I've been to the last two games. In each one, during the second period with the reserves I had pain in my stomach. Last time (against the Hornets), the second team couldn't score, but at least they ran the race like mudders and didn't do much more damage on the defensive end than the first team did. Tonight, we watched them mud it up on both ends. We are told, however, that there is a plan. We're working through the season. The regular season doesn't matter that much and we're going to see some ugly losses, but bring it all together in the end.
Let's start at the beginning.
JSun2 loved the new intro. He pointed out to me that the music played before the visting team introductions is from Star Wars: The Clone Wars. That's a good start. He was a big fan of the blast-off-themed thing. He really likes space and rocket ships and stuff. He can tell you all about Pluto getting demoted and the Kuiper Belt.
I blame the failure of the second unit on Doris. The box score said he had 3 turnovers for the game, but it sure seemed that he had more than that in the second period alone. According the box score, the second unit accounted for 5 of the 11 turnovers (in a lot less time). The second unit's defense was okay, but I think that the Blazers' offense thrived off their defensive success.
There was a squad in the 4th that was comprised of Diaw, Hill, Barbosa, Stoudemire and Barnes (I think Bell logged some time here, too).. This line-up put some distance between the Suns and the Blazers and was probably the best part of the night for Boris.
More on Doris -- he's so hated that no one seems to be able to acknowledge when he does something right. At one point, he tried to back down Channing Frye. When it wasn't going anywhere, he passed out of it. He was in the lane, but Frye was about to give him a Spalding-Burger if the shot went up. He made the right move and was rudely booed. You get that, though, when you generally refuse to make a move to the rim.
Reading some stats at the arena, I think the Blazers were shooting over 50% at halftime. They ended the game at 45%, so the second half defense must have been pretty good, and the Blazers were held to only 46 second-half points, with Nash playing more than 15 minutes of the second half and Shaq lumbering around for a long time, too. As down as I've been on Bell the past few days, he sure did give Roy a hard time -- 20 points on 7 of 18 shooting.
Amare is playing well, but better. Better than before. He's no longer trying to win the game in the first period. Tonight, he took over the third period. In SA, he took over the fourth. He's scoring points when it counts, getting rebounds and staying out of foul trouble. The second two are due to Shaq and practicing defense (The Suns are still a poor rebounding team without Shaq in the middle). He also did an average job (above-average job for him) on Aldridge. He lost his mark a few times (he lost Frye, too, once resuling in an elbow to Hill's face), but he did do well on Aldridge who seemed to make the most waves when someone else (Doris, usually) was on him. I'd be interested to see the stats of Amare guarding him (but I'm getting tired and don't feel like looking it up).
The practicing defense thing may be paying off. I don't know the break-down on the zone, but from my seat, it seemed to work relatively well (update: Jerry Brown's column had the zone defense holding the Blazers to 41% in the second half). The Blazers hit some contested jumpers, but it seemed to work overall. I'd be interested to know if any has the stats on how well it did (or did not do). Last year, Coach Antoni would've just told them to play a zone and try to remember how they did it in high school.
Let's end at the end. When the Blazers started committing intentional fouls at the end of the game, I thought is was really good sportsmanship for them to wait until Steve Nash got the ball so he could shoot the free throws for the Suns.
A slugging second unit, a strong defensive effort in the second half and a dominant power forward saving his strength for the end of the game. A season-long plan with some ugly moments but a promise of cohesion by April. The Suns also took 2 games from three playoff teams. Let's see how they hold up on the road.