Season Series: First meeting of the season.
TV: ESPN Radio: 790TheZone
Second game of the home stand brings Steve Nash and the Phoenix Suns to Phillips Arena in a nationally televised ESPN game. This is one of the games that I would love to be in attendance at just to watch arguably one of the greatest if not greatest point guard of all time. The Suns come in winners of 3 of their last 6 and despite blowing the big lead in Indiana on Monday have been a pleasant surprise this year.
This should be a fun game to watch as both teams when rolling can pile up the points. The difference will come on the defensive end where the Hawks will have to do a good job in attempting to contain Steve Nash and Amare Stoudamire without allowing anyone else on the Suns to have a huge night. Speaking of Nash and defense the usually very tight lipped Mike Woodson let something slip when talking about defending Nash and the pick and roll saying that he and his assistants devised a game plan (a few seasons ago) that the Hawks use against Nash and any team that uses the pick and roll primarily calling it “The Nash Rule”. I find it odd that Woodson put this out there because some people will be looking for something tonight they they simply aren’t going to be able to see even if it is there. It seems to me that 9 times out of 10 the Hawks switch every ball screen and while I don’t know for sure but I will speculate that the switching practice is a key ingredient in “The Nash Rule”. As the article goes on to point out we haven’t necessarily had a lot of success slowing Nash down as he is scoring 19 points and handing out 10+ assists against the Hawks in his last 5 meetings. Consequently the Suns are 4-1 in those 5 games. I don’t understand talking about a technique that is named for Steve Nash that clearly hasn’t worked against him or the Phoenix Suns.
While I am cautioning the average fan to not go to Phillips tonight looking for some revolutionary defensive scheme but one major key to the game will be how the Hawks handle the Suns pick and roll. Nash and Stoudamire are formidable when working the pick and roll but an added dimension this season is Channing Frye. Frye is shooting the 3 well and runs the pick and roll with Nash but instead of rolling to the basket he pops back out to the 3 point line (commonly known as the pick and pop) where he is shooting a career best from 3. Combine the Suns excellent shooting and passing plus the frantic pace that they play at and it is easy to see how they are such a good team.
It will be incredibly important for the Hawks to have a strong rebounding effort on both ends of the court tonight. The Hawks can’t get into a 23 foot jump shooting contest with this team and must look to drive the basketball and then kick to the open shooter. Josh Smith usually thrives in playing the open court game where he is an excellent finisher and Al Horford should have a good match up inside the whole night. It will be imperative that the Hawks get both involved. There will be plenty of opportunities offensively tonight but if the Hawks want to win they have to come out the stronger rebounding team. This is a big game for the Hawks at home. These are the type of games that you truly need to win at home. A few seasons ago this wasn’t a winnable game for the Hawks but it is now with the appropriate effort. That said Hawks fans need to pack out Phillips arena with a playoff atmosphere for a nationally televised game. The later start time (8:00pm eastern) should help.