As the Phoenix Suns head into a home and home with the Portland Trail Blazers on Friday and Saturday, they have a lot to clean up on the defensive end.
The Suns allowed the Mavericks to break down their defense with dribble penetration by Ray Felton, Deron Williams and others. Felton and Williams combined to shoot 8-15 from the field for 21 points and eight assists.
Phoenix specifically struggled to contain the Mavs running pick and roll.
“I think what happens, when the four-man set it, we didn’t have any impact on the screen and roll,” said head coach Jeff Hornacek. “We were up there, but the guards were just going right around us. Consequently, our guard had to go around two guys and he just never got back in the play. That makes it tough on the five-man back there — what do I do? Do I go up and try to challenge that, if I do that then they dump it off for a dunk, or do I kind of hedge at’em and make’em shoot a shot?”
It takes more than one or two players to defend the pick-and-roll, it’s a complete-team effort as Hornacek described.
P.J. Tucker lets the ball handler get the corner off the Dirk Nowitzki screen without any resistance. That’s followed by Markieff Morris not showing or hedging to slow down Wesley Matthews to give time for Tucker to recover. Then Tyson Chandler is a step slow and out of position protecting the rim allowing Matthews to complete the layup. There’s not one guy at fault for the Suns poor defense, there was many.
And the Suns need to get in-sync, fast. The Blazers come to town with two excellent scoring guards in Damian Lillard
and C.J. McCollum.
“This year they’re just free flowing,” said Hornacek about the Blazers. “With all the losses that they had nobody is talking about them. They got two fantastic guards in Lillard and McCollum. They’re shooting over 20 times a game, and once you start having to worry about those guys, now the other guys get their stuff. It starts with their guards and that’s where we feel we can battle them tonight with ours.”