Some nights you get old Vince Carter, some nights you get the Vince Carter of old. And some nights you get both.
This was one of those “both” nights. Carter was his unstoppable old “Vinsanity” self through three periods as he scored 30 points on 10 of 14 shooting, including 5 of 7 threes. But alas, in the fourth quarter Father Time, or maybe the law of averages caught up with him, and he went 1 for seven and missed three threes, and thus a very good chance to beat a very good, albeit very young Oklahoma City team and climb back to .500 for the first time since December 19th slipped away.
Oh well, easy come easy go. Or in basketball-speak, you live by the three you die by the three.
Pity, too. Because for most of this one the Suns continued to look like the team we thought they had a chance to be back in October (or at least I thought), particularly on offense. And about midway in the fourth period they had a six-point lead and seemed to be poised to pull away.
But in the end they wasted not only Carter’s season-high 33 points but yet another fine defensive effort by ageless Grant Hill against yet another you super star, Kevin Durant. You look in the box score and sniff that Durant scored 24 points, but you look behind those numbers and note that he had to work extra hard for his points, and was put in virtual lockdown by Hill in the fourth period, when it was obvious Hill had gotten into his head a bit..
But for all the misfortune, Coach Alvin said he was pleased with the team’s effort. And I give him an amen (albeit a lower case one). My caveat is that I would have liked to see them take the ball to the hoop a lot more often in the last five minutes, or at least LOOK inside a little longer before launching long jumpers.
But while the loss obviously stung a bit, I don’t think it knocked the team off the right track and back into skid city.
But enough about what might have been and what was. One would be remiss if one did not put in one’s two cents on Steve Nash’s omission (pending injuries) from the West All Star team.
Mind you, I don’t think it rises to the level of outrage, or even injustice. In fact, I see it mostly as an unfortunate confluence of two circumstances, number one being the plethora (in memory of Howard Cosell I work that into at least one column a year) of superb point guards in the West, and number two being that the Suns have been, and still are below .500.
Still, when you consider his numbers and how much he means to his team (hint: without him the Suns would have already nailed down a lottery slot, with him they will squeeze into the playoffs), it is a downright shame, and I can only hope he is not a victim of age discrimination.
Nash turns 37 Monday, but he’s averaging 11.8 assists and 17 points a game and remains one of the deadliest three-point shooters at crunch time. And if there was ever an example of the huge gap that often exists between perception and reality, it is his. The perception when he came into the NBA was that given his slight stature and tendency to hurl himself into the middle of masses of massive bodies he would have a very short shelf life in the league. I n fact, this is the main reason Mark Cuban gave when he declined to give him the deal he deserved in Dallas (for which the Suns will be forever grateful).
The reality, of course, is that Nash’s level of play at his position at his age is almost unprecedented. And if it weren’t for John Stockton, who averaged 8 assists and 11 points for a winning Utah team at the age of 41, it would be completely unprecedented.
Nash is not only having an All Star year, but an MVP year. I’m not saying he deserves to win it, but he certainly belongs in the conversation.
The bottom line: If it’s any consolation, there is general agreement his is the honorary captain of this year’s All-Snub team.