Opposite Direction

Phoenix has struggled since acquiring Shaquille O'Neal, but a game against Philadelphia might help get it back on track.

The Suns will try to continue their recent domination of the 76ers at home as the teams square off on Saturday.

Oddsmakers from Sportsbook.com have made Phoenix -9 point spread favorites (NBA Odds) for today’s game, the over/under has been set at 214 total points (Matchup). Our public betting information shows that 52% of bets for this game have been placed on Philadelphia +9 (View NBA Bet Percentages).

Phoenix (39-19) picked up O'Neal on Feb. 6 in a deal that sent Shawn Marion and Marcus Banks to Miami. The 35-year-old center, who was nursing a hip injury at the time of the trade, made his Suns debut on Feb. 20 and has averaged 10.8 points and 10.4 rebounds in five games with his new team.

However, Phoenix has dropped three of those games, including Wednesday's 120-103 loss at New Orleans.

"I think he's doing fine," coach Mike D'Antoni said. "I think that offensively we'll be fine. It's our defense that we have to get better, with our schemes and knowing each other.

"It takes a lot to develop that chemistry, and I think we'll do that. Right now we just have to play better, we just didn't do it."

O'Neal had 15 points and seven rebounds against the Hornets, and Amare Stoudemire led Phoenix with 32 points and 14 rebounds. However, the defense yielded more than 100 points for the third straight game and eighth in 11.

Phoenix ranks 26th in the league with 104.6 points allowed per contest.

"We are still learning what we have to do to win games. We'll be fine," O'Neal said. "We just caught a team that was called out by their coach and they played very well."

If recent history is any indication, Phoenix should be able to bounce back against Philadelphia (26-33).

The Suns have won five straight home games against the 76ers since a 102-81 defeat on Jan. 2, 2002. Overall, Phoenix has won eight of 10 in the series, but lost 99-94 in Philadelphia in the last meeting on Feb. 28, 2007.

O'Neal has averaged 25.7 points and 11.7 rebounds in 39 career games against the 76ers. However, he had just five points in his last game against them, a 96-85 loss while playing for the Heat on Dec. 26.

The Sixers are clinging to the eighth and final playoff spot in the Eastern Conference with a half-game lead over Atlanta. They had won eight of 10 before falling 119-97 at Golden State on Friday.

Andre Miller and Rodney Carney each scored 18 points for Philadelphia, which missed its first 14 shots and committed five turnovers before making its first basket.

``It's tough when you get down,'' said Andre Iguodala, who had 15 points. ``You try to speed it up and play right into their hands. I think we struggled to get back in transition and once we couldn't hit a shot we started quick shooting and from there we played into their hands.''

Earlier in the day, the 76ers released guard Gordan Giricek, who was acquired in a late December trade that sent Kyle Korver to the Utah Jazz. Giricek needed to be waived by Saturday to be eligible for postseason play with another team.

By: Marc Young - theSpread.com - Email Us

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