It's A Brick House: Suns Dropped By Spurs 84-81

[Major thanks to our special guest blogger from Hardwood Paroxysm (formerly known around here as sunofa) for picking up the recap on this one. If you haven't visited Hardwood Paroxysm yet, I'd highly recommend it. -TexSUN]

There are 82 games in the NBA regular season for every team. In that time, there are games you lose that are just abnormalities. Some are important, where both teams are playing great, and those are important. Then there are games where you just drop them to an inferior squad because you couldn't find your shot.  Unfortunately, when you do that to a team that is your primary rival, at home, without their star point guard, it's going to raise some questions.

The Suns played terrific defense for about 44 minutes tonight.  Usually, even a minimum effort on defense is good enough to lift them to a win.  

That's not the case when you shoot 38%.

The difference in this game? I'm not sure, to be honest.  The Suns led for the majority of the game. They out-hustled the Spurs repeatedly. But they just couldn't hit shots. They had long periods of drought, and when the Spurs smelled blood and closed within 5, they turned on the afterburners, started the "grab Nash by the wrist/hip/nuts and never get called for it" defense, and the rest of the team just wilted. Too many drives to the basket resulting with the ball under the goal, with the driver looking for the dish.

And then there was Amare Stoudemire's free throws.

Here's the Bright, the Dim, and The Diaw.

The Bright:
Shawn Marion: After getting snubbed by  the All-Star reserve selections, Marion came out pumped. His final line? 21 points, 10 rebounds, 5 steals. He played with intensity and focus, but suffered from the arc.

Brian Skinner: You wouldn't know it from the stat line, but Skinner played great defense tonight. In  limited minutes (5) he was able to bring a spark. I'm not really sure why we went away from him in the second.

Grant Hill: 10 points, 24 minutes, 5 minutes, 3 rebounds. Usual good game from him. Probably could have used more from him tonight.

The Dim:
Shooting: Let's say that you pay Shawn Marion the $20 Mil he wants. The Suns still couldn't buy a bucket tonight. They shot 38% from the field. That's not going to get it done against the Spurs.  Even without Parker.

Rebounding: Sigh. Out-rebounded by 7.  Only 4 offensive boards. You want to know what a good counter for bad shooting is? Multiple chances. The same thing I always say about the Suns happens again. It's not like it helped the break tonight, the Spurs know how to shut down the Suns' fast break at this point. Just a LITTLE boost on the boards would have been nice.

STAT: Great. Foul trouble got him off his rhythm early. He still managed a double double, and showed signs of life late in the game, but he just didn't step up and take over the game like the Suns needed him to.  He had the opportunity to, and he didn't. Oh, yeah, and he missed the last three free throws which was the difference in the game, including the last one which would have tied  it with 6.5 seconds.  Unforgivable. If you're the franchise future, you have to hit those free throws. This one's on STAT.

The Diaw: Aw, and the "Start Diaw" experiment had gone so well. It helps when D'Antoni doesn't play him into the dirt. 38 minutes. 6 shots. 6 points. He was largely invisible most of the night. He was never in position to contribute, and didn't create anything.  I like starting Diaw. But  you've got to spell the guy more... wait, I forgot, this is the Suns, "Where No Bench Necessary Happens."

In a nutshell, this game was killer. The Suns lead most of the way, the Spurs were without Parker, the Suns could have put it away at any point and won the season series. But no. Though the defense was great tonight, the offense struggled and the team failed to hit clutch shots when they needed them.  Again, this team shows that they have to score at least 95 to beat the Spurs.

Oh, and Manu Ginobili hit Raja Bell in the nuts, got the no-call, again, and flopped four times. Not just the falling down, either. The full-on, lie on the court for two minutes so the old players can rest flop.  He's carrying the banner for Mr. Longoria.

Update [2008-2-1 2:39:44 by srp]:

Reports of the Spurs demise have been greatly exaggerated.

I just returned from this debacle and wanted to add a few thoughts.

About half way through the third quarter of this game as I sat with about 15,000 quiet Suns fans and about 5,000 media/celebrities/corporate super bowl lackies it occured to me: The Suns offense sucked. No, really. The ball wasn't moving at all. No passing. No screens. No picks. I can live with the missed shots and even blown free throws but seriously - just standing around and watching the guy with the ball do something? I realize a lot of New Yorkers are in town for Sunday's game but that doesn't mean we have to play like the Knicks.

Then I had another more pleasant thought. Its often said that the Suns consider defense that wasted time until they get the ball back to shoot again. Perhaps they were so geared up to play D tonight that they forgot that you actually have to try and score. But depite what everyone says about the Suns offense, they can't just show up and score 110. They have to play. At least a little.

Then in the car ride home listening to the radio another theory came up. A caller claimed to have been at a poker party with Marion and Stat late into the night. Did they party too hard and forget the Spurs were in town? Or did they just show up like everyone else tonight and assume the win would come.

I am out of theories and out of patience. This one hurts.

Thanks to Matt aka Sonofa aka Hardwood Paroxysm for the great recap. Btw: I really didn't know you were prowling these woods when I gave you props the other day. I take it back.

Click that little "more" button for some pic's from the "game".

Here's some not-so-great photos from the cheap seats. I hope you enjoy them more then the result.

This is the best the Suns shot all night

Name that bald spot - visible from space

This was the night's only Horry sighting

The only monkey that could find the rim

Amare missed this free toss. And the next two that followed. When I took this pic I fully intended this to be the story of the Suns win. How the Suns finally managed to get Amare the ball and let him do his thing. I guess his thing was elsewhere.