Jackson: Suns taking first step to changing culture
Klay Thompson will have his hands full guarding Eric Bledsoe, who has led the Suns to a surprising 13-9 Suns. (USATSI)
PHOENIX – As the Warriors begin Sunday in ninth place in the Western Conference, it's no surprise they are below the Spurs and Thunder and Clippers and Rockets.
Some of the other teams above them, though, are defying reasonable projections. One such team is the Suns, who own the sixth-best record (13-9) in the conference and play host to the Warriors (13-11) on Sunday at US Airways Center.
"You can't sleep on (any of) those teams,'' Warriors point guard Stephen Curry said after practice Saturday."Any team in the west in the playoff (race) would probably be third seed in the East right now.''
Still, Phoenix is gaining more traction than anticipated. A young team assembled with an eye toward the future, the Suns were expected to struggle under first-year coach Jeff Hornacek. But they've been precocious, with dynamic guards Eric Bledsoe and Goran Dragic pushing the tempo as well as their teammates.
"One thing that jumps out is they play extremely hard at every position,'' Warriors coach Mark Jackson said."They get after it. They play with an edge.''
Phoenix has won its last four games, with two of those victories coming against the Rockets in Houston and the Lakers in Los Angeles. The Warriors thus far are 0-2 in those cities.
"There are no breaks,'' Curry said."Every (Western Conference) team is powerful, capable of show up big and playing well every single night.''
As capable as the Warriors are, they can't seem to fire out of the locker room. No team that so frequently plays from behind can be a consistent winner.
And, furthermore, they haven't solved their turnover riddle. Only two teams commit them at a higher rate. Jackson constantly preaches defense, so he stews with each turnover that leads to an easy basket the other way.
"It's plagued us all year,'' Curry said of the turnovers. "We understand and we're focused on trying to change it. As time goes on, we'll figure it out. We're going to have to if we're going to try to make a run.''
There is no better time than Sunday, against a Suns team that follows the lead of its interchangeable guards.
MATCHUPS TO WATCH
Curry vs. Dragic. If Curry is a sniper, Dragic is a gunslinger. He thrives on playing fast and driving to the basket. He does not play a lot of defense, though, and Curry will have opportunities to exploit that.
Klay Thompson against Bledsoe. Bledsoe came over from the Clippers as a player ready to break out. He is. He's talented and athletic, though prone to lapses in focus, particularly on defense. Thompson likes to be challenged. He will be, in many ways, but ought to be able to generate some offense.
INJURY UPDATE: Andre Iguodala (strained left hamstring), Jermaine O'Neal (right wrist surgery), Festus Ezeli (right knee surgery) and Ognjen Kuzmic (right pinkie surgery) are listed as out for the Warriors.
Backup center Alex Len (foot) is day to day for the Suns.
WHAT'S NEXT: The Warriors return home Sunday night to prepare a three-game homestand, with the first visitor being the New Orleans Pelicans on Tuesday at Oracle Arena. The Warriors have won five in a row over New Orleans, a four-game sweep last season and a one-point win on Nov. 26 in the Big Easy.