game and ability to finish at the rim rather than their elite 3-point shooting. The Spurs didn’t scale down their attempts — they actually took 1.9 more attempts than their season average — despite their 23.9 percent shooting from behind the arc. Specifically, the Spurs have converted on 7-of-22 corner 3’s (31.8 percent) and 4-of-24 (16.7 percent) on other 3-pointers. Is it crazy that the Spurs can actually improve their efficiency against a porous Suns defense?

Defending the perimeter. As a team, Phoenix took about three shots less from the perimeter than their season-average indicates, an apparent win for the Spurs defense even after you factor in the Suns’ 35.3 percent shooting. More importantly, the shots that Phoenix did make were less efficient 3-point shots compared to their uber-efficient corner 3-pointer brethren. Instead, Phoenix was forced to redistribute their shot attempts towards the foul line and midrange, where they converted at a 35 percent clip.

Final verdict. Spurs by eight. The Suns have won five out of their last seven games but their two losses were by 9.3 points per 100 possessions. Phoenix can score with any team in the league, but I don’t foresee the Spurs losing three games in the same week.