For the second time this season, I blogged during a game live from the press box at US Airways Center when the Suns host the Pistons on Saturday night.

* * * * *

9:12 p.m. - Timeout, Pistons lead 103-81 with 2:2007 to go.  All teams have these kind of games throughout the season and as far as one game in 82 goes, this is just one non-conferene loss.  I think we’re used to this team being unbeatable, putting teams away and going on winning streaks.  That hasn’t happened all that much of late, but this is no time to push the panic button.  This is still a supremely talented team with a legitimate shot at a title run. 

I guess the key is to keep me off the keyboard.  Suns fall 105-83 and I fall to 0-2.  The good news is that I’m staying off the computer for the Nuggets game tomorrow night.

* * * * *

9:10 p.m. – Okay, it does look bleak, no doubt.  But fans leaving en masse with three minutes to go in the game? That’s more disturbing that than the Taco Gorilla.

 * * * * *

9:06 p.m. - Atypical bad shooting night for the Blur., who is now 2-10 from the field.  Timeout with 4:50 to go, 96-77 Pistons.  Could be heading for the worst loss for the Suns this season.  I blame myself.

* * * * *

9:05 p.m. – Nice move by Nash, but trading baskets won’t do it. The Suns need stops.

* * * * *

9:02 p.m. – STAT jam to cut the lead to 12, but as EJ is probably saying right now, the Suns need a couple of stops.  That presumably does not include Delfino hitting a three to jump the lead back to 15.  Nor the trunover and lay in to stretch it to 17.  Not looking good, fans This might be my last live blog for a while.

* * * * *

9:00 p.m. - Nash and Marion return as all three All-Stars are back on the court.  LB shoots the technical free throw after Wallace gets called for mouthing off to one of the refs.

* * * * *

8:57 p.m. – I knew the first half was bad, but I just noticed it was the Suns’ season low for offense with 43 points following a season-low second quarter with only 17 points scored.  Hopefully, I can stop with the negative stats and report on a typical Suns’ run to close the gap.  Nash still on the bench as Wallace drains another three to give the Pistons a 15-point lead, 85-70 with 8:54 left in the game.

* * * * *

8:53 p.m. - Suns have just eight points off the bench as Barbosa is 2-8 from the field with just five points, and James Jones has missed all three of his shots and has gone scoreless.  Thomas has three points in just nine minutes.  By contrast, the Pistons have 33 points off the bench, although Flip Murray has played more than usual in Billups’ absence.

* * * * *

8:48 p.m. – Stoudemire picks up his fourth foul as a disappointing third quarter winds down with the Suns trailing 75-64. One of the keys to Wednesday night’s comeback was the insertion of Nash into the lineup to the start the fourth quarter.  He is currently chatting with his warmups still on with inactive forward (and Suns.com blogger) Sean Marks as the Adio Sol Patrol work their magic.

The Suns need to pull this one out, if only so I don’t move to 0-2 on my blogging nights. 

* * * * *

8:43 p.m. - Not looking good for the home team as the Pistons now have their biggest lead at 82-72 with 1:45 to go in the third.  After Wednesday night, nobody’s giving up yet.

* * * * * 

8:35 p.m. – Steve for three, 58-54, still need to pick things up defensively, which leads to the running game.

Block for Marion, who is now one block away from becoming the first player this season to reach 100 blocks and 100 steals.  The Matrix has been playing some stellar defense of late and should most definitely garner some Defensive Player of the Year votes come season’s end.  I’m not sure how it happened, but Marion has been among the top vote getters for the award the past couple of seasons, but has not made first or second team All-Defense.  I don’t like to hear him complaining about not getting respect or lobbying for himself for the award, but with that kind of anomoly, I can’t hardly blame him.

* * * * *

8:31 p.m. - Nash with a patented drive and finger roll.  He does that so well.  If he has any opening at all, he is do deft at using his body to fend off defenders and flip it in, makes it look so easy.

* * * * *

8:30 p.m. – Billups injury is a strained left groin, questionable to return, he is on the bench.  Suns need to take advantage, which they do as Nash feeds Diaw for an easy lay in, 52-49 Detroit.

 * * * * *

8:26 p.m. - Second half underway.  No time for the cookie, with having to wait in line at the bathroom and running into former Mercury PR Director Tami Nealy.  But I grabbed my Diet Coke and I’m ready to get this game back to the Suns.

* * * * *

8:09 p.m. - Suns down 48-43 at the half.  I’m going down for my halftime cookie, hopefully the Suns will get their “real” runnning shoes on during the break.  Hope you’ve enjoyed the posts so far, more to come in the second half.

* * * * *

8:05 p.m. - Strong move to the hole by Stoudemire gets him to the line, where he drains his two free throws to give him 10 points on the game, 42-39 Suns.  Free throw shooting is just one of many areas Amare has improved on in his first few years in the league, a major key for his development and the success of this team in the postseason.

 * * * * *

8:03 p.m. – Time out, just under three minutes left in the half, Suns trail 41-37.  The Pistons play such good team defense, they seem to be slowing the Suns down closer to their speed.  The Suns must pick up the pace to extend their winning streak.

Trophy Guy makes his first appearance tonight.  I was skeptical of the Trophy Guy concept when I first heard about it, but the commercials are pretty darn good and the guy in the Trophy Guy costume is pretty funny and seems like a really nice guy.  You can watch all of the ads on our Multimedia page and the Trophy Guy has his own page on Suns.com, as well.

* * * * *

7:58 p.m. – Well that’s one way to defend Nash.  Carlos Delfino grabbed Steve as he was dribbling across mid-court.  Billups heads to the bench with some sort of injury, perhaps a groin. That could be big for the Suns, as he is their playmaker and is always a tough match-up for Nash.  Replays show Billups pulled something making a Nash-like behind-the-back pass.

* * * * *

7:55 p.m. – They just showed the “Right Guard Extreme Fans of the Game” on the big screen and they are decked out in green face paint, kilts and Pat Burke jerseys in honor of St. Patty’s Day and the Suns’ Irish reserve.

* * * * *

7:52 p.m. – ‘Sheed for three to give the Pistons their biggest lead, 38-31. STAT comes back with a strong move in the lane.  “Pound for pound the strongest man in the NBA,” I guarantee Eddie is saying right now.  Time out, 38-33 Detroit with 5:50 to go in the half.

Dick Van Arsdale has left the press box.  As I said last time, he rarely sticks around too long, prefering to head home to watch on TV.  Still looking and doing great, though. 

* * * * *

7:47 p.m. - This game seems to be shifting more towards the Pistons’ pace.  MV-Steve is back in there, though, so hopefully that will change.  Tied at 29, 8:43 to go in the half.

* * * * *

7:46 p.m. – I think the Suns caught a break on that out of bounds play, looked like Kurt touched it after ‘Sheed did.  We’ll take it.  Looked like Flip Saunders was going to flip out on the call reversal by refs.

Gorilla in a taco suit alert.  As posted last game, very disturbing.

* * * * *

7:40 p.m. - Kurt Thomas with a jumper on the elbow (no pun or pain intended).  Great to see that.  “Dirty” was money with those before the wing injury.  His ability to hit that mid-range shot does so much to open up the Suns’ offense for everyone else, both for Amare inside and the perimeter shooters in the corners.

 * * * * *

7:36 p.m. – Wow, end of the first quarter already (“We are done with one,” Tom would say.)   Suns up two, 26-24, seems to be about the pace the Suns want to play.  Pistons are a good help defense team and are doing a pretty decent job on the defensive end.  Clearly, the Suns want to keep pushing the ball up the court and wear this team down. 

* * * * *

Amy – Tempe
Barbosa is my favorite player — It was so great to see all his fans show up yesterday. I hope he has more appearances so he and I can be friends! :) I don’t know if you can keep track there, but the Celtics are within one point of the Mavericks in the 4th quarter. …  

7:34 p.m. – I’ve got the Mavs game on another window, but it’s tough to keep track, feel free to keep updating. 

* * * * *

7:32 p.m. – Antonio McDyess getting ready to check in for Detroit.  McDyess got a raw deal his first trip through town, although some of that was deserved based on his departure.  I was glad that he got a chance to come back for a time a couple of seasons ago.  One of the genuainely nice guys in the NBA.  Nice to see him come back from all his injury problems, seems to be a nice fit with the Pistons coming off the bench the past few seasons.

* * * * *

7:30 p.m. - Suns up five with just under three minutes to go in the first.  I would be able to write more if Leander would stop bothering me for the NCAA and Mavericks scores (Celtics up by two early in the fourth).  Tom has promised another blog, by the way, possibly tonight. 

* * * * *

7:28 p.m. – Diamondbacks hurler Randy Johnson is in his customary seat behind the North basket with his daughter, who looks just like him, poor thing.

LB for three!  Barbosa had an appearance at Paddock Pools in Avondale and was absolutey mobbed.  So great to see him getting some recognition as his game improves.  All the things people say about how nice a guy he is are not overstated.  You just have to root for the guy.

* * * * *

7:24 p.m. – ‘Sheed with a three to pull the Pistons to within one, 14-13 at the first timeout with 5:39 to go in the first.  It is disappointing to me to see that STAT is in Wallace’s range for technicals this season.  Most of Amare’s T’s have come on ticky-tack complaints to the officials.  I understand their desire to take control of the game and it can be ridiculous how much professional athletes complain about the officiating (deserved or not).  It appears Amare has taken the hint and has not had a technical since he was assessed two against the Bobcats.

* * * * *

7:17 p.m. – Good passing in infectous.  Marion’s passing skills have improved dramatically since the arrival of super-disher Steve Nash.  Bell with a nice dish to Diaw underneath to give the Suns an early 8-4 lead. 

 * * * * *

7:15 p.m. – And away we go. Raja gets things going with a long two, great to see him get going early.  D’Antoni has said he might limit his minutes because of a couple of bum knees.  We’ll see.  Coach has said always said Raja is the heart and soul of this team and we’ll definitely need him come playoff time.  Bell with another jumper before I can submit this entry.  Nice start indeed.

* * * * *

7:08 p.m. - I am flanked once again by broadcaster Tom Leander and Suns.com columnist Joe Gilmartin.  Dick Van is making is usual first half appearance, as well.  Other than that, the press box is fairly barren, although FSN’s Kevin McCabe and Jody Jackson have taken seats in the second row.

The Suns introduction video has played (if you have not seen it, go to the Multimedia page on Suns.com and watch it, it’s well done) and Suns.com TV’s Cedric Ceballos is introducing YOUR Phoenix Suns.  As many times as I’ve heard it, it still gets me going. 

Strap yourselves in, it should be a good one!

* * * * *

7:00 p.m. – I see that Illinois product Eddie Johnson is doing color commentary for FSN AZ’s broadcast tonight.  I wish the Fightin’ Illini had won because I know a lot of alumni from there, but to look on the bright side, at least EJ will talk more Suns basketball than Illinois basketball. 

On a serious note, Eddie told me earlier in the week that his mom is ill, so I wanted to wish her a speedy recovery.  I heard tonight that she is indeed feeling better, great to hear.

* * * * *

6:55 p.m. - Both teams have taken the court and with Thin Lizy declaring “The Boys Are Back in Town,” we are rapidly approaching the start of the game.  The Suns will not be back in town for long, as they leave after the game for Denver to play the Nuggets tomorrow night.  This should be a much shorter trip than the one which had them stranded in Colorado earlier this season.  The Nuggs look about as different as the weather with the addition of Allen Iverson.  The Nuggets are currently in the seventh slot in the West, which means tomorrow’s game could be a preview of the Suns’ first round match up.      

* * * * *

Amy – Tempe
When you don’t pay for cable, there has to be other ways of keeping track of the home games. … so thanks for doing this … Good luck keeping up with the speed of the Suns!

6:38 p.m. - Thanks, Amy.  I thought keeping stats for the broadcasters was a challenge in the speed of the game department, but that is nothing compared with this challenge.  I will do my best to keep up with the action. 

I am now safely in my press box seat overlooking the court.  The stands are slowing filling up with less than a half hour to tip.  I devoured another fine meal in the (soon to be named Al McCoy) media lounge.   Chicken jambalaya with rice and catfish, with some minestrone soup.  Good stuff and well worth the meager charge.  Most of the eyes in the lounge were glued to the U of A game.  I picked Purdue in our office pool.  The jokes about Lute Olson being in Hawaii or at a Suns’ game soon were flying.  But, I’m trying to shake that off until after the game, plenty of time to check my brackets later.  It’s almost Suns basketball time!

 * * * * *

6:34 p.m. – “Every trip in here is like a trip to basketball heaven.” That is how Associated Press sportswriter Bob Baum described Head Coach Mike D’Antoni’s pregame media session in his locker room office. Although Bob’s remark had a sarcastic tinge to it, he was not too far from the truth.

D’Antoni meets with the media an hour before each game and it is usually a most enjoyable session of basketball talk with one of the nicest guys and quickest wits in or out of sports. Tonight, most of the time was spent breaking down the details of the Suns’ dramatic double overtime win in Dallas on Wednesday night. Among the more interesting topics was the talk of Jason Terry’s three-pointer over Nash with 4.5 seconds to go that the second OT. The two-time MVP said that maybe he should have fouled Terry, but D’Antoni did not have a problem with the way he defended the shot. Even more than what was said, it was interesting to see D’Antoni talk so casually about such a huge moment in a huge game.

As far as the Pistons, D’Antoni, to no one’s surprise, is looking to speed the game up to offset Detroit’s half court game, much like the Suns did against Houston on Monday. Defensively, look for Boris Diaw to match up against Rasheed Wallace and Amaré Stoudemire to get the assignment on Chris Webber.  As usual, that can and should change as the game goes on.

* * * * *

Current Pistons GM Joe Dumars was a “good” member of the Pistons “Bad Boys” of the late 1980s.
(NBAE Photos)

3:40 p.m. - The last time I attempted this endeavor was last month when the Suns hosted the Bulls, the team I grew up watching. Tonight, the purple and orange gang looks to clinch their third straight Pacific Division title against the team I grew up with a severe distaste for.

Before the Bulls finally broke through and reached the NBA Finals in 1991, the “Bad Boys” in Detroit had Chicago’s number for several seasons. Not only did they end my team’s season on more than one occasion, but they did it in a thuggish manner. It was not surprising to me that when I had the opportunity to interview some of the major players on those teams as a production assistant for a local Chicago television station that their image translated from their on-court nastiness to a standoffish personal demeanor.

That I was conducting the interviews for a station in their rival’s town and that I went into those sessions with an established bias might have had something to do with it, but my recollections of those guys personally are every bit as negative as their images. The one guy I remember having enjoyed talking to was former guard and current Pistons General Manager Joe Dumars, who exuded class and stuck out as a result.

I relay all of this with the full knowledge that I was a fan who was expected to dislike the opponent before I even had designs on getting into the business, where there is supposed to be a journalistic impartiality.

The Bulls certainly exacted revenge for those postseason thumpings at the hands of Laimbeer, Thomas, Rodman and company. Chicago ousted Detroit in their first two runs to the championship after being eliminated by the Pistons in the three prior postseasons. But that has not dimmed my view of those Bad Boys teams for not only beating my team, but the manner in which they conducted themselves in doing so.

With all of that being said, I don’t hold the same contempt for teams that I once did. Sure, I still hate the Mets, and always will, for leap-frogging the Cubs in 1969 (I was 6 and it broke my heart) and even the mention of the aforementioned Pistons teams of the late 1980s, let alone seeing highlights or ESPN Classic games, brings a snarl to my lips.

But I don’t “hate” the Mavericks, for example. I respect an organization which can turn things around as they have in going from a half-empty arena to the madhouse that was the American Airlines Center on Wednesday in a relatively short time span. I like Dirk Nowitzki as a person and have enjoyed watching his game improve over the years. Even after last season’s defeat of the Suns in the Conference Finals, I hated that they beat my team, but I held none of the personal animosity I might have felt in years past.

Maybe I’m just old(er) now, but it doesn’t make sense to me to exert that kind of negative energy. Besides, now that I work for the Suns and, by extension, the NBA, it does not seem to be in my best occupational interests to do so. The Mets on the other hand…

Okay, tangent over. Time to focus on the game tonight, which sees the Suns going for their seventh straight win and 12 of their last 13. This will be the last Eastern Conference team Phoenix will see until Game 1 of the NBA Finals and win or lose tonight, the Suns will finish this season with their best-ever record against the opposing conference.

Amaré Stoudemire will be gunning for his personal-best 54th straight game in double-figure scoring and Shawn Marion enters the game two blocks shy of becoming the first NBA player this season to record at least 100 blocks (98) and 100 steals (127) for the fourth consecutive season.

Let the March Madness continue…

Comments
comments powered by Disqus