As mentioned in the game thread and its comments, this game was kind of a measuring stick. When the Suns played the Blazers a couple of weeks ago, they were in the midst of that infamous post-trade slump. With both that game and this one being on the road, on the front end of a back-to-back, and after two day's rest, you really couldn't get a better apples-to-apples comparison than this. So what did we learn?
- Offensively, the Suns are still at their best when they're playing small. Most of the runs that broke this game open were made while Shaq and sometimes even Amare were on the bench. This has been a recurring trend lately, and it's not necessarily a bad thing. It just means we're seeing exactly what D'Antoni and Shaq promised when the trade was made: Shaq is functioning as "The Big Roleplayer", and the running game is still Plan A.
- The Suns shared the ball beautifully. Everybody on the team was channeling Steve Nash, who ended up with "only" eight assists himself. Five different Suns had three or more assists, and everybody who played significant minutes had at least one.
- Shaq was terrific, especially on defense. 16 points, 15 rebounds, 3 blocks, 7-of-9 from the field, and he somehow managed to only get three fouls despite locking horns repeatedly with Joel Przybilla. As Snowbird noted in the comments, Shaq's line was downright Marion-esque, only with a lot more toughness.
- Speaking of the toughness, lots of jawing and shoving going on between Shaq and Pryzbilla. Not my thing really, but hey, I won't be a spoilsport either since I know 99% of the people reading this were probably standing up in their chairs at home cheering.
- Really bad timing by Amare on his Matrix-like pleas for MVP attention. The boxscore makes it look like Amare did a pretty good job of nearly canceling out LaMarcus Aldridge, but that belies the fact that Aldridge's best came when the game was still within reach, while Amare had a few stat-padding moments at the end. Amare was in foul trouble most of the night, and the Suns didn't seem to miss a beat when he was out. Overall, his line looks great, but this wasn't the best showcase performance for his MVP campaign.
- Back to the apples-to-apples, if this game was a test, then I'd say the Suns passed with flying colors. Would it have been nice to have wrapped it up by the third quarter so the starters could rest up for tomorrow's game in Seattle? Of course. But they can't all be blowouts.
Runner-Up: LaMarcus Aldridge in a 31 point, 8 rebound performance that kept the Blazers within reach for the bulk of the game.
In Other News: What is it with Kevin Garnett and franchise-high winning streaks? After almost single-handedly busting the Suns' 17-game streak last year, KG did it again tonight as he and the Celtics positively laid waste to the Rockets' 22-game streak. Something for the Suns to look out for if they manage to extend their current run into next week.
Comments from srp:
This was a great win. Much better then the Warriors at home actually because they played solid D against a "normal" team and showed some outstanding offensive balance.
- Bell on Roy was great. He was playing him tight and then when Roy got by him he rode his ass like a tail-gaiting Texan. He gave him no room to manuever and feed him right into the lane for some good help D by the big fellas. That was a well concived and executed game plan against one of the games top guards.
- Aldridge looked solid taking the ball into Amare. Stat got some lousy calls and also had a few dumb ones. Overall, it wasn't a good game from Amare and you have to give LA credit. Still, I will take Amare every day of the week. But watch out in a few years w/ LA and Oden together..wow.
- I have thought for month's now that the team's secret plan for the playoffs is to make offense less dependent on Nash. They are back to that. Now, you have Hill, Diaw and Shaq out there and even GG can handle the ball and dish. Nash's assists are down but in this case that's a good thing. Team's aren't going to be able to load up on him and take the Suns out of their game come playoff time. Nash had 37min tonight but they seems like easy minutes. He wasn't having to work so hard every time down the floor to create something. And of course Blake/Jack is no Baron/Ellis.
- The bench is improving. I like that LB is taking less stupid shots and Diaw is playing much more consistently. And of course GG is a great addition. It was nice to see Coach go w/ Skinner, Diaw, GG, LB and Hill on the floor in the first half.
- The Big Daddy. Ok. I am starting, just starting, to come around. His effort is fantastic and his offense is starting to gel as well. This is a good matchup for him though. Pryzbo isn't going to pull him from the rim and abuse him like the Pistons and Jazz can. But still. Very nice game and the team really seems to be responding to him. I am not there yet, but the signs are getting better and better.