Amare Stoudemire dunks against the Sixers on Saturday night.

(NBAE Photos)

Don’t let those last-second heroics that gave the Suns a prayer fool you. The plain truth is they were outplayed almost wire to wire by the lightly regarded Sixers, sometimes embarrassingly so.

The Sixers scored 119 points on 57 percent shooting, moving Coach Mike to grumble, “At some point we’re going to have to stop SOMEBODY.”

Last night, alas, to put it accurately but ungrammatically, they couldn’t stop NOBODY.

Bear in mind this is the same Sixers team that missed its first 14 shots at Golden State Friday night, and arrived in the Valley averaging 95 points and shooting 45 percent from the field.

The conventional wisdom is the Suns are understandably going through a period of adjustment to incorporate Shaquille O’Neal into their operations, and the players themselves are saying it’s bound to take a little time to get everybody on the same page (or even decide what page that should be).

And I buy most of that. Indeed, one has to bear in mind that Shaq was brought here to fix the Suns’ playoff wagon, not the regular season wagon. And the success or failure of the trade will hinge entirely on how the team plays in postseason.

But while what happens now means next to nothing, how it’s happening can be a tad disturbing. Technical adjustments can and will be made, but what appears to be a lack of fire and confidence may be a taller order.

I still think the Shaq deal had to be made, and that it will eventually make the team more playoff worthy, but no amount of “adjusting” is going to fix the defense. That’s a matter of energy, hard work, and attitude, and these items seem to be in rather short supply in these parts of late.

Of course, one would like to think this is because the team is doing so much thinking and fretting about offensive adjustments caused by Operation Shaq — that it’s not only sapping some of the defensive energy but exposing it to even more woe than usual. (Translation: Out of whack offenses can give up points too).

The bottom line: There’s absolutely no need to push the panic button. But hey, it wouldn’t hurt to locate exactly where it is, just in case of an emergency.

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