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Suns failure to compete ends worst month in years

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The Suns loss to the Bulls on the last day of January ends their month with a 7-8 record. This was the first time since the pathetic 29 win Marbury-led pre-Nash 03-04 season that the Suns ended a month with a losing record. The first time in almost five years.

Before ripping the Suns big men for their inability to rebound and control the paint, let's give the Bulls credit for playing well. They moved the ball and hit their shots both the few that were contested and the many that were not. It is a good win for embattled former Sun Vinny Del Negro on the second night of a back to back. His team fought hard and he used his weapons well.

Del Negro swept his former team for the season which means we won't talk about the Bulls again unless it's in relation to a trade; a proposition that looks more and more likely every game.

Box score * Blog a Bull * Game Quotes

 

The Suns have lost all semblance of chemistry and played this game as if they've quit on each other and their coach. Most noticeable beyond Amare's continued dull disinterested display was Shaq playing down to a similar level. 

In the past a poor game from Amare would be covered up by Shaq controlling the paint and using his will and effort to compensate. It's not clear whether Shaq was tired or just tired of his front court mate but he clearly was not in this game either and with the Bulls shooting well from outside the Suns could not afford to lose the rebounding battle and give up second chance points.

Shaq however, seems to feel like the Suns perimeter defense is to blame:

“I wouldn’t say it’s the effort – you’ve just got to man up. You can’t really make excuses. Effort always has something to do with it, but I’ve never been a defensive stopper, but you’ve got to want to play defense. You’ve got to want to stop somebody. I’ve always liked playing with guys that like to play and look for the help last. If you look for the help first too much, I think it puts everybody in jeopardy. It’s time to man up now.”

From where Shaq sits in the lane there's really no way to read this other then directed at Nash and Barbosa who were getting smoked by Rose and Hinrich. Other then jumpers, those were the only guys getting close to the rim. Except of course for the offensive glass which Porter points out was key:

“We talked about the areas that they were really going to try and attack us in as far as rebounds and in the transition and we just didn’t do a good enough job...When we did make stops, they got offensive rebounds and it hurt us.”

Wasted effort...

The only Suns that looked into the game were Grant Hill and Leandro Barbosa. LB was on fire and playing with more energy then anyone else on the court. He had a very effecient 32 points in 32 minutes and was key to both of the Suns best attempts at closing the gap.

Hill tried to lead by example on both ends but his 19 points, 5 rebounds, 5 assists and 2 blocks (and an INCREDIBLY poster dunk over Noah) were wasted as well.

Nash had a few points where he was able to get into the lane and create (with Shaq on the bench) but his 7 turnovers did not help the cause. I realize that his turnover numbers are consistent with past years, but when he's handling the ball less the sloppy passes he makes seem to take on greater significance. They also almost always lead to a break away as they did tonight.

Crisis management

In the midst of this crisis as Steve Kerr recently called it, Terry Porter has shortened his bench considerably. Instead of resting his aging warriors early and letting some of his energy bench guys do some of the lifting, he's tightened the circle of trust in a move that reeks of panic and desperation.I would much rather see Dudley and even Lopez getting minutes in the second and third quarters to see if they can provide a spark in a low energy game like this.

When the team sank to a low point like this earlier in the season Kerr pulled the trigger on a trade that sent the malcontents away. For a time that seemed to have worked as JRich came in and the team's collective ears perked up. 

Now that the honeymoon has worn off the problem of "too many mouths to feed" has only increased along with Amare's discontent with his subordinate role.

Unfortunately, at this point in the season it is not clear that moving Amare will be enough to change the malaise the has come to infest this team.

Perhaps Nash simply can't co-exist in a Shaq filled lane in which case bringing in another power forward isn't going to solve anything. Do you trade your young future and try once again to win with this ever shifting roster anchored by Nash, Shaq and Hill or do you simply cash in your aging chips while their face value is still spendable coin?

I suspect we are going to see what Sarver and Kerr decide to do sooner rather then later. In the mean time, we had better worry about the Kings on Monday. The way the Suns are playing right now there are no more easy games.