Suns look to burn limping Mavs

Jan 4, 2012, 4:43 AM | Updated: 5:01 am

The Phoenix Suns head to American Airlines Center Wednesday to take on the defending NBA champion Dallas Mavericks with a 2-3 record in tow. But Dallas’ equally inauspicious start to the shortened NBA season has taken the focus off of the Suns’ struggles.

Instead, the buzz around the league has centered on the Mavs’ surprisingly poor 2-4 start. Despite handing the Oklahoma City Thunder their first loss of the season Monday, Dallas hasn’t hit their stride yet this season.

But the Suns aren’t fooled by the lack of firepower from the Mavericks thus far and know the game will be a defensive challenge.

“I know they are struggling right now,” Suns’ head coach Alvin Gentry said. “But at the end of the year, they’re going to be right there. You have to play good, solid basketball and you have to know that guarding Dirk (Nowitzki) is a really tough matchup, it doesn’t matter who you play on him.” Nowitzki scored 26 points in the Mavs’ 100-87 win against the Thunder.

Meanwhile the Suns’ Steve Nash, the team’s leading scorer last season, is averaging just 8.3 points, due in part to a bruised rib. His offensive woes have contributed in part to the team’s lackluster start.

The Suns, like the Mavericks, have looked somewhat sharper as of late — coming off a home win Monday against the Golden State Warriors, 102-91.

For a team that’s been saddled with an abysmal shooting percentage this season — shooting just 40 percent again Monday — the Suns finally displayed encouraging signs of life with a late-game surge against the Warriors.
Could the Suns be turning the corner?

Gentry believes the small sample size of games will not be enough to dictate which teams will be competitive in the NBA’s shortened 66-game season. In fact, he feels the true testament of whether or not a team is a contender won’t come until the 20-game mark this year.

While the Suns and Mavericks’ early play certainly falls in line with Gentry’s reasoning, the focus for his troops right now is righting the ship sooner rather than later and making adjustments against a division foe.

“We are working on the rotations,” Gentry stated. “We’re having some breakdowns as far as who’s got the dive guy and who’s rotating out. We expected that, so it’s just something that we have to continue to work on.”

Gentry asserts that his team is playing hard but does think they could play a little bit smarter.

What better time to start than against a Dallas team that’s ripe for the taking.

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