Talking Suns with Valley of the Sun

Christian Petersen

Kevin Zimmerman of Valley of the Sun and SB Nation stops by to chat about the keys to tonight's game, the level of optimism in Phoenix and Eric Bledsoe's place in the NBA.

How confident are Suns fans about making the playoffs? What needs to happen over their last 3 games for them to get in?

It seems that Suns fans are more confident than those from a more national perspective (at least, it seems some people are quick to count out the Suns). It's easy to believe in Dallas and Memphis making the postseason ahead of Phoenix because they have the proven, reliable guys like Dirk and Marc Gasol, but I think watching the Suns every game makes it hard to discount Jeff Hornacek's crew in any way. They're playing loose and with confidence over the last few games after dropping two in a row to the Los Angeles teams, and while inconsistency makes it difficult to be too confident, I think Suns fans know this is a toss-up as is.

The schedule ahead is tough, and even a final game against Sacramento that looks like a win could be a trap game if Boogie and the Kings want to play spoiler. So I think the general outlook is that Suns fans are confident enough. It would be unsurprising if Phoenix makes the postseason, even if it drops one of the two games against Dallas and Memphis, but of course, at that point a lot depends on what goes on outside of the Suns' control.

The Mavs aren't going to be able to take away everything the Suns do on offense. If they can only take one thing away, what thing that should be?

I think three-point shooting is the key, and the Mavs didn't do that too well in the teams' first meeting of the year. When you talk three-point shooting, you have to circle Channing Frye and Gerald Green. Frye has been in a massive slump since the beginning of March, and he's shooting 34 percent overall in his last 10 -- it's probably a result of tired legs after he took last year off. Green on the other hand has played very well since returning to the bench with Eric Bledsoe back from his knee injury. He's finally found a groove in hunting for his shot but also taking good ones within the flow of the offense.

With Dragic's ankles being an issue (if he plays), I think the Mavs could accept the Suns point guards getting theirs if it means they limit the three-point shooters.

How confident are you in the Suns defense? If the game comes down to the wire, what is going to be their strategy on that side of the ball against Dirk?

The defense has been sneaky good in a lot of close games this season, not what you'd expect from an inexperienced team. Phoenix did a good job locking down the Thunder on Sunday, and even last week, the Clippers needed a deep, end-of-the-shotclock three from Chris Paul to get over the hump against the Suns. The bigger issue has been whether or not Phoenix can play solid defense for a complete game, but if it's close, I'd give the defense a vote of confidence.

Now, against Nowitzki it's a lot tougher, obviously. I'd expect the Suns to give Dirk doses of P.J. Tucker, but that's a risky deal in crunch time since Nowitzki has a good half-foot on him. The Morris twins could come in handy in this game, and both have grown up on the defensive end this year. They might be used in crunch time as well, and that would help the Suns stay away from doubling. The Suns don't like to double much, but if Dirk is cookin' late I wouldn't be surprised if they had to do it.

Is Eric Bledsoe at 100%? If healthy, where would you rank him in the PG hierarchy in the NBA?

You know, Bledsoe's production hasn't been any worse since he returned, but I don't think he's 100 percent. He's already got his speed back, but he's really struggled to finish around the rim -- he just can't get the elevation and take contact like he did earlier this season. Still, that's a minor thing.

In terms of point guard hierarchy, I still think there are a lot of questions to answer. He's still very young and still learning how to command an offense -- most of his best stuff comes while freelancing -- and he's not even the best point guard on his own team. His defensive merits, however, really do make him unique. I think he's right there with the tier that includes Goran Dragic, Mike Conley and Kyle Lowry, but he has the talent to be surpassing that solid grouping next year.

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