On Wednesday night, the Phoenix Suns look to get back at the Spurs for San Antonio's 97-87 victory in Phoenix on February 24.
Despite the galactic distance separating the two teams in the standings, the Suns were able to outscore the Spurs in two quarters (the first and fourth quarters) of that game.
During the times when the Suns were outplaying the Spurs, Phoenix was effective on the boards. Nine of Suns center Marcin Gortat's rebounds came in the quarters in which Suns outplayed San Antonio.
Additionally, the Suns had three bench players with five or more rebounds (Markieff Morris and Jermaine O'Neal had seven each, Marcus Morris had five). This is an area where the Spurs can be exploited; San Antonio collects the sixth fewest rebounds in the NBA.
The Suns will need to do a good job shutting down the Spurs bench as well.
In the last game between the two clubs, the Spurs got 40 points from just three of their bench players. In fact, each of the Spurs' bench players had at least a plus-six plus/minus ratio, except for Aron Baynes who played just two minutes.
The Spurs starters had just one player who posted those kind of numbers. The Suns already have shut down the starters, now it's time to do the same to the bench.
The Suns had a remarkably bad shooting game when they last played the Spurs. Goran Dragic, who usually shoots 43.3 percent from the field, went just 3-for-14. Shooting guard P.J. Tucker had a similar shooting night: 3-for-11, way off his usual 45.4 percent pace. If those guys are hitting their shots with their regular frequency, then the Suns stand a better chance.
It is worth noting that the last time these two teams played, Tony Parker was given the night off. He is having a great season, but coach Gregg Popovich may limit his minutes, since his team is already in the driver's seat for the playoffs. Even if Parker is limited, the Suns will need to at least minimize his damage. If their own point guard, Dragic, can more or less play as well as Parker, then that would effectively neutralize his impact.
It may seem counterintuitive, but going on the road might help the Suns. Before Tuesday's victory over the Timberwolves, the Suns had lost four straight at home: the aforementioned 10-point loss to the spurs, a 25-point loss to the Celtics, a 28-point loss to the Thunder and another 10-point loss to the Mavericks.
Alternatively, two of their past three wins have come on the road, and one was to the currently fourth-seeded Memphis Grizzlies, which shows they can beat good teams on the road.
Perhaps they will be up to the tough task of doing the same in San Antonio.