This was supposed to be easy. It was supposed to be a blow-out. And at one point it looked like it was going to be. Then Zach Randolph happened the game got close and the team had to work super hard to win the game.
But...they got it done. People will complain that the Suns should have blown this team out (I just did it in the previous paragraph). And they should have. But in the end, I guess the important thing is the win.
First about the game. The Suns played well. Just not as well as they probably should have. They got pounded on the boards. Letting Zach Randolph get 15 rebounds is just terrible. Now we see where we miss Kurt Thomas. Letting Zach Randolph score 36 points is even worse. This is a guy who averages 24 points a game. There's no way he should be scoring 36 against the Suns. Other than Randolph, the other Blazers did about what was expected.
Shawn Marion basically stunk it up while shooting last night. He scored 4 points on 2-9 shooting. But the good thing about Shawn is he can find other ways to help when he isn't shooting well. He had 12 rebounds and 5 blocks. Raja Bell also shot terribly for the game. The good thing was that Boris Diaw shot 9-13 for the game and scored 21 points.
And Steve Nash was his usual self. He was clutch when he needed to be. He scored 6 of the last 10 points. Leandro Barbosa also scored a clutch basket at the end of the game to keep the Suns ahead.
Ok, now on to some other things. I was reading the Blazers Edge blog this morning and got really upset about what Dave was saying about the refs favoring the Suns by calling more fouls (toward the end about miscellaneous things). I thought, "Surely he's just a fan griping about the refs because he's bitter his team lost." So I decided to try and prove it by looking at the shot selection of the two teams and here's what I found (using the ESPN shot chart - I'm counting shots in the paint as anything indicated within the key).
Blazers shots in the paint: 19
Suns shots in the paint: 6
So there are two things that are going on here. If the Blazers have three times the number of shots in the paint as the Suns, how do the Suns have half the fouls of the Blazers?
I think there are a couple of things going on. First, I think Dave has a point. Refs do seem to call more fouls for the home team. I haven't done any statistical analysis but it seems like it's the case when you watch games. Second, the Suns are fast. Everyone knows it. And I didn't keep track but I would bet that a lot of the fouls happened as Steve or Leandro was driving to the basket and they either weren't in the paint or they didn't get a shot off. Also, with Amare Stoudemire, he's banging down in the paint and if he doesn't get a shot off or doesn't make it, they don't count it as a shot so that skews the stats a little bit.
But what does really get me is when Dave says the Suns aren't a good defensive team. The Suns are a great defensive team. Their opponents shot 45.1%. The Blazers have an opponent shooting percentage of 47.3% - a full two percent higher. Everyone considers San Antonio a great defensive team because they only allow 90.7 points per game. They allow 44.9% - a whole .2 percentage points more than the Suns. Dallas allows 92.6 points per game and lets their opponents shoot 45%.
So just because the Suns let teams score points, that doesn't mean they are a poor defensive team. They score a lot more points and that means they give their opponents more possessions. But they don't give their opponents any more chances to score than the teams that are considered to be good defensively.
I took a quick look around 82games.com and couldn't find anyone that was more than .2 percentage points better than the Suns defensively.
So while I appreciate what Dave was saying, he's just wrong about the Suns being a poor defensive team. They get in their opponents face without fouling and know when to just let their opponent score so they don't stop the game and let them rest.