Pretty interesting game between two South of the .500 border teams. But alas, as is the case more often the case in this the winter of Planet Orange’s discontent, the finish was anything but pretty.
Even when they hit 16 threes, their point guard scores 27 points, goes 4-4 on threes, and has 15 assists with only one turnover, their two newbies, Vince Carter and Marcin Gortat, combine for 38 points, and they get more than their share of good bounces, especially off the offensive boards, and commit only 9 turnovers the Suns still can’t win.
The obvious question is why? And the short answer is that these Suns are like an infielder who plays every hop right on a ground ball except the last one.
Or, as Coach Alvin put in basketball terms, “In the NBA it usually comes down to three or four possessions and the stops and shots you make or don’t make, and we’re just not making them.”
True. All too true. But that is more a symptom than the cause of the problem, which is that there is no rhythm, rhyme, of reason in their offense—which is not good for a team consisting almost exclusively of offensive players.
Whereas the Suns rank third in the league in scoring and next to last in scoring defense, pinning the dearth of Ws on the “O” may seem like blaming the Johnstown flood on a leaky faucet in Altoona. But the thing is the Suns have always sinned on defense, but now the offense that used to expiate most of them while racking up all those 50-win seasons and reaching Game Six of the Conference finals as recently as last year seems to have expired.
Hitting 16 threes and putting 107 points on the board can gloss over those problems, but they won’t save you very often at crunch time. And I’m not sure there is enough time left in the season, or the right parts needed to fix the problem.
Those Suns of yesteryear may not have played great defense, but for all their fun-and-gun M.O. they were fundamentally sound offensively, and carried themselves with a performance-base swagger at that end of the court.
This year not so much. Run-and-fun has given way to hunt and peck, and while there is still enough talent to break 100 most nights, the knockout punches just aren’t there.
The Suns have had 16 sub-.500 games already, compared to only 12 all of last season, and their point production has dropped off five points a game.
There were some encouraging signs last night. Carter showed flashed of his former self, and Gortat was so hot in the first half (16 points) that I started to work on a Marcin Go To line, but alas they never went to him again.
The bottom line: We still don’t have an answer to the question I posed on our last visit, namely is this a bad team of mismatched parts, or just a good one trying desperately to find itself. But I’m afraid we’re getting depressingly close to one. And if you think the immediate future is gloomy, you don’t even want to think about looking down the road a year or two.