Big Fella Going to Make Big Splash

 

Shawn Marion was traded for Shaquille O’Neal on Wednesday and Tim Kempton explains why this could help push the Suns to a championship. (NBAE Photos)

He’s going to be missed on the court, too. He’s been here a long time and there’s a reason for that. Although there have been a lot of rumors in recent years about the Suns trading him, he is a unique player and brought a lot to this team. He’s a guy that can defend several positions. He’s a guy that gets out on the break. He’s only 6-7, but he’s always among the league leaders in rebounding. And no matter what people say about that crazy shot of his, he has increased his range and can score from the three-point line.

If you’re going to give up a Shawn Marion, you have to get someone who’s going to come in here and make a splash, and I think Shaquille O’Neal will make that splash on and off the court.

Shaq is the most dominant player of all time. His sheer size and strength just overwhelms teams. Sure, he might not be the same player he was in his prime, but he will take away that whole lane area where the Suns have been weakest.

People aren’t going to come in there and take over the glass anymore. Even if Shaq just stands there, his size alone will keep people out of there and he will gather rebounds. So from that standpoint we get very strong in an area where we were very weak, the interior defense. [Read more...]

Suns Blow by Bobcats in 2nd Half

After a rough first half, the Suns played well enough to let the bench, including DJ Strawberry, log some minutes.

(NBAE Photos)

Barbosa, as befitting the fastest man in sneakers, got off the mark quickly, hitting his first three-pointer just three seconds after coming off the bench at 4:48 in the first period with the score tied at 14. He went on to hit two more treys and finish with 11 points in the period, and hit eight straight Phoenix points in one stretch before coming out of the game at 5:44 in the second period. That’s 19 points in just a tad less than 12 minutes if you like keeping track of such things.

L.B. finished the night with 30 points on 11 for 15 shooting, including 5 of 9 from Arc City.

Bell, who had only six points at halftime, scored 15 of his 24 points in the third period, hitting four of five threes to finish seven for 12 in that category.

The Bobcats, who have never beaten the Suns, are bogged down at 18-30, and were without leading scorer Gerald Wallace, still managed to stay neck and neck most of the first half of what was a very slow race. In fact, it took a running 30-foot three-pointer at the buzzer to send the Suns into the locker room with a 54-51 lead.

But after halftime it was as advertised — all Phoenix, all the time.

“We started a little slow and were sleeping a little bit most of the first half,” said Coach Mike, “but we finally got warmed up, and while this wasn’t one of our better defensive efforts, we played good defense when he had to.”

Given the combination of three days off, the distractions of Super Bowl week, and the fact that the opponent was Charlotte, Coach Mike wasn’t too upset that his troops didn’t exactly charge out of the gate with fire in their eyes.

Actually, they seemed a bit confused by the Bobcats’ defensive scheme in the first half. The biggest surprise probably being that the Bobcats, who rank in the bottom portion of the league and have now given up 127, 117, and 118 points in their last three games, had a defensive scheme.

But once the Suns figured out that the kind of zone the Bobcats were playing was so named because it basically created a free shot zone at the three-point-line, it was open season on the hoop.

Steve Nash had a some uncharacteristic problems finding the basket (missing seven of his 10 shots), but he very characteristically had no trouble at all finding his teammates, as he handed out 11 assists in just 29 minutes.

This was the Suns’ 15th win in the 20 games since they lost to the Lakers in Los Angeles and fell briefly out of the lead in the Pacific Division and improved the team’s record against the NBA Least to 20-2.

The bottom line: With apologies to Hallmark, sometimes you don’t have to care enough to give your very best to get the job done. And this was one of those nights.

Suns Fall to Spurs in Close Game

Amare Stoudemire and the Suns nearly pulled out a win against the Spurs but had some problems down the stretch.

(NBAE Photos)

I come not to bury the Evil Empire West but to praise it. You’ve got to hand it to the Spurs. The defending champions came in here reeling from three straight losses and 11 in their last 21 games, were without the mainspring of their offense, Tony Parker, and minus a key sharpshooter off the bench (Brent Barry). They were also facing one of the hottest teams in the NBA in a city that loves to loathe them. Oh, and they also had an uncharacteristic amount of trouble hanging onto the ball, especially early on.

And, as might be expected given all of the above, they trailed almost all the way, once by as many as 14 points. But they hung in there, made the big shots big defensive plays in the last 75 seconds and walked of with an 84-81 victory.

If you have a feeling you’ve seen this movie before it was because the rhythm of the game was painfully similar to the loss to the Spurs in Game Five of the NBA playoffs. The penalty-depleted Suns, it will be recalled, led much of the way in that one only to have it slip away from them in the closing moments.

This was a fiercely contested but not particularly well played game. Both teams had trouble shooting, and neither one was ever able to establish the things it likes to establish on a consistent basis.

The irony is that the allegedly “No ‘D’ Suns” had a great defensive plan and executed it extremely well, clamping aggressive and timely double-teams on Tim Duncan and rotating well off those doubles. But the Spurs, who like to think they pioneered defense in the West, pretty much did likewise to the Suns —which is why both teams hit ascattershot 38 percent from the field.

To show you just what kind of a night it was, the play that drew the biggest roar from the crowd was a spectacular Amare Stoudemire block of a Duncan shot. How spectacular was it? Well, it was one of those rare moments when a crowd ignored the game for a few seconds to give Amare a standing ovation. Alas, Amare, who had two fouls before the game was three minutes old, missed three free throws in the closing minutes, one of which would have tied the game in the closing seconds.

The Empire’s villain this night (surprise, surprise) was Manu Ginobili. Booed almost every time he touched the ball, and blanked in the first half, he scored 19 points in the second half, including 11 in the last eight minutes, and came up with two rebounds and a critical steal at crunch time. (The crowd leveled a double boo blast at the flop-prone Spur when he stretched out on the floor at one point like he’d been hit by a four iron instead of brushed by a forearm.).

Shawn Marion led all scorers with 21 points, but played only half of the fourth period and managed only one rebound. And Steve Nash, normally one of the deadliest shooters on the planet, missed 12 of his shots and was 2 for 9 on treys.

The bottom line: One shouldn’t read too much into this game, but one must concede that the Spurs act like they think they have the Suns’ number, and the Suns don’t seem entirely sure the Spurs are all that wrong.

By the Numbers: Phoenix Suns vs San Antonio Spurs

It’s been exactly a month since I last had a blog entry but I promise it’s for a good reason. My wife had a baby boy halfway through the month and I’ve been trying to keep up with three kids instead of two! Needless to say, I’ve been adding things over the past few weeks – but instead of counting points, rebounds and blocked shots, I have been counting dirty diapers, how many hours between feedings and the number of times I wake up in the middle of the night. Now that the baby is a couple of weeks old, I feel like I can get back into keeping track of Phoenix Suns numbers again.

If I told you the following, you would probably think the Suns were guaranteed a spot in the playoffs and would most likely end up with at least a three or a four seed come playoff time:

  • 1st in the Pacific Division (3.5 games ahead of the Lakers)
  • 1st in the Western Conference (tied with the New Orleans Hornets)
  • 3rd best record in the NBA

But if you look at the rest of the standings in the Western Conference, things look a little scarier:

  • The top eight teams in the Western Conference are within 5.5 games of each other (as opposed to a 17 game difference in the Eastern Conference)
  • Portland is only 1.5 games out of first place in their division and if the playoffs started today, they would not be playing
  • Golden State is nine games over .500 and is in the 8th position in the conference. By comparison, New Jersey is seven games under .500 and holds in the 8th position in the Eastern Conference. If Golden State were in the Eastern Conference, they would have the 4th best record.

What does all of this mean? Mostly it shows how good the teams are that Phoenix has to play on a regular basis. And it shows how any given team could take over the lead spot in the Western Conference with a good run at the end of the season. Who ever would have thought at the beginning of the season that San Antonio and Dallas would be on a possible crash course to play each other in the first round of the playoffs?

I’ll get more into the Suns’ numbers through the rest of the season and playoffs. I have several questions that people have sent over the past few months and I’ll be working on those as well. If you have any kind of stats questions you would like me to research, feel free to e-mail me at blog@suns.com.

GO SUNS!!