Attitude. Where is h-e-double-hockey-sticks did THAT come from?
Let's consider some common occurrences in any NBA game:
- When a foul is called before or during a shot attempt, the fouled player often heaves the ball toward the rim. Sometimes, this results in a fortunate bounce and a continuation call that nets the fouled team a "free" bucket even before the free throws.
- When a foul is called in the back court, stopping play, the player with ball in hand often takes an uncontested jump-shot. Of course this doesn't count (the ball is already dead). But if that player was "cold", seeing the ball go through the net might give them a confidence boost. It sounds silly, but I've noticed this on many occasions.
- On the road, it's important to shut up the crowd. And, home or away, it's important to demoralize the other team via a rim-rattling dunk or knife-through-the-defense basket or "and 1". Even if you're down big in the game, and even if those points don't count much directly toward the bottom line. Momentum often turns on plays like these.
Of course, we all know these things. It's Basketball 101. You see these plays in every game. They are never game-winning plays, per se, when taken individually. But as a whole, they can sometimes shift momentum. And momentum is key in any game against quality competition.
What does this have to do with the Suns? PLENTY!
The Suns have always made those "plays" offensively (here's to you, Amare) and gotten the benefit. But at the other end of the court, the Suns would always allow those plays too. It's as if they respected the other team for trying. Kind of like a middle ages joust. Just take the ball out of the basket and do it back to them, if you can. Whatever it takes to get back on offense as quickly as possible. In fact, D'Antoni used to preach "no fouls".
But games can turn on plays like those. Momentum can shift. A cold-shooting player hits a dead-ball jumper, and then doesn't miss the rest of the game. A struggling team gets a breakaway or in-traffic "and 1". These plays add up over the course of the game, often providing needed confidence. If you add up those plays (or, actions, I guess) as a new kind of +/- stat, the team in the positive usually wins the game.
Again, where am I going with all this?
Have you noticed Lopez, Amare, Lou and Frye blocking those dead ball "fall down layup heaves" at the basket more often lately?
How many times have you seen Amare jump up and "protect the rim" on those dead-ball jump shots from cold-shooting guards, swatting the ball away with emphasis?
And then there's the Suns *contesting* break-away layups and dunks. We all remember Derrick Rose posterizing Goran Dragic last month. And then Lopez getting his own pic on a Corey Brewster poster just last week. The only reason those stand out is because the Suns hardly ever contested those breakaways before. Now it's commonplace.
Dragic blocked a similar breakaway attempt in the very next game (CJ Watson I believe), and Lopez regularly defends the rim on breakways and half-court sets.
And then there's Grant Hill, emphatically blocking Ronnie Prices breakaway dunk attempt in closing seconds, with a 12-point lead, on Friday night. Would a past Suns team have even considered doing that?
The Suns, collectively, are saying "NOT IN OUR HOUSE! NOT IN OUR GAME!"
And that's the biggest difference between THIS Suns team and any prior one. I love it!