I am becoming more and more frustrated by the various media outlets that cover the Suns. From beat writers that freely take a quote out of context to turn it into an attention grabbing headline to various writers that cover the NBA at a national level and appear to recap a game based on preconceived notions and box scores.
Take Kelly Dwyer's write up in Yahoo's BDL edition of Behind the Box Score.
Exactly what you'd expect. The Suns are a pretty good offensive team at this point, and played like it against a horrible defensive outfit. The Knicks have the green light, and while this digs them some pretty formidable holes, it also means they can rip off a 9-2 run in 90 seconds. This is why things stayed close.
Before I get into the specifics let me say that I respect KD and his basketball knowledge and I am duly in fear of the power of Skeets and his blogobretheren to squash me like the insignificant desert piss ant I am. But I refuse to be cowed into silence and simply must call bull shit on this.
What we expected was two offensively minded teams to come out and light up the score board. The over/under was 225 and I thought that was way low. So yes, that's what we expected but that's not what happened.
After some early running and gunning by the Suns, things tightened up on both ends. Even more surprising, late in the game the defense took over and the Knicks recognized that the rims were tight and played active and aggressive D. That combined with some fatigue held the Suns to 20 points in the final quarter.
The Suns were 27 of 55 for 49% shooting in the first half and then went 12 of 32 for 38% in the second. This is a Suns team that averages 76 FGA's and 49% shooting. As D'Antoni and Harrington pointed out in their post game interviews it was Shaq's 8 of 12 from the line in the second half that won the game. Porter before the game predicted that D'Antoni wouldn't want to slow the game by fouling Shaq but when the 3's weren't falling Mike went to plan B and put Shaq on the line. Shaq delivered.
Meanwhile, the Knicks offense was pretty consistent going 18/49 in the 1st half and 22/48 in the second and of course when 38% of your shots are from behind the arc and you are only making 14% of those then your offense isn't going to carry you.
So, I think it's clear that a horrible defensive team locked down a very good offensive team in the second half and that's what made the game close.
That and the way the Knicks spread the floor and had Nate attack Nash off the dribble (exactly the same thing the Magic's Nelson did in the second half once Howard was benched w/ knee problems).
In both cases the Suns extended their defense to the three point line and in both cases the oppositions' guards took advantage of Nash on the perimeter and the Suns D wasn't prepared to rotate effectively. This lack of mental preparation on the Suns new squad is to be expected and it's also why Porter didn't play Amundson who is even more confused then most when it comes to knowing his rotational and help assignments. At least that's the case right now.
This Knicks team is much different from the Suns early 7SOL squads. They don't have the horses the Suns did but they also have more role players committed to the boards and playing defense. At least they did last night as both teams known for their offense held each other to about 4 points below their shooting average. Both teams adjusted well to the game situation and in the end the Suns better players closed out the game.
[Note by Phoenix Stan, 12/16/08 10:24 AM PST ]
Interesting aside: According to Fox Sports AZ this game was must watch TV:
Last night’s Phoenix Suns/New York Knicks game on FOX Sports Arizona was not only the highest rated Suns telecast of the season, but it also generated a higher rating than Monday Night Football.
[Note by Phoenix Stan, 12/16/08 10:55 AM PST ]
It just dawned on me that Shaq winning a game from the free throw line earns Kerr a Genius Point.