Searching For Identity

Things are going so badly for the Suns these days they can’t even beat the Lakers. Just kidding. The Lakers may have been mere shadows of their defending champion selves lately, but it’s not like their ship has been downgraded to Clipper class or anything.

And the Suns actually put forth one of their grittier efforts, hanging in there until Kobe set Ron Artest up for a wide open three with 1:04 to play. Not only did the points prove fatal, but the five or six seconds he had to line up the shot (well, that’s what it seemed like) certainly didn’t help either.

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Delightful Defense!

This was one of those man-bites-dog stories! I mean, when’s the last time the Suns destroyed a team with their defense? Besides the Suns, I mean.

Five years ago? Ten years ago? Never?

Okay, so I exaggerate a tad. But that’s to be expected when they follow up one of their worst defensive efforts in this or any other year against Philadelphia with one of their best.

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Why We Lost

Christian Petersen/NBAE/Getty

Pop quiz. The Suns lost last night because:

A. Their offense was awful
B. Miami’s defense was awesome
C. LeBron James was LeBron James
D. All of the above.

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Suns' Defense Can't Slow Blazers

(Christian Petersen)

I bring good news and bad news. The good news is the Suns’ schedule turned soft, as was expected after a brutal opening stretch. The bad news is the Suns turned even softer.

And “soft” is the nicest four-letter word that comes to mind for last night’s effort. It’s bad enough not to guard the paint in the paint, but the Suns didn’t even defend the paint on the rim in the first three quarters.

In case you ever wondered what kind of effort the worst defense in the league would put forth on an off night, wonder no more. [Read more...]

Frye's Performance Pushes Suns to Win

(Christian Petersen)

Channing Frye just missed his career high, but still came away with a rare double-double— Offensive Player Of The Game AND Defensive Player Of The Game.

What with being a registered sniper with a license to thrill, Frye’s 29 points that included five treys wasn’t all that surprising. After all, Shots-R-Him. But although his scoring outburst was instrumental in carrying the weary Suns (they arrived home from Golden State at 3:30 a.m.) to victory, it was his spectacular block of a Mike Dunleavy shot that finally sealed the deal. [Read more...]

Suns' Team Effort Defeats Nuggets

(Christian Petersen)

Their fourth win in the last five games has moved the Suns two games north of .500, a modest accomplishment given they have grown accustomed over the years to residence considerably further north. However, given all the circumstances I think what we have here is one of the more impressive 6-4 runs in their history.

Okay, just TWO circumstances, but they bode well for the future.

Circumstance Number One— A top-loaded early schedule that saw the Suns open against four straight 50-game winners, and face 6 in their first eight games. And straight ahead are Miami, which only won 47 last year but had preseason aspirations of 70 this year, and Orlando, which fell one shy of 60 last year. Oh, and by the way, by the time they leave Florida the Suns will already have played four back-to-backs. [Read more...]

Maurice Lucas – Gentleman Athlete

Maurice Lucas was meaner than a junkyard dog with an impacted wisdom tooth. Maurice Lucas was as so soft hearted he wouldn’t hurt even the most annoying fly. No, there weren’t two Maurice Lucases.

Trust me, there was only one. And the Suns were fortunate to have him for three of his 12 NBA seasons.

During his career he was almost always referred to as an “enforcer”. In fact, The Enforcer! And you hardly read more than two or three paragraphs on him without coming across the word “fierce”. And with a menacing scowl and bruising game to match he was all of the above — on the court. [Read more...]

An Encouraging Loss

(Barry Gossage/NBAE/Getty Images)

Call me a cockeyed optimist (feel free to insert your own punch line here), or maybe an Alibi Ike, but offhand I don’t remember a more encouraging loss for the Suns, or at least a less discouraging one.

I know, I know. Any loss is a loss is a loss. And granted, when you take it out of context this one is no exception. However, when you put it the proper context (i.e. — mine), a much brighter picture emerges.

Translation: Considering they were playing their third game in four nights against a well-rested team many still consider the best in the NBA, and when you further consider that even by their own reckoning they are at least a month away from finishing the assembly of their new personnel package, the Suns actually hung surprisingly well with the Lakers.

(To digress for a moment, conspiracy buffs note darkly that when the teams meet the Lakers always seem to be well rested and the Suns always seem to be playing their third game in four nights, and the buffs do not seem to consider this a coincidence. But that’s another column.)

In the final statistical analysis the Suns actually wound up being hoisted on their own pet petard, the three-pointer, with the Lakers outscoring them 36-27 from arc city. But they didn’t have as big an edge on the boards as you would expect, and the Suns actually scored four more second chance points.

However, upon further review, there was ONE cloud in an otherwise mostly silver lining, namely and to wit that off this first look the reigning NBA champions actually seem to have even more firepower this year than last, as demonstrated by their ability to make the Suns pay for double teams down low by burying all those threes.

But that ill omen to the contrary notwithstanding, citizens of Planet Orange have to be greatly encouraged by the play of Robin Lopez and Goran Dragic. These two works in progress made significant improvement last year, and were expected to be even better this year. And so far they have been.

Lopez, as evidenced by his 14 rebounds and 17 points, seems to be fulfilling his promise to give the Suns help in an area they have need help for as long as even the oldest citizen of the Planet (i.e. — me) can remember.

As for Dragic, he always seems to give the Lakers fits. Who can forget how he drove them to distraction (although alas not to defeat) in Game Six of the Western Finals here last year, leading a rally with his dash and daring do that almost forced a Game Seven?

Last night he came off the bench to keep the Suns afloat with 10 second period points and finished with 15 in less than 19 minutes. But even more impressive than the numbers was how his bursts of energy made the Lakers almost seem like tired old men at times (the operative word there, of course, being “almost”.) And while it borders on the sacrilegious to even THINK about, let alone say it out loud, I can’t shake the notion the Suns might have had a better shot at an unexpected W this night if he had played a little more and Steve Nash had played a little less. (Hey, I said it was a sacrilege.)

On the other hand, Grant Hill offered yet more evidence there is a fountain of youth and that he has the map to it, scoring 21 points while chasing Kobe Bryant around and making him work for his 25. Not bad for an old gaffer who was deemed ancient two years ago and washed up four years ago.

The bottom line: Yes the Suns miss Amare, but not so much the ship be sinking. If fact, it’s actually more see-worthy than I expected it to be in the aftermath of his departure.

Suns Season Ends

(Christian Petersen/NBAE/Getty Images)

The cognoscenti almost unanimously said it couldn’t be done, and in the end the Suns didn’t do it.

But to their considerable credit they kept the issue in doubt right down to the 53-second mark in the fourth period of Game Six when Kobe Bryant sealed their doom with a shot only he would think of taking, let alone make. [Read more...]

Prediction: Suns In Six

Barry Gossage/NBAE/Getty

No, I’m not dusting off a line that made me infamous back in the day. I’m telling it like it’s going to be. Yes, I realize that the national media is almost unanimous in picking the Lakers (the only reason I say “almost” is the off chance I may have overlooked one or two pundits who didn’t). And that’s just one of the reasons I think the Suns will win this series.

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