The Big Picture: Remember the study on pace in the NBA I linked a few days ago? Rohan Cruyff convincingly shows that "pace" is a little more complicated than what can be gleaned from a box score. For me, the most surprising nugget was something that confirmed what everyone's eyes have been telling them since Steve Nash returned to the desert, but that wasn't necessarily quantified before: the Phoenix Suns play way faster than anyone else in the league.
This relates to the Bobcats because under Larry Brown, the Cats played an artificially slow pace -- which isn't necessarily a bad thing, for reasons we'll get to in a moment -- and now, under Paul Silas, they're playing faster and finding a sort of "natural" speed that matches the flow their athleticism demands. Here's the rub: We assume it's a given that playing at the most comfortable speed for the players allows them to perform their best. However, weaker teams looking to maximize their production have to balance that desire with the evidence that playing at hyper-speed so discombobulates the opposition that it improves the faster team's per-possession performance, and the simple mathematical fact that playing an ultra-slow pace gives the weaker team a greater chance of winning because with fewer possessions there will be fewer raw points, and thus something fluky is more likely to happen.
Superior teams have the luxury of playing at whichever pace suits them, while inferior teams have to decide whether or not they can improve their production by playing a style the players may struggle executing.
Musical Interlude: Amy Winehouse -- "Tears Dry On Their Own"
Key to Victory: Neither Nash nor D.J. Augustin is noted for his defense, so it will be interesting to see how much penetration into the lane those guys get, especially given the lack of big shot-blockers -- or even shot-alterers -- in this game.
Also, given full health, I love the supporting cast the Suns have put together. Though their record is weak, the reason is because Vince Carter is horribly miscast at this stage of his career, and they'll be happy to send him on his way after this season. If they had a true scorer-type, even a no-defense one-trick-pony like Reggie Miller in his prime, they'd have something potentially great for a season or two with Nash. As it stands, though, they've got all the parts of a solid playoff team, minus the most expensive one.
Detail That May Interest .08% of You: The weather forecast in Phoenix today calls for 0% precipitation, sunshine, and a balmy 72 degrees.