How Important Is Going Out With a Bang?

So my question to you for a weekend discussion is this:  How important is it to win these last three games?  If they win tonight and for some reason can’t move up or down in the rankings after tonight’s game, would you sit the starters and rest them for the playoffs? Would you only play them 20 minutes and then rest them just so they don’t get rusty?  Or would you try to win the games despite not being able to change your seeding?

I’ve always been of the opinion that each game is important.  It seems that if you let yourself go for a game or two and aren’t really trying, it would be hard to get that intensity back for the first – and maybe the second – game of the playoffs.  That could put you in a pretty deep hole with the way the West is stacked this season.

I don’t have any numbers for you today.  But I did want to get some opinions on what you think the team should do for the last three games.

Leave your comments below.  I don’t know that there is any right or wrong answer to this so keep your comments about the questions and hopefully not about the other commenters!

Have a great weekend.  GO SUNS!

Suns Win Over Spurs Bucks All Trends

Back-to-Backs – As you may have read, the Suns are exceptionally good at winning the first game of a back-to-back series.  For the season, they are 16-1 – a 94% winning percentage.  But in the 2nd game of the season, they were only at .500 until last night’s game.  And they not only won the game, they won it handily.  That brought them up to a .529 winning percentage.

Spurs record over Suns – The Suns have had a hard time beating the Spurs in years past.  This year they are 3-1 against the 2007 Champions.  The Spurs wanted the game pretty bad.  They certainly didn’t want to give up any mental edge to the Suns.  But with Phoenix winning 75% of the games this season.  The only loss was an 84-81 game where the Suns lead most of the game until the last few minutes.

Non-scoring against San Antonio – This wasn’t a huge change from the other games but it was still 5 points over their average from the first three games against the Spurs.  Phoenix scored 100 in their first game in San Antonio.  They scored 96 last night.

Overall, I was very pleased with the Suns’ performance.  They kept their heads in the game, they were able to fend off some of the rough play that the Spurs tried to get into and even gave some of it back.  They took a close game and blew it wide open in the 4th quarter – enough that Coach Popovich put the scrubs in with about 4 minutes left in the game.

What did you think of the game?  Does this change your predictions of where we’ll end up in the standings and how we’ll fare in the playoffs?  Leave your comments below.

Memphis Mania and Why I Hate the Spurs

In case you can’t tell from my previous blogs (or the career path I’ve chosen), I am a huge sports fan. My love of sports is what got me into television.

There are many reasons Bob doesn’t like the Spurs – their record against the Suns being the biggest.
(NBAE Photos)

The summer between 7th and 8th grade I was watching one of many Cubs games on WGN and the thought occurred to me that someone, somewhere was getting paid to watch the game I was watching. At that time I had no idea what the role of a producer or director was, but I knew that it would be a pretty good gig to be paid for doing what I already liked to do.

Monday night I got to experience the wildly entertaining NCAA championship game with a sports bar full of hard-core Memphis fans. Every Tigers basket was followed with thunderous applause, each near miss with “ooohs” and “ahhhs”. As their team stretched the lead to 9 with just over 2 minutes remaining, the noise was deafening. The crowd cheered through entire timeouts, passing around high fives and hugs – their team was so close to the ultimate prize they could taste it. You know what happened next. Kansas hit a few shots, the rim shrunk on the Memphis end (just ask Derrick Rose and Chris Douglas-Roberts) and the rest was history. As the CBS broadcast went to commercial break at the end of regulation after the miracle 3-point field goal from Kansas, I could hear Jim Nantz’s voice for the first time since I’d joined this crowd. The previously raucous bar was as quiet as an oncologist’s waiting room. After the game, the crowd filed out as if leaving a funeral. [Read more...]

Suns Beat Memphis, Head to San Antonio

As discussed yesterday, the Suns did well again in the first game of their last back-to-back series of the season. Now it’s on to San Antonio where they will face a more formidable opponent.

Playing the Spurs is always an interesting experience – especially when it is this close to the playoffs. Emotions seem to run a little higher and fans of both teams are on edge (check out the comments under Bob Adlhoch’s blog if you need proof). But this is the most fun part of the year, I think.

This season the Suns have won two out of the three games they’ve played against the Spurs. But their stats don’t look so hot:

They averaged 43.7% shooting against the Spurs this season
Shot 26.4% from the three-point line
Averaged 91.7 points per game (the only team who that held the Suns lower is Boston)

But there are a few bright spots as well:

They averaged 42.7 rebounds per game
Averaged 21.3 assists per game

We’re still not sure if Shaq will be playing tonight. It will be a game time decision. If Shaq plays, I think it’s important to win or at least stay very close to the Spurs. Despite my thoughts that the Suns are better than the Spurs this season, I’m still afraid of a mental block when it comes to playing them in a 7-game series. If Shaq does not play and the Suns either win or stay close, I think that will help them get over that mental barrier.

What are your thoughts on tonight’s game?

Monkey on Their Back (to Back)

The team has played a total of 16 back-to-back series so far this season (not included the Memphis/San Antonio series starting tonight). The numbers for the first game of a back-to-back are impressive:

Record: 15-1
Points Scored: 113.7
Points Allowed: 103.2
Rebounds: 43.9

Not too shabby, right? I think any team would take a 94% winning percentage. But let’s take a moment to look at the second game of a back-to-back series:

Record: 8-8
Points Scored: 107.7
Points Allowed: 108.3
Rebounds: 39

It’s still a 50% winning percentage but I think the team expects better of themselves. With the 2nd of the back-to-back Wednesday against San Antonio (in San Antonio) it’s important for the Suns to get a big lead tonight so they can rest their players. The game against Memphis just got a little harder after it was announced that Shaq will sit out tonight’s game due to a hip bruise. But he should be back for the game against San Antonio.

My question to you: Why do you think the Suns do so poorly on the 2nd game of a back-to-back series? Is it just as simple as being tired? Do they feel good after a win the night before and let up on their intensity a bit? Are there other reasons you can think of? Let’s discuss it in the comments below.

Who Would You Rather Face?

Most likely, the Suns are going to be either the 5th seed and will face the PMah Jazz or will stay in the 6th seed and play the Lakers. My question to you today is: Who would you rather face?

With every team in the West as strong as it is this season, is there a “good” matchup for the Suns? Is there a team you would rather see Phoenix play in the first round? I don’t know that I have a preference between the Lakers and the Jazz. They are both tough teams. Here is a breakdown of some numbers for both teams.

Suns vs Los Angeles Lakers in 2007-08
Record: 1-3
Field Goal Percentage: 48%
Rebounds: 41
Points per Game: 111

Suns vs PMah Jazz in 2007-08
Record: 1-2
Field Goal Percentage: 44%
Rebounds: 40
Points per Game: 102

Based on those stats, maybe it would be better to face the Lakers? The teams only faced each other once with their current lineups. The Suns have greatly improved since that last game. But then again, so have the Lakers.

Give me your thoughts on a potential matchup below. But explain your reasoning! I’m curious to see what Suns fans think about potential matchups.

Poor Shooting Reverses Suns' Fortunes Against Mavs

No matter what you may have heard, the Suns did NOT shoot
themselves in the foot in the fourth period Sunday.

Steve Nash and Dirk Nowitzki greet each other before the Suns hosted Dallas on Sunday.
(NBAE Photos)

I’m not saying they didn’t try, mind you. But the way they were shooting, they couldn’t have hit the FLOOR, let alone the foot. And of course, anything higher than foot or floor, like the basket, was even further out of the question.

In case you’re not catching my drift, let me put it another way. If the Suns had been shooting darts in that period several spectators in the front rows, and even a couple in the upper level, would have needed treatments for wounds.

And if you prefer numbers to rambling rhetoric, the second highest scoring team in the NBA hit only 3 of 19 shots from the field, went more than seven minutes without a point, and managed only 9 in those final 12 minutes. It also went oh-for-five on threes and had four times as many turnovers as assists.

Thus, even though the Mavs weren’t exactly shooting the lights out themselves, they were able to climb out of a 14-point hole and pull away in the closing minutes, thereby washing three of the most solid periods of basketball the Suns have played all year right down the drain.

One theory for this reversal of fortunes was that the Mavs were simply more desperate for this win — and maybe they were. But while they may not have been as downright desperate, the Suns were at least sorely in need of it themselves.

Coach Mike wasn’t sure whether the meltdown was due more to Dallas “D” or Suns “O”, and even threw in a “whatever” to cover all the bases. Steve Nash called it an “anomaly”, and Amare Stoudemire said, “We just didn’t score. It’s that simple.”

Amare had another huge game with 31 points, but even he had trouble locating the hoop in that frigid fourth, hitting only 2 of 6 shots. But Nash had even more trouble, going zero for six, and was only 4 of 17 for the game, with only one fewer turnover (5) than the entire Dallas team.

And if that’s not an anomaly then God really didn’t make little green apples and it don’t rain in Indianapolis in the summer time.

And speaking of anomalies, although the Suns lead the league in blocked shots, Jason Kidd had one more (4) than the entire Phoenix team. He also had had as many steals (4) as the Suns, and had 7 assists and only 1 turnover in a brilliant all-around performance.

Dirk Nowitzki had 12 of his 32 points in that fourth period, and also had 12 rebounds, an effort that seemed as gutsy as it was great given that at times he still seemed to be bothered by the ankle injury that sidelined him for some two weeks.

Even as myopic as they were, the Suns might have still managed to somehow survive if they hadn’t put the Mavs in the bonus less than four minutes into the final period, a circumstance that ultimately led to 13 trips to the free throw line and 11 points for them. The Suns also took an 18-7 hammering on the boards in the final period.

How you look at this one depends a lot on which half of the glass you are prone to focus on — the empty half or the full half.

If the latter, you take considerable comfort in the how good the Suns looked in the first three periods, and shrug off the fourth as indeed just one of those things (i.e. — a n anomaly).

If the former, you’re so bummed out by the fourth quarter you don’t even remember the first three, and refuse to be cheered up.

Suns Hitting Their Stride

What do you get on a night when a very good home team that can’t do anything wrong meets a very bad road team that can’t do anything?

Very deceiving results. I mean, there’s no way this one was as close as that 117-88 score indicates.

Now I realize that beating the T-Wolves any place beyond the Minneapolis city limits is not exactly like beating a leopard in a tree, but even when you get past that disclaimer you have to be very impressed with how many levels the Suns have raised their game in the last few weeks (or even raised themselves from the dead if you listened to the way some folks were talking during the period of adjustment)..

Offense, defense, rebounding, chemistry, body language, you name it. And bear in mind the Suns weren’t exactly chopped liver BEFORE The Trade transformed this into the strongest playoff-type team in the Mike D’Antoni era.

Even those of us who climbed out on a limb (actually more like a strong branch) and proclaimed the acquisition of Shaquille O’Neal was a great one never dared suggest The Big Difference would make THIS much difference.

It’s not all Shaq by any means, of course. It’s also a matter of Raja Bell getting healthy, Boris Diaw taking fewer naps during games, Amare going from All World to Other Worldly, Steve Nash playing back to his MVP form, and even the overlooked signing of Gordon Giricek giving Coach Mike another useful piece of the puzzle.

But No. 32 has clearly been the catalyst. And you don’t have to look any further than the four games against the T-Wolves this year to pinpoint statistically what a difference a Shaq makes.

In the three games without him the Wolves beat the Suns half to death on the boards, 153-99, with a lot of that damage being done on the offensive end. But last night the Suns had a 52-39 edge that could have been even greater if Coach Mike hadn’t emptied his bench. (And speaking of that, by the way, the seldom seen back of the bench delivered 15 points).

And it wasn’t just a one-night phenomenon. Since The Trade the Suns have clearly corrected what had been one of their most glaring weaknesses, namely frailty off the glass.

And as I mentioned earlier, they have managed to shore up their weakness, including alleged softness and defense, without sacrificing any of their offense.

And where all teams talk about hitting their stride at the right time (i.e., now), the Suns are walking that talk with a vengeance.

The bottom line: There is every indication the next few weeks will be among the most exciting in franchise history.

STAT's stats

We’ve all seen the gaudy numbers Amare Stoudemire has put up the past few games. He’s been nothing short of incredible. Many experts have credited the presence of Shaquille O’Neal with the surge. I thought we might look at the numbers to see just how much The Big Cactus has helped.

First, let’s look at Amare’s statistics before Shaq came to town:

  • 21.29 points per game
  • 8.63 rebounds per game
  • 1.1 assists per game
  • 31.4 minutes per game
  • 3.7 fouls per game

That’s not too shabby by any means.  Averaging 21 points and over 8.5 rebounds is something I think any team would take.

Now Amare’s statistics after the Shaq trade (these include only the games when Shaq started playing):

  • 30 points per game
  • 9.1 rebounds per game
  • 2.2 assists per game
  • 37 minutes per game
  • 3.7 fouls per game

Or, looking at this using Doug Collins-speak, since Shaq was traded to the Phoenix Suns, Amare Stoudemire is:

  • +8.71 points per game
  • +.47 rebounds per game
  • +1.1 assists per game
  • +5.6 minutes per game

Now let’s get into the “why” on the increase in numbers. Here are my ideas:

  1. Amare doesnt have to play centers the entire game and doesn’t get as tired
  2. Shaq is taking the double teams Stoudemire used to get
  3. Because Amare isn’t as tired, he is able to play more minutes and that translates into more points/rebounds

Are there any other reasons you can think of for the improvement Amare has shown after the All-Star break?

Shaq's Honda Ride Confirmed

A few days ago, I linked to some pictures on InsideHoops.com showing Shaq getting a ride from a guy with a Honda.

Today, the same web site confirmed the story was true. Editor Jeff Lenchiner spoke with Shaq and has a short interview about the ride on the web site.

It’s a pretty good story and something I’m sure the guy will repeat to his friends for years to come.

Anyone else have a “freak encounter” with a Suns players this season?

Links:

Suns.com Mention – http://www.nba.com/suns/news/reporters_notebook.html#honda
InsideHoops.com Interview – http://www.insidehoops.com/shaq-in-honda-040108.shtml