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Suns Fall Flat to Celtics (117-97)

I feel like I just stepped into a science fiction movie and traveled a month into the past. The February Suns made an appearance tonight, and if you were watching the Suns in those first weeks after the Shaq trade last month, then you know that's not a good thing. Fresh off a competitive loss to a Pistons team that delivered one of the most embarrassing losses of the season a month ago, the Suns laid a king-size ostrich egg against the Celtics tonight against whom, ironically, they looked good in Shaq's second game after the trade.

So what the heck happened? Well, for one thing, the Suns looked like they had a serious case of the "no energy"'s in the early going, and quickly found themselves in a 15-point hole. They came roaring back in the second quarter to tie the game at halftime, but the second half was basically a repeat of the first quarter times two. Credit the Celtics for playing great defense, and for crashing the boards hard. (Dis)credit the Suns for falling prey to a couple of old nemeses--turnovers and giving up offensive rebounds, which totally negated a 56% to 52% edge from the field. The turnovers and offensive rebounds conspired to give the Celtics 18 more shot attempts than the Suns. That's a sure-fire recipe for an "L".

  • The turnovers didn't come from Steve Nash tonight. He just had one (to go with nine assists, eight of which came in the first half). The main culprits were Amare (5), Shaq (4), and Raja (4). There have been a couple of games recently that it seemed like Amare was forcing passes and picking up an uncharacteristically high number of turnovers. I wonder if someone told him that to win an MVP award he has to make like Nash with the play-making, and now he's trying a little too hard? [Update: Looking back over some of my live blogging comments in the game thread, at least two of Amare's turnovers tonight were due to traveling after he caught the pass, not trying to make the pass himself. I do remember one play where he tried to make a Nash-like pass up the court and threw it straight into the hands of the Celtics, though.]
  • The Suns had 21 turnovers and 27 rebounds. The Celtics had 14 turnovers and 41 rebounds, 17 of which were of the cringe-inducing offensive variety. That's your ballgame right there.
  • I almost hate to mention this after some of the comments earlier today, but in a win over the Cavaliers tonight, Chris Paul set up David West for the wide-open game winner, keeping the Hornets in the Western Conference's top spot. It was the 20th assist of the game for CP3, moving him ahead of Nash by micro-percentage points in assists per game this season. With the Suns relying less on Nash to make plays these days, and with CP3 on an absolute tear, the guess here is that the Hornets playmaker will earn his very first (and well deserved) assist title. I know it's "Kobe's year" to win the MVP, and I'm even starting to come around to that idea a little with him playing hurt and all, but CP3 is just having an awesome season. Here's hoping he'll be at the top of the list (along with Amare and Steve, of course ) a year from now.
  • It was a rough night all around for Steve. First he loses the assist lead to CP3, then he loses the game. Sandwiched in between, he ended up on the wrong side of a crossover, ankle-breaker of a play by Rajon Rondo that he won't live down for the rest of the road trip. This was a "poster", point guard style. Expect to see it again and again on the highlights tonight.
  • I have to take some responsibility for tonight's debacle. I swore off of making predictions about the outcome last month, and the Suns hadn't had a truly awful game since. But today, I let myself get sucked into making one on another blog, thinking as long as I kept it off of BSotS, then it would be fine. WRONG!!! That does it. No more predictions from me AT ALL. Not here, not anywhere.
Player of the Game: Kevin Garnett gets the statistical nod, but this was really just a great team effort by the Celtics.

Runner-Up: ESPN, for sparing us a few seconds of this awfulness by cutting over to the final seconds of the Hornets-Cavs game. Normally I'd get ticked at something like this, but tonight it was warmly welcomed.