After the win over the Spurs two weeks ago the collective Sun's world was feeling pretty good. And relieved.
But we all knew there was work to be done and there was much to prove if we were going to be a contender. And so looking forward I set some goals declaring that winning the next six games would be "awesome and completely possible". It was and it was.
I also listed three key tasks in the Suns rebuilding project plan:
The Suns are really looking sharp and are getting amazing production from Amare supported by Nash in less of a play-making and more of a off-the-ball shooting role. This is all well balanced by Shaq inside and a plethora of other guys that can and are hitting open shots.
The Suns have the most potent, balanced and devestating offense in the game today. By far. No question. Except for the Lakers. Or sometimes the Jazz.
2) Defense - Two weeks ago I called this 50% done. Progress has certainly been made. Nash is working harder on D. Rotations and switches are sharper and the perimeter D is playing tighter and relying on the Big Dudes in the middle to protect the rim. And mostly the effort was there. Watching poor little LB try and cover Shane Battier last night just made my heart weep. He worked so hard off the ball and really did a fantastic job. At one point the camera showed Raja on the bench looking worried and for good reason.
There's still some work to be done here though. When Shaq is out the team needs to adjust its style and they really haven't played any great offensive teams. Lets see how they handle Detroit and Denver.
3) Bench - This is the area of greatest improvement. Two weeks ago this was barely getting any attention from the coach. Now we have seen Boris and GG both come in the play well together. I think Gordan is really providing the second unit with a huge lift by putting another guy on the floor that can handle the ball, create his own shot and knock down the open 3. With he, Boris and LB together this unit is really looking nice. Skinner even got some quality minutes in a couple of games.
Overall you have to be pleased with our 8 man rotation and having Skinner available for spot minutes as needed. There's more to do here as well but I don't think there's reason to complain at this point in the season about not playing 10 guys. And compared to previous years, this is the deepest Suns team yet with a full 8 guys in Coach D's circle of trust.
The schedule is about to get brutal and as Chboddis pointed out in this great post. I think the next six are the most critical and telling. I don't think any of the games are "must win" as long as the Suns show up and compete like they have been doing. Overall, I am looking for 4 of the next 6 bring us into the final two weeks of the season where it gets a bit easier. Continued improvement on D. Continued effort and focus. Cut down the turnovers. And feed THE BEAST!
Enjoy the ride!