The t-shirt toss is coming and PhxStan is sitting next to me complaining about the time he got a free (that's right -- free) Right Guard t-shirt during the t-shirt toss. My grandmother used to tell me that beggars can't be choosers (that's also what she told the homeless guys that she gave bologna sandwiches to every Tuesday and Thursday at her church for 25 years). When I told him that these t-shirts looked a little more purple than blue, he feigned surprise and asked, "Now you're an optimist?" As if my current rants about Raja Bell have totally over-shadowed my Kool-Aid breath after the The Big Trade (and I was complaining about Raja last year, too). He was the one complaining and grudgingly admitting that Shaq was playing good defense.
Every time Milsap scored, I heard, "For the record, that was Amar'e's man" (I guess that how many apostrophes you need to make Amar'e possessive). Then, as the game closed, "Hey, look, Stoudemire's got 20 rebounds." On the way out, "That wasn't a good 20. Most of those must have been uncontested." I'll admit he did get an offensive board in which he made the Oliver Miller move of padding his stats by intentionally missing, getting the rebound and scoring. Other than that, though ... I'm sure we'll hear more about it tomorrow after Stan watches the tape.
It was quite frustrating to watch Milsap beat Stoudemire down the court and score an easy bucket about a half-dozen times. Really, though, what more do we want?
The guy went for 22 and 20 (As a sidenote, before I go further, I seem to remember a handful of good defensive sequences on Okur). That doen'st happen by accident. Granted, Boozer was out, but this is the Utah Jazz -- not exactly pushovers. He had a few too many turnovers when he kept the ball too low too long on his drives to the hoop, but he kept active on the glass and that's what we have all been asking for. He shot worse from the line than Shaq, but he was rebounding. I'll take it. He and Shaq had 30 rebounds, while the Jazz totalled only 37. I'll take that every day of the week and twice on Sundays.
It was also nice to see Diaw deliver -- especially after a rough start. We were closely monitoring the stats to see if we'd get a Full French tonight. He was one assist away. Maybe next time. His jumper is coming along nicely and its a good addition to his game. I'm also good with him taking a wide-open 3. He's about 31% so far this year. He's a more effective player when he's a legitimate scoring threat. My favorite fan moment ever may have come at this game when Boris was driving in the first quarter and got stripped of the ball; the guy behind us said, "Boris! Learn to pass!" (It was either that or watching a group of Turks dance through the arena with a Turkish flag singing "Mehmet Okur!" to the tune of When the Saints Come Marching In).
Speaking of three-pointers, Raja Bell had just about his worst outing I've ever seen. He was 0-4 on spot-up threes. They were all shots on which I have given him the green light, though. His defense continues to fail, too. This, however, was much worse than even I expect out of him. I don't think it's a trend, I think it was a bad night.
It was nice to see LB step up and play like he can. When Tucker comes back, the 2-guard spot will be interesting. With Bell's declining defense and his offensive shortcomings, I wonder how much longer he'll be the starter and/or receiving significant minutes. LB was wonderful last year in starts and he is starting to play not-too-awful defense. Right now, LB is the better all-around player. Stan tells me that Tucker was extremely impressive in Las Vegas. Hopefully, LB and Tucker will limit Bell's playing time. This, in turn, will likely make Raja made and a better player. The 2-guard rotation will be fun to watch.
Looking to the future, Raja is on the books this year for $5M and next for $5.25M. We're not going to be able to get rid of him unless some team is wanting his expiring contract next year. I bet hope the Suns look to move him next year with that in mind.
At the end of the game, Stan said it didn't feel like a good win because Boozer was missing. Sure, the Jazz are weaker without him, but Milsap stepped up against the Suns again. His numbers are better this year, with a 13 and 8 average, but he always seems to over-achieve against the Suns -- 20 and 12 tonight. I think Stan felt the way he did because D-Will couldn't hit water from a boat. Going under the screen-and-roll was a good defensive plan tonight.
Remember when a bad shooting night would mean a loss? Remember when a bad shooting night from behind the arc would mean a loss? Let me introduce you to a win with 45% shooting and 23% three-point shooting, including a 4 of 14 performance from Mr. Nash. With or without Boozer, the Jazz are still a good defensive team and the Suns overcame an off night. Most of it was from Boris. He was driving and dishing. And when he was missing, he was drawing defenders thereby allowing Amare to clean up on the offensive end.
The turnover issues continue. 16 Suns turnovers turned into something like 25 Jazz points. 14 Jazz turnovers turned into 11 points (I think). There were at least four instances where the Suns got a turnover and gave it right back to the Jazz with a crappy outlet pass. I've gotten used to seeing the Suns turn it over in the half-court, but I don't remember seeing so many in their defensive half like this.
It was a good win over a good time. Hopefully, they can use the Bucks to tune up for the Lakers.