Time: The Suns host the Sixers tonight at 7 at US Airways Center.
Records: Suns 11-21 (fifth in the Pacific Division) vs. Sixers 15-17 (third in the Atlantic Division)
PG: Goran Dragic (14.3 points and 6.5 assists) vs. Jrue Holiday (18.9 points and 8.9 assists)
SG: P.J. Tucker (4.5 points and 3.3 rebounds) vs. Jason Richardson (11.1 points and 4.2 rebounds)
SF: Jared Dudley (11.8 points and 3.3 rebounds) vs. Evan Turner (14.6 points and 6.8 rebounds)
PF: Luis Scola (12.8 points and 6.3 rebounds) vs. Thaddeus Young (15.1 points and 7.2 rebounds)
C: Marcin Gortat: (11.3 points and 8.4 rebounds) vs. Lavoy Allen (6.5 points and 5.3 rebounds)
Key Player to Stop: Jrue Holliday
Sixers point guard Jrue Holliday is averaging a team-high 18.9 points and ranks third in the league with 8.9 assists per game. To understand how vital he is to his team, when Holliday was sidelined for four games with a sprained left foot in December, the Sixers dropped every game by an average of 13.0 points.
The former UCLA star has made a giant leap forward this season, improving vastly on his 13.5 points and 4.5 assists a game last season.
“You talk about Jrue Holiday and you’re talking about one of the real good young point guards in the NBA,” Suns head coach Alvin Gentry said. “Not only is he shooting the ball exceptionally well, but he has great size. I think what sets himself apart from the other guys is that he’s a tremendous defensive player also.”
Holliday racked up 26 points and 10 assists in a win over the Lakers last night and poured in 33 points and 13 assists against the Suns on November 25.
Tucker to Start
Like he did against the Thunder, Suns swingman P.J. Tucker will get the start against the Sixers tonight. He will start in place of Shannon Brown, who thrived coming off the bench earlier this season.
Still in search of a rotation that will perform consistently over 48 minutes, Gentry continues to tinker with the starting lineup. His hope is that the defensive toughness and intensity that Tucker brought to the second unit will also inspire the starting lineup.
“I liked him coming off the bench,” Gentry said. “I like the fact that he’s a little bit of a fireman that could put out fires (defensively on opposing players that were hot).”
Now Gentry hopes that Tucker will stop any fires from getting started.
The Suns may have lost six-straight games, but four of those six losses are by a combined 15 points. Four of those defeats came by six points or fewer and three of those loss came by four points or less.
While the Suns are contending in every game, they just keep coming up a hair short from winning. In order to combat that, Gentry is emphasizing execution.
“We have to make the play to win the game down the stretch,” the Suns head coach said. “And we have to do it on both ends of the floor.”