It will be easy to point to the 17-1 run the Cavs went on starting at the 6:51 mark of the fourth quarter and say the Suns lost the game there. But that's not what happened. The Suns lost this game when they walked on the floor not fully believing they could beat LeBron and the Cavs.
There was a distinct lack of focus and confidence throughout the entire game. In the first half it manifested itself in turnovers (10 of them leading to 16 points for the Cavs). In the second half it was turnovers (9 for 14 points) and poor shooting. And poor defense. And too much energy paid to the officials' calls or non-calls.
"I thought we lacked a little bit of confidence at times," said Nash who went on to add, "Overall we didn't have a real winning mentality tonight. I thought we were hesitant and a little doubtful rather than bold and aggressive and determined."
That's an understatement.
This was a very disappointing loss and the Suns only have to look in the mirror to find the culprit. I've made a lot of excuses for this team from the road heavy schedule, injuries, the occasional bad call but there is no excuse for tonight other than the obvious.
The Cavs are a far better team than the Suns right now and everyone in that locker room knew it. Instead of "We believe" this game was about "We hope". That's not a recipe for success.
It is still a long season. They still have another game in less than 48 hours but we all saw it and it's going to take a lot of good wins to earn back the faith that this team is anywhere close to being considered not just a contender but a truly viable playoff team.
The excuses varied depending on who you asked:
"I thought overall, although they shot a high percentage, that we did a pretty good job defensively for the most part," said Gentry who laid the majority of the blame at the feet of the turnovers.
"I think Cleveland did a good job. What they did was they went small. They put LeBron at the four...," said Dudley who went on to talk about how difficult it was for Nash to shoot over a big or to find the wings open.
"They came out and played well and did what they had to do and beat us pretty bad," said Hill.
Nash had a different answer. He didn't think the Cavs lineups had anything to do with it. He didn't think he and his teammates let the referees impact their mental focus. It was just about a "lack of confidence and decisiveness" - two words which are becoming this season's "lack of energy" go to explanation for anything bad.
At first Steve tried to stick with the line that they did a decent job in the half court defensively stressing that the turnovers and fast break points were the real downfall. But then he thought better of that, "To be honest, we did have a bunch of break downs in the half court."
He credited 50 of the Cavs 109 points from the combination of turnovers and half court defensive break downs.
So where did those break downs come from?
Showing hard and consistently on the high pick and roll didn't help. We saw the same thing against the Spurs. Good teams, and say what you want about the Cavs "LeBron on 5 offense" but they are a good team, are able to take advantage of that. They slipped the pick and roll and with Verajao in the game they were able to take advantage of that as the Suns rotation was confused and tentative.
"We gave up a lot half court on simple back cuts that we've got to be able to defend," Gentry said about the Suns porous defensive effort. While the Cavs were giving up nothing easy and closing out on shooters as if they were the rested team, the Suns visibly deflated in the final minutes and basically rolled over and played dead. That's never how you want to finish a game.
Amare, aside from hitting open jump shots against Shaq's sagging defense, was a non-factor. He played a very poor game showing a distinct lack of poise and/or leadership. He was also noticeably absent from the locker room media availability as well, leaving Hill and Nash to face the music. That's never a good sign.
This game isn't the end of anything. The Suns still have a very favorable schedule starting in January and the team is still able to beat lesser teams but without a huge step forward over the next few months the Suns are (to paraphrase Denny Green) who we thought they were.
If you let your expectations get to high, this will serve as your reality check. If you expected disaster from this year's Suns you still have reason to be impressed. In the mean time, there are plenty of teams that wish they were as good as the Phoenix Suns and fortunately, we get to play a lot of them in the coming weeks and months. Fun times indeed.
Game Notes Record In Real Time:
- Amare tests the jump shot early. Missed. LeBron jump shot. Money
- Shaq is not going to come out and guard Amare. Nor can he run the floor with him. Amare dunk after a made basket
- JRich had his teeth rattled running into Shaq at full speed. At least he knocked Shaq down as well
- JJ Hickson switched on to Nash? Steve goes right at him and easily gets past hiim
- Crowd goes nuts for LeBron dunk on the break. You suck Phoenix
- Amare with 10 quick points against Shaq and draws offensive foul against him
- Suns sloppy. 4 turnovers lead to 2 Bron jams that got the crowd buzzing. Amare used to get opposing crowds buzzing....those were the days
- Suns offense doing it's thing. Great side for things to come. 27 points w/ 2 minutes to go in qtr
- 30-29. Suns shooting 61% behind Amare's 5-7, 10 points. Suns also lead rebounding 10-8
- Without 6 turnovers, Suns are up 8 or 10 points
- Grant Hill in the open court. So smoooooth
- Lou hit a jump shot!!! !!!!! !!!!!!!!!
- Dragic with the Nash-like move to drive baseline and sidearm a pass to an open Dudley for three
- Suns making silly mistakes. Bad passes. Bad fouls. Not playing smart
- Lou + Varejao equals much hustle hair. Almost too much to take in
- Suns fans booing Shaq when he checks in or touches ball. Why?
- Dragic just left LeBron in his wake and on the deck after LeBron switched onto him!!!! Hell Yes!!!
- Gentry is PISSED. Another turnover. That's 9 total. That one on Dragic
- Nash got long rest. Came back in 5:27 in the 2nd
- Delonte West playing well. 9 points in 10 minutes
- Crowd goes NUTS for travel call on LeBron
- Suns getting lost on defense with too many heads turned watching LeBron play basketball
- Amare with 3rd foul with 2:25 to go in half. Not a Max night despite hitting some open shots early
- Frye took that hit from Shaq like a man
- Frye goes out with this 3rd foul as well. Robin in. Lou and Robin on the floor together. Suns better get stops b/c those guys ain't scoring
- Gentry and LeBron jawing after James gets his 1st foul at the end of the half
- I take back what a said about Anthony being a lesser player than Candace. Hits a face up three on Lou
- Cavs up 59-53
- Energy a bit flat to start 3rd. Maybe they have no asses left after Gentry chewed them off. 10 1st half turnover give the Cavs 16 points. Not going to work
- Nash PISSED after non-call on layup attempt versus Shaq. Nash made it btw throwing it over his head while facing the other way. Oh, Steve
- Like a little green Canadian, Nash hulks up and drops like 7 quick points
- James barrels into lane after dribbling air out of ball and runs over Frye. No call. Of course
- Suns can't buy a three. 4-13 (30%)
- Cavs playing hard and tough D. Can they keep it up? (that's what she said)
- So much for Lou coming back this year as a better shooter
- LeBron PISSED now after picking up an offensive foul. Stands and watches Lou go right around him afraid to pick up 4th
- Poor shooting 3rd quarter but Suns still only down 7. 75-82
- Suns now shooting 27% from three
- Frye hammers Verajao HARD in the face. That easily could have been a flagrant. Torched him w/ the elbow
- Going to take a serious come back to win this one. Suns only down 7 but getting beat thoroughly
- Too much energy expended on refs
- Suns can't get stops. Can't hit shots. Cavs closing out hard and making their looks
- Dudley playing well. Pump fakes a three and drives for an open lay up. Mike Brown calls a timely timeout. Cavs up 92-86 but momentum might have been shifting back
- Mo Williams torching Suns yet again. 23 points
- Suns D is horrible. HORRIBLE
- Down 11. Crowd doesn't believe. Suns playing like they don't believe. Gonna take a Nashicle
- Amare misses a zero footer. Grabs the miss. Goes up. Verajao gets a clean block and Amare loses his shit and picks up the dumb T. Not a smart game for Ax
- Suns in free fall as LeBron starts lighting it up to close game. Cavs up 103-86. Fans streaming for the exits with no tacos in sight. 4:18 to go
- Amare's trying to foul out
- Epic collapse. Weak effort. Suns down 105-86 with 2:30
- Garbage time with 2:00 minutes to go. ugh
Post game audio: