There’s no better cure for a slump than a blowout of a playoff contender. It did my heart good to watch the Suns batter the Rockets, but not nearly as much good as it did the Suns, who’ve spent the last two weeks expressing concern over a lack of focus. They looked plenty focused last night.

Shawn Marion shoots his classic jumper.
(NBAE Photos)

Of course, if going 9-1 in the ten games prior to last night’s dismantling of Houston can be considered a slump, then give me lots of slumps. Bless you, friendly Schedule Maker, for lining up a lot of league patsies at just the moment the Suns needed to work out a few kinks. 

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I don’t hear many quarters criticizing Shawn Marion’s jumper these days. In the old days, he couldn’t take a three from the corner without some announcer squawking, “fundamentally unsound,” or “awkward!”

Two of the biggest reasons to change a shooter’s mechanics are a) to keep the shot from getting blocked and b) to ensure the shot has proper spin. Well, a) Trix gets off the ground and gets up so high, so fast, his shot is practically unblockable and b) he gets an ungodly amount of backspin from his current mechanics.

Watch him shoot a free-throw sometime, it’s fascinating: His shot reaches the apex of its arc, and then the backspin takes over and the ball seems to drop straight down through the hoop. I’m glad no “shot genius” decided to re-make his jumper. I bet the Suns are glad, too. 
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I’m not sure how Dallas is doing it. I give the Mavericks a ton of credit, because I look at their roster on paper, and I just don’t see how they can be this dominant. Outside of Nowitzki, they don’t have a marquee player. They didn’t add any big names between last year and this. They just play great team ball, move the rock exceptionally well, and have a roster overloaded with “glue guys,” role players that do whatever it takes.

They’re having a historically great season, and it’s obscuring the fact that the Suns are having one of the best years (maybe the best year) in their history (largely owing to the fact that they essentially “added” Stoudemire to the roster after his injury-plagued 2005-2006 season). For my money, this is the best, most loaded Suns team since the Barkley-led squad that made the Finals in 1993. Maybe even better than that team.

Maybe that’s an okay thing, that Dallas is having such unprecedented success. It keeps the Suns hungry, for one, and keeps league and media attention in Texas. The Suns aren’t lurking in the weeds and aren’t going to sneak up on anyone, but Dallas has a bigger bullseye on their backs than Phoenix. 

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Everyone knows I’m an NBA history nut, so it’s natural for me to ask this question: Has there ever been a point guard like Steve Nash?

The natural comparison is John Stockton, but Nash is a better scorer, or at least has more aggressive scorer’s instincts. Certainly, he’s a better scorer than Bob Cousy. Tiny Archibald led the league in scoring and assists, but I’ll always think of him as a scorer first, and he had far more speed at his disposal than Nash. Mark Price? Mostly forgotten now (even more forgotten is the fact that his dad Denny was once John MacLeod’s assistant with the Suns), he was a sweet-shooting point guard with strong passing skills…But he didn’t have the court vision Nash does, nor was he as unquestioned a leader as Nash, and he wasn’t in Nash’s league as a passer. KJ? Kevin Johnson’s greatest asset (among many, many assets) was his speed…and Nash can’t and doesn’t rely on his. In terms of numbers and overall effect on a game, the point guard Nash comes closest to is probably Magic Johnson…but Magic had five inches and thirty pounds on Nash, and Magic could play five positions. There’s one spot and one spot only for Nash.

We’re seeing something truly unique in Steve Nash. Take mental snapshots every time you see him play so you can tell the grandkids. 

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“The Suns don’t play any defense. They can’t win a championship with their style.”

It makes me want to pull my hair out when I hear a commentator say this, which is guaranteed to happen at least once in any national broadcast. Are these people unaware the Suns are third in the league in point differential?

The Suns rarely get blown out, and their offensive scheme can keep them in games even when they’re not shooting particularly well, simply because it gets them so many cracks at the basket. Their supposed defensive weakness in the post? Well, with Amare showing a strong commitment to defense, the Suns are more capable than ever of getting a stop down low when they need one. Folks, Yao Ming went one-for-nine last night. One-for-nine.

No, the Suns aren’t the defensive-minded Bad Boy Pistons of the late 1980s. Do they need to be? 

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A few weeks ago, STAT had a stat line of 43 points and 16 rebounds in a game, and I said, “Uh oh.” But I said it with a smile on my face. Those, in the words Joe Gilmartin used a few decades ago when discussing a big game by Wilt Chamberlain, are “ominous numbers.”

Amare’s overall numbers may be down from his first peak (I say “first peak” because I don’t believe for a second he’s reached his potential) a few years ago, but he’s playing better team ball and doing more things that don’t show up in a box score, but still help a team win. However, as the numbers above show, he’s still capable of putting up those big figures and devastating an opponent. My gut tells me he’s got a bunch of those waiting for unlucky playoff foes. 

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Though his statistics aren’t what they were a year ago, the Suns are simply a better team when Boris Diaw is on the floor. They move the ball much more crisply and seem much more in sync. He does all the little things to keep the gears turning. 

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Historical perspective again: Who are the fastest players in NBA history? KJ? Randy Smith? Isiah Thomas? Tiny Archibald? Slick Watts?

Were any of them faster than Leandro Barbosa? I’d have a hard time believing that. Regardless, he’s a step and a half faster than anyone in the game today, and a joy to watch. 

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They get no ink – or playing time – but the Suns bench gives me a good “warm blanket” feeling. I just like knowing that there are guys like Jumaine Jones, Jalen Rose and Eric Piatkowski over there, heady veterans who can understand a system and their role in it even if they don’t play major minutes every game. These are guys who can slide in at any given time, if needed, and keep the machine working. Even better, any of them can, and has, hit a clutch shot. 


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