This is not the way it was supposed to be. The way it was supposed to be is the Suns would handily dispose of the short-handed Trail Blazers and roll into the All-Star break 11 games over .500, riding the crest of a six-game winning streak, and feeling very good about themselves.
But the way it WAS is the short-handed, sharp-eyed Blazers shot the lights out and handily disposed of the Suns, thus sending them into the break on a discouraging stumble that reawakened all the doubts (both self and yours) that preceded their five-game winning streak.
The Blazers hit their first six shots, and really didn’t start doing any significant missing until it was too late to save the Suns. Don’t be fooled. This game wasn’t nearly as close as the final score might suggest. The Suns never led, and the only tie they managed was 0-0. And as an obviously disappointed Coach Alvin somewhat indelicately but accurately put it, “We got our [bleeps] kicked in every phase of the game”.
By the time the Suns got their offense out of moth balls, where they had apparently stored it during their four-day layoff, and their defense out of the coma it had lapsed back into after showing signs of life on the recent road sweep they were down 22 in the third period. And the crowd was just as rusty as the team. Its only audible reaction until very late was gasp after gasp as shot after Blazer shot went in.
Mind you, this is the same Portland team, which is missing leading scorer Brandon Roy and three other key players, which managed only 77 points in an embarrassing loss to Oklahoma City at home its last time out. To give you just one stat illustrating how different things were Wednesday, they hit as many threes in nine tries against the Suns as they did in 20 against the Thunder.
But it’s also the same spunky, hustling Portland team that has managed to keep its head above water despite all the injuries, and a lot of that grit was very much in evidenced last night.
In case you’re not catching my drift, if there was anything encouraging for the Suns I didn’t see it. (Of course, what with the Blazers shooting the lights out it was hard to see anything).
However, bad as it was, this was just ONE game. And a check of their rollercoaster 14-3, 12-16, 5-0 spells demonstrate, it’s wise not to get too far up on the good nights or too far down on the bad ones with this bunch.
And when you balance the plusses against the minuses and bring the Big Picture back into focus, this team is going into the break nine games over .500 and in the thick of the wild scramble for playoff spots three through eight in the West. Of course, this last is a bit of a bad news/good news circumstance, the good being the Suns are only four losses out the two seed, the bad that they are only three out of the lottery.
Still, as their record suggests, they have more good nights than bad ones, and on their good ones they have enough weapons to not only make the playoffs but have a decent shot against anybody but the Lakers. That’s how balanced and just plain wacky the West is this year.
And therefore, it would be a mistake to break up this team in midstream. Given the labor problems looming large on the horizon, the Suns would be better advised to stay the course and see just how far this bunch can go.
And along those lines, Amare Stoudemire is NOT to blame for everything that sends this team into periodic funks, but he has quite a bit to do with bringing them out of them.
As far as I’m concerned HIS plusses far outweigh his minuses. And by the way, those minuses, including a history of health problems, make it extremely unlikely the Suns would get anything in a trade that would constitute an upgrade this year.
But perhaps the BEST reason for keeping him is that Steve Nash is on record as saying he doesn’t want to break this team up.
The bottom line: Wednesday night was a total loss, but the season is far from it.