Now we are down to these final seven games. The home stretch. The final stanza. The end game.
The last bunch of games we discussed didn't go quite as planned. I was looking for 4 out of 6 and we ended up 3 and 3. In the end though I don't really have a problem with that. Fortunately, the Lakers tanked a few and we are still right there in the standings where we need to be.
The Detroit loss was a close one on the road with some bad "luck" and I still think that Coach D was just playing around in Boston and for some reason played WAY too much zone. The loss last night has a certain someone reeling but I am not all that concerned given the circumstances.
In just a few more weeks the real season starts for Suns fans. Folks started this year with as much disinterest and impatience in the regular season as I have ever seen. Well, now the time is almost here. But before it starts we have a few more games for final cramming before the big test. Here's what's left on my study sheet:
Defense: The Suns D is vastly improved from that disaster we were seeing just a few weeks ago. The perimeter guys have really stepped up. Most notably Nash and LB are playing much better and Amare and Diaw are really covering the pick and rolls better and the team is finally rotating well. They deserve a LOT of credit for the improvement.
In the 13 games since beating the Spurs the Suns have held teams to 44% FG and are a +3 on the boards. One area of concern is turnovers. The Suns are slightly above league average at 15/game and below in turnovers caused at 12/game. When the Suns create turnovers, grab rebounds and block shots that sparks the fast break for easy baskets.
The biggest hole continues to be Shaq's inability to cover big guys that can shoot or guard the pick and roll. We saw it when Nenad Cristic started the Nets game with about 32 consecutive jump shots. We saw it last night when Camby was left open to take and hit some open J's to win the game. You can argue that you would take that problem over getting beat up inside. And that might be true. But the only answer the Suns have so far against teams with bigs that shoot is the zone. And the zone can be decimated unless its used selectively and in short bursts.
I don't really think there is an answer to this problem. Its simply a huge gap in the mid-range part of the floor that we are going to have to live with.
Offense: At 54% FG and 115/game over the last 13, I don't think there's much to complain about here. Turnovers are a little high but I think that will work itself out in the playoffs.
The Suns are simply awesome on this end of the court. Far better going into this post season then previous teams with balanced scoring, inside and outside presense, a dominant offensive isolation player, and a great point guard to run it all.
In a three game stretch the Suns played Houston, Detroit and Boston. Top 3 defensive teams. The Suns averaged 53% FG and 108 points in those games. I don't think there's much left here but fine tuning the piano.
Bench: I give up on this one. If Coach D isn't going to bring Skinner in during that first half against Denver at home in a game without Hill and where the team is clearly needing an energy boost then I don't think that leopard is changing his spots.
The good news is compared to previous years we do have a solid 8 man rotation with Diaw playing a big role and LB and Moodicek able to come in and light it up. At least once or twice a week.
I am glad they gave Grant some extra rest both to get him well but also to give some extra minutes to the other three guys but I don't see much changing between now and the end of the season. This rotation is locked down tight. Sorry Brian and DJ. You can hope for some garbage time but that's the only whiff you are going to see.
Seven Games - Six Wins
The schedule isn't all that bad during this end run stretch. One back to back which unfortunately is against the Spurs in SA. Let's just write that one off now ok. A win would be a nice bonus but a loss at this point isn't going to matter. The rest of the games are very winable and will provide a nice close to the season if we can grab six of them.