Pop quiz. The Suns lost last night because:
A. Their offense was awful
B. Miami’s defense was awesome
C. LeBron James was LeBron James
D. All of the above.
If you checked “D” you obviously were paying attention.
This was one of those games nobody really expected the Suns to win, but with Dwayne Wade in street clothes and Jared Dudley having a career night and actually putting together an even better line than LeBron’s, the Suns would have had a shot — if only anybody but Dudley’s been able to make one.
Coach Alvin gave the Heat an A for their D, but at the same time lamented his team’s lack of consistency, an ongoing problem underscored by the fact the Suns lead the league in scoring, yet most of their recently losses can be traced to offensive lapses.
LeBron had 36 points of 22 shooting from the field (2-5 from the arc), and 6 rebounds, but Dudley had 33 points on 11 of 16 shooting (7-10 from the arc), with 12 rebounds. Alas, the rest of the Suns were 19 for 59 (32 per cent), with normally reliable Grant Hill and newcomer Mickael Pietrus hitting only 5 of 18 shots between them problem.
Steve Nash had 18 assists, but didn’t take his second shot from the field until the closing minutes of the fourth period, and finished with only 4 points, numbers perhaps best (or certainly mostly charitably) explained by his oft demonstrated ability to adjust his game to fit the defense he’s facing.
The good news here is that this loss wasn’t all that damaging, and their 13-15 record is as much or more a reflection of the fact the Suns seem to be playing mostly 20-win teams right now than an indication of what lies ahead. Nobody, but NOBODY, has played a tougher schedule than the Suns.
And you have to like the way Robin Lopez has bounced back from his injury. He’s averaging 12 points and 6 boards since returning to the starting lineup five games ago. He’s an important piece of the puzzle, and not having him for such a long stretch was more of a problem than generally appreciated.
One of the reasons for inconsistency, of course, is that the Suns seem to be forever starting over and breaking in new rotations. And no, this is not on a knock on the six-player swap with Orlando. Au contraire, that was a win-win deal all the way around for the Suns.
Shipping out Hedo Turkoglu not only got the Suns out from under a big contract, but also subtracted a player who actually complicated the rotation situation and was basically an expensive monkey wrench.
Losing J-Rich, of course, hurt. But the Suns probably were going to lose him anyway, and besides they always seem to be able to find scorers. And as for the acquisition of Marcin Gortat, the Suns have ALWAYS needed a big man, and he first that bill. The only player that kind of hurt a little to part with was Earl Clark, who is very tall, very young, and at least has a chanced to become very good.
The only mystery in the deal is why in the heck Orlando made it, but that’s its’ problem.
The bottom line: The Suns have had jollier Christmases, but that stuff under their tree isn’t all coal by any means.