As one who never could carry a tune I couldn’t recognize whether this was a wakeup call (i.e., reveille) or taps. But even one with a tin ear could tell this game demonstrated not only where the Suns are but how far they have to go to get where they want to be.
Where they are is clearly not ready for prime time at this stage in their development. And don’t let that 94-82 score fool you. This one wasn’t nearly that close, and the Suns weren’t nearly as respectable offensively as even those feeble numbers would have you believe.
The Rockets, who were struggling a bit themselves coming in, were totally in control at both ends of the court most of the night. In fact, they almost lapped the Suns, which is not easy to do when your three favorite speeds are slow, slower, and, snail. Mostly the Rockets went with number three, and they enjoyed smooth “snailing” (sorry about that. I couldn’t resist).
At the defensive end they took Amare Stoudemire out of the game early on with well timed double-teams. And they rotated well enough out of those doubles to hold the Suns to 37.6 percent shooting. Perhaps even more revealing, the Suns did not score a fast break point until the eighth minute of the FOURTH period.
The only even thing about the game was the heavyweight headline matchup between Shaquille O’Neal and Yao Ming, which ended pretty much in a standoff. Shaq had 18 points, 13 rebounds, and four blocked shots and, incidentally, moved past John Havlicek into tenth place in all-time career scoring. And Yao, who picked up two early fouls, finished with 17 points and 15 boards.
But a trio of Houston guards, Tracy McGrady (27), Aaron Brooks (19), and Rafer Alston (15) torched the Suns for 61 big ones, and Alston was ejected in the final seconds of the third period after a scuffle which also cost the Suns the services of Matt Barnes, and resulted in five technicals being assessed.
However (I’ll bet you’re relieved I finally got to a “however”), one should be just as careful not to read too much into a loss – even a disastrous one – at this early stage in the team’s development.
And while it’s true that when you’re up to your navel in alligators, it’s hard to remember your original purpose was to drain the swamp, you still have to keep your priorities in mind. And the Suns still seem to be focusing more on swamp than alligators at this point.
Or, as Steve Nash (who, being from Canada probably doesn’t know much about swamps) put it, “We have to believe in one another and keep working together. We’re struggling right now, but I think the commitment we have to each other will pay off one day.”