What a game. As expected Phoenix was the 18-wheeler tonight, we were the raccoon. You should be proud of me. I made it through the entire game and did not fast forward anything but the free-throws and times-out on the Tivo. It took an entire quart of Baskin-Robbins Turtle Cheesecake ice cream to do it though. Somebody's going to have to up the running pace in the new year. That's OK, the Blazers will probably want to also.
Suns 110, Blazers 97
--Ummmm...we played a nice first two minutes? That's about it. We spent most of the game taking jumpers, missing them, and then watching Phoenix run them out for quick points. It was like taking raw, gooey meatloaf into a Rottweiler convention. Even more egregiously, we got JACKHAMMERED on the boards in the first half. I mean, they destroyed us. And this is not a Suns specialty. We drove a little more and fixed the rebounding problem in the second half but by then it didn't matter.
--We gave up entirely with about four minutes left in the second quarter. After that it was just a formality. This is one of the few times I've seen us lose it as a team.
--The following people came to play tonight and maintained some reasonable level of effort: Zach Randolph, Joel Przybilla, Jarrett Jack, Travis Outlaw, Juan Dixon, Jamaal Magloire. Everybody else might as well have been a life-sized cardboard cut-out.
--As we've said before, there's reason for optimism that we're headed in the right direction but games like tonight show us how far there is yet to go. You just saw the difference between a good team and what we are. Even on our best nights this year we haven't been as good as Phoenix was in this otherwise unremarkable game. Five minutes into the game there was no doubt they would win it.
(There aren't many highlights so we'll keep this brief.)
--Jarrett Jack shot 8-for-12. He was one of the few guys willing to drive.
--Zach tried to do damage but was overmatched by double teams most of the night. He did a nice job on the boards. He got killed in the interior on defense but so did most everybody else above 6'5" tonight.
--Joel was one guy who didn't abandon his post defensively, but he didn't have enough help to keep the lane secure.
--Dixon shot well, Magloire rebounded great, and Outlaw at least made them pay attention to him when he had the ball even though he ended up shooting only 3-of-9.
--Ime Udoka had another really tough night. He shot 1-7 and seemed to deflate before our eyes. He only got 10 minutes of playing time.
--Brandon Roy...ouch! He missed, like, his first bazillion shots. We'll attribute that to rust. He did get three steals and tried to keep his head in the game but it was like he was playing on a different court (apparently one where it was very dark and foggy).
--Martell Webster took 9 shots but only three of them were taken when anything counted. Once garbage time came and the game loosened up he did too. Basically don't count his stats or anyone else I haven't mentioned. Their minutes didn't matter for anything but numbers.
--The only part of the game that got me even semi-riled was when Joel Przybilla was called for a moving screen, his second foul of the first quarter. His screen was definitely illegal. In fact it was his second illegal screen in that very set. But EVERY Phoenix screen is moving. In fact if the refs called moving screens on them their offense would have to make some serious adjustments. That's fine...they're the best offensive team in the league, the leeway is deserved, whatever...just don't call it either way then.
--One of the things that makes Phoenix so dangerous which I think people underrate is their willingness to share the ball. It almost doesn't matter if you make a defensive stop against them because one isn't enough. You can stymie the guy driving and you relax because you've shut him down, only to watch him calmly pass out to another guy who himself makes one more pass and then they can an open shot. Don't underestimate Phoenix's unselfishness, nor the role of Steve Nash in leading the team in that attribute. Even more than their individual talent, that's what makes them so deadly.
--Speaking of Nash, he and Sean Marks MUST be having an ugliest haircut competition. Both of them look like they should be prowling in shady parks wearing nothing but a trenchcoat. Come on, you guys are millionaires. Find a barber.
--There's plenty more praise to heap on individual Suns players but we'll let the Phoenix blog take care of that. All I can say is that tomorrow better be a bounce-back game otherwise there will be some soul-searching going on in the Blazer locker room (and probably some heavy New Year's drinking on Nate's part).