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15-Footer, 11/3/2013: The Suns March on to Perfection

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It may be Sunday and technically football season, but it’s also Sunday and there are several games worth your while. You could go out and be productive with your Sunday evening, but after I spent all morning writing this up couldn’t you at least give it a look and reconsider? Aw, thanks!

Boston at Detroit (6:00 pm EST; local broadcasts) 

Despite missing Brandon Jennings for the first few weeks of the season, the Pistons have managed to split their first two games of the season. Rodney Stuckey shooting .625 percent to start the season helps, and has been a vast improvement over his 8-46 shooting start in which he made exactly one shot through the first three games. Aren’t memories fun? In fact, everyone in the Pistons’ backcourt has played well who has played well, so the absence of Jennings hasn’t exactly been killing them.

After nearly upending the Grizzlies after downing the Wizards, the Pistons will likely give the rebuilding Celtics a good early season test. The Brad Stevens era in Boston is off to an 0-2 start as the Celtics try to continue to manage life without Rajon Rondo, Kevin Garnett and Paul Pierce. It seems the Brandon Bass-averaging-17-points-per-game strategy isn’t really working.

Washington at Miami (6:00 pm EST; local broadcasts) 

Quick! Name two teams in the Southeast division that have lost to the Sixers this season? These guys!

Seriously, though. Why can’t the Wizards stay healthy? Is it because the Basketball Gods know how much we would enjoy a healthy Wizards team and are punishing us? I think so because John Wall and Nene are questionable for tonight’s game and Otto Porter is of course still out, too. Now they face the Heat, who are tied for second in the Southeast with the Charlotte Bobcats at 1-2, who will probably not wind up losing to the Sixers and depleted Wizards in the same four game span.

The Heat have their own questions coming into this game. Like, “How do you talk about being so hyper-focused for the Bulls, crush them, and then drop two in a row to the Sixers and the Nets?” Everyone is going to lose one game, even a couple that they shouldn’t lose. It happens, whatever, but it just seems strange that the same team that can be so locked in on one night can not re-focus. No one is worried about the Heat, and maybe it’s just a testament to their ability since they can just turn it on-and-off, but tonight would not be a good loss.

Brooklyn at Orlando (6:00 pm EST; local broadcasts)

You know what I like about this Nets team that I didn’t like about last season’s team? They’re actually fun to watch. I mean, there’s more ball movement and more players moving off of the ball than before and it’s as enjoyable as we hoped they would have been last season. Sure, the offense still becomes less watchable when Joe Johnson goes into ISO, but I can deal with that. On the other hand, their offensive efficiency metrics have dropped from last season so they may not be better for it yet, but at least they’re more aesthetically pleasing than before. They’ve also beaten the Heat and lost a close one to the Cavaliers, so they are going to be ready for the Magic.

The Magic may be 1-2, but the focus is more on their developing talent than their win total. To this point, Andrew Nicholson and Nicola Vucevic have excelled in the frontcourt, as well as Moe Harkless on the perimeter. Yes, the Nets may be the better team as of now, but there are certainly things to watch for with the Magic too.

Phoenix at Oklahoma City (7:00 pm EST; NBA TV) 

This game features a matchup of one of the Western Conference’s last undefeated teams….and the Thunder. I was going to go with that joke, or “Just like everyone predicted, the Suns are 2-0 and the Thunder are getting blown out by 25.” But it’s fair to remember that Oklahoma City will still, obviously, be without Russell Westbrook and that the Suns may have to play without their own point guard, Goran Dragic, who is out with a facial contusion.

How have the Suns made it this far (2-0, LOL) without being a very good rebounding, three point shooting and assist producing team? Well, they’re a top-10 shooting team within the arc according to Basketball-Reference and they don’t turn the ball over very much, ranking fourth overall in fewest turnovers. Most of all, they are third in the league in points allowed and third in Defensive Rating, so they’re making a difference on defense. If good things come in threes, it should be noted that Phoenix has already beaten the Jazz and Blazers, so the Thunder would be three Northwest Division wins in a row to start the season.

As for the Thunder, don’t do what you did against Minnesota and wait to get the ball into Kevin Durant’s hands. Yes, Corey Brewer was all over Durant, but having Reggie Jackson choose who to run the offense through is a bad idea. Who is going to lock down Durant, Gerald Green? Yeah, exactly. Get it to Durant early, have him exploit the one-on-one or hit the open man if they double.

Minnesota at New York (7:30 pm EST; local broadcasts) 

The Timberwolves come into Madison Square Garden undefeated against a Knicks team that’s still working in it’s new players. They are bringing a lot of momentum into tonight’s game, but the Knicks are largely the same team they were last year and are expected to wind up in the middle of the Eastern Conference by the season’s end. The Timberwolves have lost three consecutive close games to the Knicks and are playing on the road, so they have to be careful not to overlook them.

To this point, the Knicks have been one of the worst teams in the league, and have neither shot nor rebounded well on the offensive end. While the Timberwolves have not been a great defensive rebounding team, they have the ability to out-rebound the Knicks and get out in transition for quick and easy baskets. Given the closeness of their games in recent it years, it could be the Timberwolves defensive rebounding or the Knicks’ offensive rebounding winning out that determines the outcome of this game.

Atlanta at Los Angeles Lakers (9:30 pm EST; local broadcasts)

Just as everyone predicted, the Atlanta Hawks are leading the Southeast division. Wait, what? Yes, the Hawks are leading their division following their victory over the Toronto Raptors on Friday evening. Jeff Teague has been excellent for Atlanta so far, averaging 20.5 ppg and 10.5 apg. New big man Paul Milsap has be the personification of efficiency, shooting .593 through the first two games.  On the wings, Cartier Martin and Kyle Korver are each shooting .500 percent from three on over five attempts per game. And then they still have Al Horford, so they’re not bad.

So, the Hawks look to test these Lakers. Following a surprise victory on opening night, the Lakers have lost two straight, including a 125-94 drubbing at the hands of the Warriors. The Lakers are among the league’s worst thus far in everything but making threes and rebounding in which they are a top-4 team. In order to be successful tonight they will have to be able to rebound to control the tempo of the game and of course convert those opportunities in order to stay in this, because they are not strong enough on defense alone.

Derek James

In addition to writing for Hardwood Paroxysm, Derek James covers the Minnesota Timberwolves for Howlin’ T-Wolf and the Charlotte Bobcats for SB Nation’s Rufus on Fire. He often finds himself writing too many words on irrelevant players. Andray Blatche and Isaiah Rider follow him on Twitter. Unrelated to LeBron James, but taught him everything he knows.