OK. I've been trying to stay positive about this. Even though I hated the Shaq trade to high heaven when it happened, and can still only bring myself to say "I'm resigned to it", I've tried to keep my mouth shut as much as possible lately and just see how it plays out. After all, it's only been a week. The Suns were bound to struggle a little trying to work such an enormous new piece into their system. It's going to take time. I know it, they know it. But this just caught me on the wrong day, so here goes...
Let's look at the teams the Suns would probably like to avoid in the playoffs, based on how their recent matchups with them have gone:
I hope what we're seeing is just a temporary thing that will right itself as we get closer to playoffs. I hope I'm feasting on a Shaq-sized plate of crow while the Suns are strolling downtown in a parade some 1000 miles to the west of me in June. I hope in a week, someone points to this post and laughs at how little faith I showed in our guys tonight. But right now, the Suns just look spent to me. Absolutely drained and void of any and all passion. There is nothing about the game tonight nor the one on Sunday, or even the win last night that says "future champions" to me. Two outright "ownings" in a four-day span is bad no matter how you look at it.
So what happened tonight? Well, the Suns played better than they did on Sunday. I'll start there. At least it looked like there were two teams in the building. To some degree, they just got outplayed this time. Way too much David West. Way too much Janerro Pargo. Way too much Tyson Chandler. Way too much Chris Paul. Part of the problem is that CP3 absolutely owns the matchup with Steve Nash. Maybe it will look altogether different if these two teams meet up in the playoffs, but right now, I'd say four out of four makes that a fair assumption at this point. And since such a huge part of what the Suns do is made possible by having one of the best point guards in the league, losing that matchup puts them at a disadvantage from the start. But I'm not going to lay all of this on Nash. It takes five guys to play defense, and the Suns once again gave up a 50%+ shooting night to their opponent. Where I used to get frustrated at the Suns for getting the initial stop but failing to get the rebound, now I'm screaming at the TV because we don't get the stop in the first place. Oh the joys of being a Suns fan...
I realize I'm probably jumping the gun here. The Suns aren't as bad as they looked tonight, and they're not as bad as they looked on Sunday either. It's not the end of the world, and the sky is not falling. I get it. But as I said earlier, this just caught me on the wrong night and that rant I've been holding back for four days finally spilled out. Thanks for listening.
Player of the Game: West, Pargo, Paul, or Chandler. Take your pick.
Runner-Up: Me, for taking the recap duties on what was supposed to be my night "off", only to be subjected to this ugh-fest.
One Final Note: I'm not sure Nash's terrible shooting night (1-6) can be entirely credited to Chris Paul's defense. Nash even struggled at the free throw line, and by "struggled", I mean it looked like it took tremendous effort for him just to get it to the rim on a couple of those. In fact, two of them actually clanked off the front iron. That just doesn't happen. Nothing was said on the broadcast (Hornets announcers for us League Pass folks), but I'll certainly be watching the news closely for any mention of an injury. But that just lets Nash off the hook, if that's the case. The rest of my rant still stands.